Kelley gets another crack at boxing crown

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Kevin “The Flushing Flash” Kelley will get a shot to regain the featherweight championship when he takes on the reigning 126-pound champ, Marco Antonio Barrera in a scheduled 12-round fight at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Saturday, April 12.

Kelley, a longtime Flushing resident now living in Las Vegas, is the former two-time featherweight champ, but at 35 years old is a considerable underdog to the Mexican-bred Barrera, who is considered by most boxing experts to be in the prime of his career.

“He’s prime real estate right now,” Kelley said of Barrera. “I have a chance to redeem myself.”

There is a certain amount of anger in the voice of the usually jovial Kelley when he talks about his upcoming fight. Kelley readily admits to feeling somewhat used and forgotten by the boxing community, despite feeling he is the reason lighter-weight fighters such as Barrera are in a position to make so much money.

“I went from opening the door to holding the door opening to being the doormat,” said Kelley (54-5-2 36 KOs). “This would not be happening if I didn’t start this. I started this. I feel like, you know, in 1993, I kicked off the lightweight divisions on HBO.”

Kelley was featured in the first featherweight bout televised on HBO in more than a decade when he challenged Gregorio Vargas for the World Boxing Council crown in December 1993. After winning a unanimous decision over Vargas, Kelley became a staple on the cable network, fighting numerous times against the likes of Derrick Gainer, Prince Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales.

When Kelley’s career appeared to be slowing down he began to concentrate on television and radio commentary, working for a short-lived Saturday afternoon boxing series on the network.

After losing to Morales in his last title bout, Kelley took time away from the ring, but has come back in the past year, winning three bouts to put himself back in title contention.

“The Morales fight left a bad taste in my mouth,” Kelley said. “This fight here, I’m not going to leave no stone unturned. When the bell rings, I’m going to do what I got to do.”

Kelley’s longtime trainer, Phil Borgia, also a former Queens resident, is now co-training Kelley with Flor Rivera, but said that the fighter he has guided for more than 15 years should be ready to fight come April 12.

“If Kevin does what he’s supposed to do, he can make this an easy fight,” Borgia said. “I think Kevin’s style is going to be trouble for Barrera because he’s not one dimensional.”

Barrera, who has a professional record of 56-3 with 39 KOs, was beaten twice earlier in his career by Brooklyn’s “Poison” Junior Jones, a longtime friend of Kelley’s. In recent years, however, Barrera has emerged as the dominant fighter in the 126-pound division, beating Morales, Johnny Tapia and Hamed.

The champion said he has no plans of taking Kelley lightly.

“I know that Kelley is taking this fight seriously,” Barrera said. “He is motivated to win and this time he has the proper time to train and prepare. He will be ready. You can not underestimate someone with Kelley’s ring experience. They know all the tricks of the trade and can turn a fight in their direction at any time. My job is to outthink someone with his level of ring experience. I am anticipating this fight to be tough for me.”

For Kelley, this is more than just one more fight. It can be the crowning moment to his already illustrious career as well as be a vehicle to open more doors for a future in television.

“This is boxing, you can win or lose on any given day,” Kelley said. “It depends on how prepared you are. He’s no killer. He’s no Roy Jones. He’s no Mike Tyson, There’s nothing special about him. What’s he going to do when I step left and hit him with a right hand?”

“I got the ability to do it, I’m going to do it,” Kelley said.

The bout will be televised on pay-per view.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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