Jay Byrne believes stripped back Karl Kelly can defeat Feargal McCrory for Irish title


Jay Byrne claims his little brother is back and ready to deliver this Saturday.

The reigning BBBofC Celtic light middleweight champion has gone from just managing Karl Kelly to coaching him ahead of his Irish lightweight title fight with Feargal McCrory and believes the ever game Dubliner could produce his best pro performance at the Ulster Hall on the first Irish pro show of the year.

Byrne gave an honest assessment of ‘Little Sexy’s’ last performance claiming he didn’t believe he did enough to get the win against Martin Quinn and went as far as to give a fighter he is uniquely close to a ‘do things right or go shite’ ultimatum.

Upon further reflection, ‘The Negotiator’ felt the more schooled approach of respected trainer Declan Geraghty wasn’t suiting Kelly, indicating the ‘balls of steel’ operator needed a simpler ‘stick to what you do best’ tactic.

As a result, he stepped in, even doubling up as coach and sparring partner, and has been impressed with the increased dedication and what he has seen in the gym in general.


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“Camp has being good, his weight was done absolutely perfect and he’s been within 2kg of the weight the past two weeks,” Byrne told Irish-Boxing.com.

“He’s himself again. I think he learned a lot from Declan but just hadn’t the confidence in what he was doing under him. I think he just has a bond with me like a brother or father-son thing. I don’t know, but I know he looks up to me a lot so I think he just feels more comfortable with me being there all the time.”

“If I’m honest we ain’t seen Karl or the best of Karl yet in his pro career. He ain’t a world beater or a technical genius but the kid has balls of steel and a chin of iron.”

“Everyone speaks of his punch power and trust me he can punch. I literally just simplified everything down. Simple slips and letting his hands go, trying to get him to use defence after landing shots and to not just rush in,” he adds before discussing the dressing down given after the last fight.

“In the last fight I felt he wasted so much energy rolling and rolling but not coming back with punches and not doing anything after it. He never doubled up his attacks and hadn’t the energy to force the fight.”

“I sparred 12 rounds with him Saturday in southpaw and he’s learned a lot, There is still a lot to learn but I expect a better performance. I think he looks healthier and everyone saying he is in much better form and looks great.”

Kelly certainly does look up to his mentor Byrne, he has said as much pre- and post- every fight thus far. One thing he really seems to respect is his manager and now coach’s lack of fear when it comes to risks. Saturday only represents the Dub’s fifth pro fight, but his is third all Irish affair and his fourth fight against an opponent with an unbeaten record.

“Yet again it’s proof you don’t need a pathetic protected record to get on in this game. It’s the fourth fight Karl makes a few bob out of out of his five pro bouts and is his second title fight – all within five fights.”

“I’ve offered lads 7-0 and better to fight me for a title and they’ve refused.”

Coalisland fighter McCrory has this week suggested his opponent for the Irish lightweight title has been doing some talking over the last few weeks. However, Byrne claims the John Breen-trained fighter is either mistaken or playing mind games of his own.

“I have watched Feargal’s interviews and, look, someone has been playing silly beggars and saying Karl said this and Karl said that and it’s nonsense the kid ain’t said a dickybird or anything like what has been suggested.”

“He ain’t allowed release an interview without me okaying it as he’s under me. I have a certain respect level and it hasn’t been crossed,” he adds big brother-like before predicting a tough night but a Kelly win.

“I think the first few rounds will be tricky but I see some things Feargal does wrong that play into Karl’s game and I also see things in Karl’s game that will not suit Feargal.”

“I think Karl can win and I genuinely am looking forward to it. He’s fit and ready for 10 top, top rounds so may the best man win.”

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Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: [email protected]