It’s onwards and upwards towards the Olympic games in Tokyo for Westmeath’s latest Elite Senior boxing champion Wayne Kelly.
The Ballynacargy man (22) claimed his first national senior title at the fourth time of asking when he defeated Belfast’s Caoimhin Ferguson in the 64kg final on February 24.
Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner a week after securing his first senior crown and eighth national title overall, Wayne said that he was delighted to finally achieve what has been his main objective since moving out of the junior ranks.
“I’m happy to get the monkey off my back and get the win behind me with my first Irish Senior Elite title. It was tough. I had three hard fights, but I felt comfortable in all of them.”
Now boxing out of Portlaoise Boxing Club, Wayne feels that the lessons learned over the last three championships stood to him as he successfully navigated his way through this year’s competition.
Now officially the number one 64kg boxer in the country, he says that he is excited to be linking up with the Elite Senior squad and training under renowned coaches Zaur Antia and Dima Dmitruk, as well as his coach Pat Ryan in Portlaoise.
“I am looking forward to training in Dublin. We are going out to America on Thursday and I have three fights in Boston. There are no breaks, it’s all go for the rest of the year.”
The year 2018 will certainly be the busiest yet in Wayne’s boxing career. As well as a number of international tournaments throughout the year, the 2019 Senior Elite Championships are being brought forward to November so that the winners can prepare for the Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2019.
After winning his first title, Wayne is already setting his sights on retaining his crown and becoming the next Westmeath boxer to fight in the Olympics.
“I've always wanted big things in sport and to get to the Olympic games that's the big dream. The European and World Championships are next year and they are qualifiers for the Olympics. So there will be no slacking. Hopefully I can go on and do big things. A lot of good boxers have come out of Westmeath [and fought in the Olympics], John Joe Nevin, David Oliver Joyce and John Joe Joyce. Hopefully I can go on and do that and even go one better and win it. That’s the dream.”
As a member of the Senior Elite national squad Wayne will receive a small grant from the Sports Council, but it will only cover a fraction of the costs it takes to live the life of a full time athlete.
In order to fulfill his dream of fighting in Tokyo, Wayne will have to devote all his time and energy to training. His quest for Olympic glory would be greatly helped if he was able to secure some sponsorship, he says.
“It’s not a whole lot [the Sports Council grant]. I am going looking for sponsorship this year to cover travel costs, training equipment, nutritional supplements and other expenses. Hopefully someone might come forward. I would greatly appreciate it if they would.