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‘Flushing Flash’ returns to the ring at MSG

Never one to sit still, Kelley (54-6-2, 36 KO's), a former resident of Flushing, is returning to the ring on Thursday where he will face Bronx-born Felix St. Kitts (12-4-2, 7 KO's) in a lightweight bout at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Like an old gunslinger whose trigger finger is still itchy, Kelley is ready to dedicate himself to boxing and cause a ripple of excitement in the lightweight division."I feel like I'm ready to win another world title," he said in a phone interview. "This is just me being truthful with myself, but nobody knows what I can do but me, and I feel like I can still be a force in boxing. I've been training hard and everything is going is great. I didn't realize how big a show this is. I thought it was going to be a little club show, but when I heard it was going to be at the Garden, I couldn't say no. My phone's been blowing up with people calling me from New York." Kelley and the show's promoter, Sal Musemeci, began discussing the prospects of working together last year. The talks intensified in the last couple of weeks and a deal was finally brokered Feb. 23.A fan of Kelley in the early days, Musemeci, who regularly promotes fights in the New York area, was receptive to the 38-year-old Kelley resuming his boxing career. Kelley fought his first six fights at the old Felt Forum."Kevin was asking me for an opportunity, and I came back to him with the perfect situation for him to fight at Madison Square Garden, where he was groomed for greatness," he said. "Kevin is going to put on a show. He's the ultimate New York fighter for the New York boxing fan."Alleviating concerns about Kelley's age and fitness, Musemeci described him as a "38-year-old in a 28-year-old's body," and as someone who eats and lives well. "His body hasn't been abused," he said.Kelley, who moved to Las Vegas eight years ago, received a clean bill of health from the New York State Athletic Commission, passing a battery of tests before getting a permit. Kelley, a former student at John Bowne, isn't the first old fighter to step into a ring, but his record and reputation make him a topic for debate. "I would never deny him the opportunity to fight," said the commission's chairman, Ron Scott Stevens, a former matchmaker and promoter who worked with Kelley early in his career on several of his fights. "If he passes his medical exams, then it's not my place to say he can't fight. We're interested in his health and safety, so as long as he's physically fit, he should be allowed to fight. I have to be neutral in this situation."Stevens has been down this road before, having served Evander Holyfield with a indefinite medical suspension following his loss to Larry Donald last November at Madison Square Garden. The 42-year-old Holyfield took a beating in that fight, and Stevens was applauded by many for taking a hard stand against the legendary Holyfield. Since then, Stevens has given Holyfield a chance to resume his career by offering him a medical examination. If he passes with flying colors, Holyfield would be granted an administrative suspension, allowing him the chance to fight anywhere in the country, with the exception of New York.Holyfield has yet to respond to his offer. Kelley, for his part, is already eyeing an April 30 date at the Garden on the undercard of Vitali Klitschko and Hasim Rahman's heavyweight clash."I'm not overlooking this guy who I'm fighting," Kelley said of Kitts who last fought two years ago when he was knocked out by Diego Corrales. "But I have some big plans for the future."Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by E-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

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