Since his noble defeat to Liam Smith in an audacious WBO title challenge 16 months ago, Manchester super-welter Jimmy Kilrain Kelly insists he’s endured a style makeover that would put Gok Wan to shame, writes Glynn Evans.
Beaten for the first time (rsc7), the 24 year old former WBC Youth champion from Wythenshawe immediately severed his ties long standing training team Ensley Bingham and Maurice Core and recruited manager Lee Beard to the trainer’s saddle.
And the five time national junior champion warns us to expect a revelation when he squares off against Lancastrian rival Rick Godding in a crossroads local derby on the mega bill at Manchester Arena on Saturday week.
‘Prospective opponents can view my old tapes, but my last four fights have gone under the radar off TV and today I’m a totally different fighter to the one that Liam Smith beat,’ insists the MTK managed stylist who has lost just once in 21 since turning pro five years ago.
‘After Liam beat me, I refused to sulk and wasn’t down for long. I just sat down, moved the chess pieces, made adjustments. If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got!
‘Six months ago, my partner and I had a little baby boy and he’s proving a huge motivation. I wasn’t a kid when Smith beat me but I’m definitely more of a man today. I’ve had the experience of losing, I’ve dragged myself back up, and made changes which weren’t easy to make.
‘Lee had always managed me and, immediately after Smith, he started to coach me as well. I’ve not been out of the gym since. Already he’s added more dimensions, incorporated more thought, more angles, more patience. These are the things that will make the difference at top level. He’s improved my defence, helped me minimise the shortcomings that Liam was able to exploit. No one has seen my progression. Trust me, I’m gonna raise eyebrows against Godding.’
Like Kelly, opponent Godding – billed out of Bolton just 17 miles north-west of Wythenshawe – has conceded just once in a pro career that spans almost a decade. An organised stylist who has completed the 10 round trip twice, the 32 year old represents a significant step up in quality to the quartet of circuit fighters that Kelly has feasted upon, post Smith.
‘I know all I need to know about Ricky,’ claims Kilrain, named after nineteenth century bareknuckle legend Jake Kilrain.
‘On the surface, he’s a nice neat boxer with a good record on paper. We’ll not be taking anything for granted but he’s fought an awful lot of journeymen. For me, it’s not a derby. Bolton or wherever he’s from isn’t Manchester!
‘I know I’m going to beat him because I know I’m the better fighter. Rick says I’m not on his level and he’s right. I’m leagues above!’
After a year of reconciliation on the underground scene, the stylish six footer is itching for his chance to shine again on a super bill; fronted by a brace of ‘world’ title fights, garnished by the debuts of amateur standouts Nicola Adams and Daniel Dubois and screened live by both BT and BoxNation.
‘It’s gonna be a night of competitive fights, a great start to Frank (Warren)’s BT deal. I’ll have a good 300 fans there supporting me,’ says the intelligent and articulate Manc who boasts 12 GCSEs (nine A grade) plus a BTech in Sports Science.
‘I desperately want another world title opportunity. OK, I fell short when I’d just turned 23 but Frank’s record shows he’s a proven track record of delivering for his fighters.
‘I’ll be 150% ready. I’ve had five weeks top sparring with Baltimore’s (20-3) Cecil McCalla, a big light-middle and I really appreciate him coming over and helping me out. He’s been in camp with the likes of (Erislandy) Lara and the Charlo twins (Jermall and Jermell) and he assures me that I only need a little tweak to reach their level.
‘I’ve been waiting for an opportunity since Liam (Smith) and now I need to deliver. Who knows what I’ll do. Lee Beard always goes against the grain with his game plans. But I need to show what I’m capable of, and I know that I will.’