Boxing fans who also like to watch MMA fare will see a familiar face in the corner of UFCer Oluwale Bamgbose, a 30-year-old Nigerian-born middleweight who will dance with Alessio di Chirico Saturday night in Montreal, and on FOX.
You will see Eric Kelly, the YouTube sensation, a trash-talker extraordinaire — Google for his video when he left Alex Ariza dizzy and made him flee the interview — opened a boxing gym in the South Bronx earlier this year.
Kelly was a four-time national champion and a member of the US National team.
His eye got messed up when he was hit with a pool cue in a bar brawl and he had to stop boxing. Kelly didn’t exit the space; his SouthBox Gym has a diverse client base, a mix of white and blue collar boxers, models, amateurs and some pros, too.
Kelly’s pal “King Mo” Lawal, an MMA ultra vet, came to the Bronx fight factory this summer and had with him a kid living in the Bronx, who’d entered UFC after going 5-0 as a new professional.
“That’s when me and Bambgose (6-3) started working,” Kelly told me. “We connected good. He needed help with his boxing.”
The MMAer has a handle on jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do, but his boxing needed some bolstering. Enter Kelly.
“He’s been improving with his hands. I got him working on angles and placing his punches. He used to keep his chin up in the air a lot, we changed that.”
I can imagine how Kelly communicated that the basics be adhered to…
The duo are in Winnipeg, counting down to fight night.
“We ready to catch a body,” Kelly stated.
He refers to the 28-year-old Italian Alessio Di Chirico, a 10-2 fighter, fighting for the fourth time in UFC. Both men are coming in off a loss, so the stakes are that much higher.
“Chirico is a grinder,” said Kelly, offering a scouting report. “He’s tough. We have to go straight down the pipe on him, use our lateral movement, angles. We will be victorious Saturday night.”
My three cents: This sort of partnering could be a new and stellar niche for Kelly. He agrees and tell me why: “I love boxing. I'm a fighter. It fits me and my personality, being that it's a combat sport. But at the same time, coming from where I come from, I'm sort of an outcast in the UFC. Throughout the years I've worked with different MMA federations in various capacities such as Combate Americas, and now the UFC and it's all the same, I'm different.
“Eight times out of 10, I'm from a different environment and upbringing, so the way that we connect is often weird, but at the same time, it's respect because of what we are, we are gladiators, a one man gang and you have to respect that. When in that ring, or Octagon, it's all on you. You're the running back, power toward, lineman, quarterback, all at one time.
“So you got to be ready for whatever, when ever, and just off the fact that you was man enough to make this your livelihood, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for you because I can relate. I'm here with the ‘Holy War Angel’ Oluwale Bamgbose, and we're coming to fight, kill, or die, thats our mind frame for this. Our training camp has been good, his weight is good and we've been feeling good. It's time to kick ass!"