Kelley tops Soto to win NABA championship

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Kevin “The Flushing Flash” Kelley took a major leap on his road back to the world championship Saturday night, beating Humberto Soto by majority decision for the NABA Lightweight Championship at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The fight, just the second for Kelley, 35, in close to two years, saw the former two-time title-holder wage war against a fighter 13 years his junior over 12 tough rounds and emerged victorious with yet another belt — his fifth — and a probable top 10 ranking.

And though Soto offered a tougher test than anticipated, Kelley seemed ready to accept that he had been pushed to the limit by a fighter he and his trainer thought they would walk through.

“The guy was very, very tough, very strong, very durable,” Kelley said. “I had to adapt to every situation. There were certain things I could have done better. This guy takes a shot. He took shots that would knock a horse out. It was incredible.”

Kelley (51-5-2 35 KOs) started off cautious in the first round, but opened things up in the second, landing a strong right-left combination that shook up Soto (21-5 9 KOs) and both traded blows at the bell.

In the third and fourth rounds, Kelley went back to boxing and used his superior experience and speed to win the stanzas from his younger opponent. He landed another sharp combination in the fifth, but started to tire slightly, which allowed Soto an opportunity to claw his way back into the fight.

In the sixth and seventh rounds, Soto pinned Kelly along the ropes and fired multiple combinations. And while he never seriously hurt Kelley, he was winning rounds.

“This fight could have ended my career,” Kelley said. “But it proved my point. I ain’t done. I’m very happy with what I did.

“He took my punch, that’s what made it tough,” he added. “He didn’t take it well, but he took it. At 130 I hit so hard I feel my own punching power. I have to give him credit.”

Kelley turned it around in the eighth with another strong right-left combination that nearly put Soto down for the count. But the durable Mexican battled back and was traded freely with the former champion at the bell.

After an even ninth, Kelley took a low blow in the 10th that nearly halted the fight, as Kelley took most of the five-allotted recovery minutes before the action resumed. Kelley promptly threw Soto to the canvas before the round’s end.

The final two rounds saw both weary combatants exchange punches with little or no effect on the other. And when the cards were read after the final bell, Kelley emerged a majority decision winner by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 114-114.

As tough as it was, Kelley said he believed this fight will save him in the long run.

“Right now, this saves me a great deal of energy,” he said. “I don’t have to fight two or three more times to get what I want. I’m going to be rated. This amplifies my career. This sped me up.

‘This is a shortcut to grandma’s house,” Kelley added. “I’m hungry. I want my world title.”

Kelley’s long-time trainer, Phil Borgia, who has been with the fighter since his amateur days at the Flushing PAL, said he was happy with what Kelley did and surprised by Soto at the same time.

“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind at any point that he was winning the fight,” Borgia said. “I thought it was going to be over by the sixth. I didn’t think [Soto would] be able to take those shots, but he did. [Kelley] hit this kid with everything but the kitchen sink. He had a much better chin than I thought.”

Kelley, who said he expects to be ranked in the top 10 in the junior lightweight classification by both the WBA and IBF, said he may have one or two more fights before an expected title shot against either WBA champ Acelino Freitas or IBF champ Steve Forbes.

“It showed I’m heading to a title fight,” Kelley said. “Another four, five fights and I’ll be out the game. But now, my mission is a world championship.”

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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