Josh Kelly says fighting at the Stadium of Light, home to his beloved Sunderland A.F.C, would be a dream come true as he prepares to make his ring return against unbeaten Pole Przemyslaw Runowski at The O2 in London on April 20, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
The North East sensation has fought in Newcastle twice since joining the professional ranks in 2016, blitzing Tom Whitfield in a round at the Walker Activity Dome and halting Kris George in seven at the Metro Radio Arena, but the ex-Sunderland Academy man wants nothing more than a Wearside homecoming.
“Fighting at the Stadium of Light would be out of this World,” said Kelly. “The Sunderland lads have always backed me throughout my career and I’d love to have an opportunity to repay their loyal support. They haven’t had much to shout about in recent times, so I’d love to put a smile back on their faces!
“Hopefully we can do something up there in the future. A World title fight in my home city would obviously be the dream and it’s something I’m striving for every day. When I was at the Sunderland Academy I always thought I’d play at the stadium one day, but to fight there for a World title would be even better.”
Despite being moved quickly by promoter Eddie Hearn and manager Adam Booth, ‘Pretty Boy’ knows there is a long way to go before serious World title talk, and the former Team GB star is fully-focused on the job at hand later this month.
“I’ve done my research on Runowski and he’s a solid opponent to test myself against, he’s unbeaten for a reason. They breed them tough in Eastern Europe, he looks very confident in himself. He’s strong and fit and he’s done a few ten rounders. I don’t expect him to come over here just to laydown.
“He’s going to keep on me while the fight lasts so I’ll have to keep my concentration and not switch off. I’m looking to dismantle him in style and put on a show to remind everyone what I’m about. This year is going to be massive if everything goes to plan. I’ve got to keep my feet firmly on the ground, continue to work and get the results.”
John Harding Jr has credited boxing for turning his life around as he prepares to take part in his first major arena show on the undercard of Dave Allen vs. Lucas Browne and Derek Chisora vs. Senad Gashi at The O2 in London this Saturday.
The New Cross Super-Welterweight (6-0-1, 1 KO) grew up on an estate in South East London and found himself caught up in gang activity at a young age, resulting in lengthy spells in prison. Determined to change his lie for the better, the now 34-year-old decided to put his all into climbing the ladder in the pro ranks after his debut at York Hall in 2017.
Heavyweight World title contender Dillian Whyte took Harding Jr under his wing at the beginning of the year and set about securing his new charge a golden opportunity on Matchroom Boxing’s Easter weekend card in Greenwich – Harding Jr says he will always be grateful for ‘The Body Snatcher’s’ guidance and leadership.
“Everything is good,” Harding Jr told iFL TV. “I’m just here enjoying being on this stage. It felt weird but now I’m embracing it. I was always the person on the outside looking in, but now I’ve got my chance. I’ve been working closely with Dillian and to be in this position now is just amazing. I want to prove to people that hard work can pay off. I want everyone to look at my life and know that if they work hard they can change their ways as well. Boxing has given me a lifeline.
“I grew up on an estate in New Cross. On the estate you grew up in a brotherhood, so you grew up inheriting rival gang activities. We thought that hustling was the only way for us to move forward in life. Other people call it drug-dealing, for us it was just survival. That’s what we grew up around and thought was normal. I ran into the law a couple of times. I’ve spent probably around five and a half years of my life in prison. It’s very hard when you’re in that position as a young person.
“I always dreamt I’d be the one being interviewed one day. I used to watch these guys being interviewed on a secret little mobile phone in jail! This shows the power of vision and hard work. When I stepped out with nothing, I only had that vision in my head. I was quite big, 17 stone and muscly. Now look at me, I’m a Light-Middleweight floating like a butterfly!
“I just kept coming to the gym, training around guys like Richard Riakporhe. I was always in the shadows of those guys, training hard. Fast-forward a while and I bumped into Dillian Whyte, who’s looked out for me since. He saw my heart and he’s brought me close and that just shows me how much of a true person he is. For him to reach out and help someone like me has changed my life and helped others too.
“It’s never too late to change your life. Hard work always pays off. Dillian told me to work hard. He always emphasises working hard. Even when it was his birthday he was in the gym grinding and working all day. I can’t lie, this is big for me, but Dillian has told me to be grounded. He’s a workaholic, he doesn’t stop. Focus and hard work pays off and I’m the living proof of that.”
Nikita Ababiy will make his UK debut at The O2 in London on April 20 on the undercard of Dave Allen’s showdown with former WBA Heavyweight World Champion Lucas Browne and Derek Chisora’s clash with Senad Gashi, shown live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
The 20-year-old Brooklyn talent known as ‘White Chocolate’ has made a perfect start to life in the paid ranks, winning his first three fights by first round knockout. A former Team USA star, Ababiy doesn’t want to waste any time on his quest to become a World Champion and is aiming for another big knockout in the Capital.
“I’m excited to fight in front of the British fans on April 20,” said Ababiy. “I want to become a global star and a Middleweight World Champion over the next few years. I’d like to thank my manager Keith Connolly, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing for the massive opportunity. I’m looking for a sensational knockout to show the fans in England that I’m a future superstar.”
“Nikita has been electric since he turned pro with 3 devastating first round knockouts in his opening 3 fights,” said Eddie Hearn. “I believe we have by far the most exciting young talent Worldwide and it’s important they get the experience and profile of boxing in key markets around the World. It’s also great for UK fight fans that they get to see fighters like Nikita up close as they begin their journey. I expect him to light up The O2 on April 20.”
Ababiy makes his UK debut on a huge night of boxing in the Capital.