Josh Kelly insists issues out of the ring issues are behind him ahead of vital Corzo test

Josh Kelly returns to the ring on Saturday and he does so feeling brand new.

Kelly’s career has stuttered and stalled but the 29-year-old is confident old worries are behind him as he looks to fulfil his potential.

The former 2018 Olympian meets Argentine Gabriel Corzo on Saturday in Newcastle on what Kelly hopes is his way to a world title. Kelly, AKA PBK, has won three in a row since the first loss of his career, to David Avanesyan in 2021, having captured the British super-welterweight title in his last outing with an impressive win over Troy Williamson.

Corzo is 18-0 with just three stoppage wins but this could have meaningful consequences for the WBO title, which is currently held by Jermell Charlo, who jumps two weight classes to fight Canelo Alvarez in September.

“He’s undefeated,” Kelly said of Corzo. “When you fight undefeated guys, sometimes it’s like breaking a wild horse. Sometimes you’ve got to learn them that they can be beat. Some of them are stubborn enough to think, ‘No, I’m staying in here until the last bell.’ Some of them give up early, but he [Corzo] looks as though he’s game. He’s ranked No. 9 in the WBO which is good because he’s a top 10 ranked fighter in an organisation I’m highly ranked in. I’m No. 2 at the moment so when I win this fight that will put me in a great position, probably at No. 1. I believe the Russian guy [Bakhram Murtazaliev] above me might be going down the IBF route, so that might put us at No. 1, which is great. He’s going to come over and give it his best but when I’m on my game he won’t have a chance.”

And Kelly believes he is ready to deliver on Saturday. Due to the pandemic and on-off nature of his fight with Avanesyan, Kelly was out of the ring for two years before they eventually met. Then, after that loss, Kelly tried to get to the bottom of what had been bothering him for so long. He discovered he had been living as a hypochondriac and, in his words, a high-end one, and the symptoms were heightened as a fight approached.

“Not just a particular fight, any fight,” Kelly explained. “I would just start drinking Lemsips constantly. I would just start getting myself really uptight. I was just thinking I need to be the best version of myself. It wasn’t about who I was fighting, it was about me being the best version of myself.”

Kelly was looking for perfection, but many boxers compete with niggles, light injuries or even slightly under the weather. But even the slightest issue would send Kelly into a negative spiral.

“Imagine if you had a Cup Final or something you’re looking forward to that much and you don’t want to miss it, you get yourself that anxious that you want to be perfect, you blow yourself up in your own head and that was me,” Kelly went on. “I wanted to be so perfect, everything had to be perfect, the way I felt had to be perfect, and leading up to that Avanesyan fight, I took a course of strong antibiotics, and I think I had about 10 or 14 hours sleep in total the Monday to the fight on Saturday. I went to the mini-fridge in the hotel on the Wednesday night and I drank two of the mini bottles of whiskey to drink myself to sleep. “I was just constantly thinking, ‘Am I going to get ill? Am I going to get ill?’ I was constantly washing my hands, [thinking] I can’t do this, I can’t do that.”

Josh’s friends and families could see it. Coach Adam Booth saw it. His dad would stop him and say, “Josh, you’re not ill,” but still Josh believed his immune system was conspiring against him.

“I would be crying in the room, and then I’d go out and do this press conference and act like I was fine and then I’d go back to the room and think, how am I going to sleep tonight,” he recalled. 

The night before the Avanesyan fight, Kelly had Booth’s No. 2 Charlie Beatt syay in his hotel room with him, thinking it might soothe his mind and help him fall asleep.

“What time is it?” Kelly asked the morning of the fight.

“It’s 10 to seven,” Beatt replied. 

“In the morning?” 


“For fuck’s sake. I haven’t had one ounce of sleep.” 

“Maybe 15 minutes here or there but then I’d get up and then you’ve got the weight on top of that. I was doing 10-12lbs every weigh in, from Thursday to the weigh in on Friday, it was just a recipe for disaster and I never internally sorted myself. It was eventually going to blow up, and it blew up then and I’m glad it did, because now I’m in a better place, not just in boxing but with my personal sanity, my family and for my kids because I could have forced an agenda on to them in the same way, that paranoia about health and the way things are. I think I sorted myself out by taking a year out, found someone who I talked to, brought them on the team and it’s gone. It’s totally disappeared. In my eyes it’s a miracle. Of course, you get little thoughts here or there, but now I can just regulate myself but back then it was on an extreme basis and I wanted to see a doctor. I’d spar, and bear in mind I never really get hit, I’d take a shot, not even a hard shot, and that night I’d be in the hospital getting myself an MRI. It was getting stupid, to be honest. It was getting ridiculous. But I was doing all of this behind closed doors. I can talk about it now. You can talk about something when you’re passed it, but I didn’t want to talk about it until I was passed it.”

Now there is clarity on about his journey and fresh hope about where his journey might lead him. It’s been a torrid journey to get to 13-1-1 but Kelly think he is yet too see the best of himself.

It’s good but I’m enjoying it,” he said of the last two years. “I’m enjoying the rollercoaster. It’s a good ride at the moment. I think the ups are outweighing the downs. Personally, I’ve got a different outlook. Before, I would have agreed with you and I would have classed them as downs but at the moment I’m just learning. Everything’s a step in the right direction.”