By Jay Mwamba
Amateur light heavyweight boxer Alo Kelly made a stunning one-fight appearance in the New York Golden Gloves last Thursday, halting Russell Council in the second round, then returned to Ireland to begin his quest for an Olympic berth.
Kelly’s impressive win over the 29-year-old Council, after 1:53 minutes into the second stanza at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Brooklyn, earned the Westmeath native the P.C. Richard Boxer of the Night award.
But it was a bitter sweet occasion for Kelly, 20, who later made the tough decision to withdraw from the 1999 Golden Gloves altogether and concentrate on winning a place on the Irish Olympic squad to Sydney 2000.
This was after he learnt that his next fight in the Gloves was scheduled for Thursday, a day before the start of the Irish senior national championships in Dublin. The Irish seniors are the first step for fighters hoping to represent the Republic at the Olympics.
“It’s sad, but that’s how it has to be,” Kelly, a losing finalist in last year’s Golden Gloves 178 pound Open division, said before flying out to Dublin last Saturday.
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“The Gloves were there for the taking. But it was a nice send-off,” he added, alluding to the win over Council.
Fighting for the first time in 10 months, Kelly spent the first round against Council feeling out his much older opponent. He then got down to business in the second stanza, hurting his man with a double left hook to the body and head, and right cross to the temple.
Council was given an eight-count after that sequence of blows. Smelling blood, Kelly opened up with a barrage of punches that forced the referee to end the bout.
“I think he’s 50 percent a better boxer than he was last year,” noted Kelly’s impressed coach Eddie McLoughlin. “He’s more aggressive, more focused and has now got knock out power as opposed to winning fights on points.”
McLoughlin said they’d been working on Kelly’s power and had developed a power left jab “with accuracy and zip.”
On the youngster’s chances of representing the Republic in Sydney, McLoughlin said: “I think he’ll make it. He certainly has the tools.”
Kelly’s first bout in the Irish Senior Championships, at the National Stadium in Dublin, is on Friday (Feb. 26). If he wins, he’ll advance to the semi-finals March 5, with the finals scheduled for March 12.
McLoughlin, who will join Kelly if he reaches the final in his weight division, said victory in the Irish seniors would earn his charge a place in the Irish team to the European Championships in summer.
“And if he makes it to the last eight there, he will make the Olympic squad. But if he doesn’t make this year, he’ll still have a second chance next year by winning the Irish Seniors again, then going to the Multinationals, which is a smaller version of the Europeans,” McLoughlin added.