RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

RSR Chats with Former Two-Time World Featherweight Champion Kevin “The Flushing Flash” Kelley

Interview by Mike “Rubber Warrior” Plunkett

“When push comes to shove, I’m doing the shoving”– Kevin Kelley

It has almost been two decades since I began to fervently follow the career of Kevin Kelley. His breakout high volume war of attrition with former IBF Featherweight Champion Troy Dorsey not only served notice to fans around the world that the United States had a firm stake in the featherweight ranks, but also that in “The Flushing Flash” we had a fighter and future World Champion that could do it all.

Having paid his dues and then some, Kelley would be forced to old school it down a path once traveled by Marvelous Marvin Hagler before getting his long overdue first crack at a world title. In the years after that highlight moment, and through a career that would have its share of extraordinary moments, I watched as “The Flushing Flash” showed the world his many facets as an old school practitioner, warrior and undeniably as an entertainer. His bouts were exciting, his ring craft impeccable and his character compelling.

It was a distinct and rare opportunity to sit down and talk with former two-time featherweight king to discuss his upcoming television project, his many side gigs as a commentator and of course his highly memorable foray through an oft unforgiving sport, and refreshing to learn that the energy, drive and charisma that he once brought into the prize ring still exists today.

MP: Bring us up to speed on what you are doing today.

I’m actually in South Beach right now training a football player named Ocho Cinco, I think you might have heard of him; Chad Johnson, wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. I’ve got a television show coming up in September called The XB, Xtreme Boxing. That’s going to debuting on Fox Sports. It’s going to be huge, it’s a new concept. An eight man tournament, four alternates, to get money you gotta win a round, so it’s going to change the demographic of boxing. It’s going to make boxing, I could say at-times it’s a very mild sport, and makes our sport an explosive sport.

MP: What made you want to become involved with boxing?

Actually a jacket, I saw a jacket years ago when I was about fifteen and I wanted the jacket. I figured it was God’s will. God has a way of doing things. I had no concept of boxing, no idea of boxing. I saw the jacket and I wanted the jacket, went after the guy wearing it, and the guy told me I had to join the gym to get the jacket, I joined the gym and the rest you see is all history. I never got a jacket but I got a career.

MP: You had your first professional fight on September 8th 1988 stopping Willie Barnes on a TKO in the 2nd round. What do you recall of that night?

A lot of nerves! You know, my first professional boxing match, it was different. It felt like something was missing with no headgear, no shirt, I absolutely felt as though something was missing. I was so used to having a shirt and headgear on that I felt almost unprotected. Even though it was a false sense of security, they didn’t give you that much security, I was used to that false sense of security. I felt when I went into the ring that OK, I have to get this guy as quick as possible. Either it’s him or it’s me.

MP: By February 1992 you amassed an impressive 26-0 record. Your next fight was a break-out of sorts when you posted a hard earned unanimous decision over former IBF Featherweight Champion Troy Dorsey. The media reported that a record number of punches were exchanged in that bout. Relate to us what happened.

It was a career defining fight. My manager made a key decision, in hindsight it worked out for me but it could have been a wrong decision because if I had lost that fight it might have sent my career the other way. When the bell rang, after four rounds of fighting the guy I figured what I had to do was get rid of him. He wouldn’t stop coming, he kept throwing punches, I was getting hit with shots, and I didn’t know why, so I asked my trainer and he told me you’re not going to knock this guy out. You are in for the long haul and now we are going to find out if you can fight or not. That night I think I proved that I could. That was the night I proved I could fight. It was a night where I think that Troy Dorsey made me a man. You’re not a man until you get into a situation where you gotta dig down deep where you think you have nothing, and find something that only God can give you.

MP: On December 4th 1993 you posted a unanimous decision over Gregorio Vargas to win the WBC featherweight title. Being undefeated at 36-0, and having become a major world champion you must have felt on top of the world. What are you recollections of that bout and the moment they announced you as the new champion?

Actually I was tired! All the waiting, I had been going all around the world for two years, I couldn’t get a title fight; the waiting was horrendous, I mean 36-0 before I got a title shot is unheard of. By the time I got a title shot, what I really wanted to do was take a year off. But of course if you win a title your managers see the money, opportunities open up, doors open up and it’s almost like becoming a star overnight. From that point on its like a juggernaut system, keep it going, keep it going, keep trying to earn money, so I was actually tired. Relieved on the one hand but tired on the other.

MP: You made two successful defense of your title. You posted a unanimous decision over Jesse Benavides and 2nd round stoppage of Jose Vida Ramos before losing to Alejandro Gonzalez in January 1995. What happened?

Well, being undefeated, that’s a lot of pressure. I wanted to fight….when you become a champion you want to fight guys that you think you have something to gain, not everything to lose. I was back in the same situation where I had nothing to gain and everything to lose, and I was trying to find motivation on why I should fight Alejandro Gonzalez. Who is this guy, why would I meet him? So at that point in my career, being that I had waited so long, I was just going through the motions, I believe. I needed some motivation; I actually needed to lose so I had a reason to come back. Know what I’m saying? I was climbing, climbing, climbing, I’m at the top, I have nothing to gain, so I needed to lose so I have to come back.

MP: In September 1995 you faced Clarence “Bones” Adams for the vacant WBU featherweight title in a bout that was ultimately declared a draw. Five months later you won that title and once again became a world champion posting a wide unanimous decision over former WBO Featherweight Champion Louie Espinoza. Did you feel as though you had made it back after the Gonzalez defeat?

At that point, yes. I needed a win over a top guy. The odds were against me, four to one. Those that bet that I would win, I pulled it out and made people a lot of money, because so many thought Espinoza would knock me out. It was very rare that the odds were against me. I won a title again. I was champ of the world again. I showed everybody that it was pretty much a fluke when I did lose. I needed to come back, and I came back and I beat him easily. I told everybody I would. People had forgotten real quick that I was excellent for nine years before I even lost a fight. They had forgotten that I was undefeated that long and that I had beaten everything they put in front of me. I just wanted to remind everybody that I am still who I am, I just needed motivation.

Motivation is when everybody gives up on you and at that point you challenge yourself. That’s what motivation is and that’s what I needed in my career, I needed that motivation. I thank Louie Espinoza for doing that. I thank all of my opponents for giving me the motivation to win, because without them I wouldn’t have had the motivation to do it.

MP: On June 15th 1996 you engaged in a terrifically entertaining war with Derrick Gainer, a fighter who would one day go on to win the WBA featherweight title. You were floored in the 4th but you scored knockdowns in the 3rd and 5th rounds ultimately holding onto your title with an 8th round knockout. What do you recall of that bout?

It was a fight I really didn’t want to do. “Smoke” Gainer was a lefty like me, taller than me, longer reach; hard fight. It was a working man’s fight where I was going to have to work to win, and I knew that. It was one of my harder fights, Troy Dorsey was my hardest fight but it was one of the harder fights because I had a lot of emotional things as well as physical things to overcome. One I had to overcome was the idea that I couldn’t win on a Roy Jones card on HBO; defending my title with judges and officiating being against me primarily, I had to overcome that. It was more like a Rocky fight; I had to come back from behind with a closed eye, and in the 8th round I scored an extreme knockout of “Smoke” Gainer. It saved my title, saved my career, saved everything and proved I still was the best featherweight in the world.

MP: Tell us about your classic 1997 battle with Naseem Hamed, a bout that saw both you and Hamed hit the canvas three times each.

Well, a lot of people don’t know that me and “The Prince” are actually friends to this day. Me and “Smoke” Gainer are friends to this day, me and Troy Dorsey are friends to this day. We needed each other. You know, all the fighters I fought including “The Prince”, we needed each other. Ali needed Frazier and Frazier needed Ali. Me and “The Prince” needed each other and at that point in my career I was looking for something bigger than me and there was nothing out there bigger than me.

I read a boxing magazine and saw this guy called “The Prince” making about five million dollars a fight. I called my manager and told him we gotta find a way to challenge this guy. At that point I was the only featherweight on HBO but primarily the problem was I had no competition to face to make money, so I needed an adversary, I needed my “Frazier” and I went to England to challenge my “Frazier” so he’d come to America and we could do battle. I knocked out a fighter named Orlando Soto who was a former WBO champion, I knocked him out I believe in the 10th round, I was 47-1 by that time. I went back, told Hamed I needed to fight him, he came to the States, we got to negotiating and we signed and got the fight happening and one thing led to another. I didn’t think it was going to be that big a fight, I really didn’t because nobody in the States really knew him. But it wound up being bigger than I thought. After the fight, I was very shocked. I might have maybe taken the fight differently if I thought it was going to be that big.

I think even in defeat I accomplished a lot. I may not have won the fight but I definitely won the war. I exposed a lot of vulnerability in “The Prince”, a lot of vulnerability in his style. I think I really laid the blueprint down on how to beat him. I humanized him. Before that he was Superman over there fighting nobody, he came to the States and fought me and I put him on the canvas. He was a great fighter, I think I needed him and he needed me. We are good friends to this day. I think he was exciting for the sport. He was very explosive, a very good unorthodox featherweight.

One thing I want about my career for people to remember is that I did a lot of things that was considered unconventional, but I made them work. I knocked out guys right-handed, left-handed, my style is all Jeet Kune Do, I give credit to Bruce Lee for inventing Jeet Kune Do. I have no style, that’s why I could win with all kinds or types of punches. From boxing with “Smoke” Gainer to brawling with Troy Dorsey, if anything I want it to be remembered that I had no style and I was an extension of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do

MP: In the years after Hamed you faced a former and future world champion in Carlos Hernandez and Humberto Soto. You managed to defeat both of them at a point when you were considered to be well beyond your very best. What enabled you to prevail against them at such an advanced stage in your career?

Once again, when people doubted me it gave me motivation. I like when people….I love haters. I love them. I need them, all my life, I love haters, know what I’m saying? I came up that way, that’s why I became World Champion. When I regained the title, that’s why I became World Champion again. When people think I can’t do something, that’s when I would do it. That’s when I would make it happen.

Today, I don’t box no more because I can’t get people to believe that no more, they know I could come back and do it again. That’s why I don’t box no more pretty much, because I can’t do the amazing thing no more, I’m not amazing anymore. I’m predictable, and I hate to be predictable. I don’t like to be comfortable either.

With Humberto Soto, I fought Soto with actually just one arm. People don’t know that. I hurt my arm sparring with Wayne McCullough in training the week before the fight. I strained my right arm, my jab arm. My wife said I was crazy to fight him with one arm. I had no jab in that fight. I fought him with one hand, actually if I had my other hand I would have knocked him out. Soto was a very good fighter but just like I said, there once again, they told me if I won the fight I’d get a world title fight. I was tired of being promised world title fights and once I’d win, I’d never get a shot.

Also another guy that you actually bypassed was Frankie Archuleta. I fought Frankie Archuleta when he was 18-0 undefeated, and after I was supposed to fight Paul Ingle for the world title. When I knocked out Frankie Archuleta and gave him his first defeat, then they said Ingle wouldn’t sign to defend his title against me. I got tired of that same thing from the beginning of my career to the end of my career, we’ll fight Kevin, we’ll fight Kevin, I’d knock somebody out – and then they’re not fighting Kevin. That’s the story of my career. I’m almost like a Marvin Hagler. I’m a lefty, I can punch, I got speed and everybody, when I win, suddenly has an excuse. A matter of fact a lot of people don’t know, the majority of my career, the majority of it, my opponents made more money than me because I had to give some of my purse for them to fight me, including Troy Dorsey.

MP: You had a big bout against Erik Morales for the interim WBC featherweight title in 2000, then later against Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003 and after that notably against Manuel Medina for the IBF featherweight title in 2006. Give us your impressions of these fighters.

I beat Medina. Manuel Medina, they gave it to him. First of all, Erik Morales, I had to get ready in ten days for that fight. I wasn’t a featherweight no more. After beating Soto, I was a lightweight, junior lightweight, and I beat him at junior lightweight. I got the call because I beat Soto but I had to go back down to featherweight which I didn’t exist in anymore. So when I fought Morales it was ten days notice, I had to lose eleven pounds in ten days. That was the only way they’d do the fight. I was actually sparring Augie Sanchez, getting him ready for Prince Naseem Hamed and I was ready to fight, I was 136, which I felt if I could make 130 I’d knock Morales out. But Morales said no, 126. I had to come down. So I figured it made sense to fight him at ’30, not ’26, I was no longer a featherweight. But look back and Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales only wanted to fight me at featherweight, you know what I’m saying? It took away my advantage because at that point I had been fighting in a bigger weight class, and I couldn’t really make featherweight. So of course they offered me enough money, I’d make weight for a weight class I could no longer fight well in and it was more of a guaranteed win for them.

Marco Antonio Barrera I think is a great fighter. Erik Morales, I never thought that much of, but I always loved Barrera. I think Barrera was one of the greatest Mexican fighters I’ve seen, even better than Julio Cesar Chavez, I think Barrera was a great, great fighter. If he had fought me at a heavier weight it would have been a different story. I begged and pleaded to do it at ’33, ’34, and they said if I don’t do it at featherweight, I wouldn’t get it. It’s funny, in his next fight he got knocked out by Manny Pacquiao.

As I got older, the one regret I have is I never committed myself to 135 or winning a title at 130lbs, which I could have done years ago. Everybody wanted to fight me at featherweight. They wouldn’t fight me at 130 or 135lbs. I beat credible opposition. I knocked out Pete Taliaferro way before Arturo Gatti fought him, in a non-title fight at 130lbs. I fought and beat Humberto Soto at 130lbs but they would never give me the shot I wanted at junior lightweight or lightweight. If they gave me a shot it was at 126.

MP: You are a very well spoken and opinionated individual able to walk viewers through the action they see on their television screens. This led to your stint as the lead on HBO’s KO Nation. Tell us about that period and relate to us the challenges involved with that role.

I think I was doing something at the time, broadcasting, that was never done before. HBO is very experimental at times, but they’re not no more. I think that HBO needs to open up the avenues and say OK, speak outside of the box. I’ve been actually commentating since ’89, I started on Heavyweight Explosion. I did some radio, maybe six years before I even got KO Nation. So People don’t even know I was doing it years before KO Nation. They just thought I got on television and started commentating. Actually I was groomed because I had done radio, I had done a lot of TV shows, I was doing Heavyweight Explosion, Wrestle One Radio, BBC, Sky TV. I was constantly working on broadcasting. By the time I landed KO Nation I think I was more established than people expected. I think the surprise element got them and I loved what I did.

I got another show coming up, like I said earlier, the XB, with which I’m trying to revolutionize the sport. I just think things should be done a different way and I go about doing them. I don’t like to complain about them, I like to go about doing them. I feel that boxing is not the way it should be, and that’s why the XB is gonna be that way, it’s gonna be something that you are gonna love. You are going to see boxers actually really fighting now, and they gotta win the round to win money. They don’t get paid that much money if they don’t win the round. And we got four alternates sitting in the can just waiting to come out. Boxing has been the way it is for too long where the main event has been everything. We are going to do a show where it’s not about the main event. Each fighter has got to fight to become the main event. It’s like The Contender, though just in one day. Just like The Contender, but in one day, and you gotta win the round to get money.

MP: You’ve mentioned God several times. You seem to have a strong faith in God.

Well I know that I’m only here, and doing what I’m doing because of Him, because nothing in my life makes sense. Like right now I’m sitting across the table from Ocho Cinco, who’s a football player for the Cincinnati Bengals, I’m training him. How does that happen? How does it happen that I see a jacket with a yellow boxing glove on it, and I go to a gym, and they know I have this fighter in me and that I would definitely become a world champion, how did they know that? How do you explain that? Nothing in my life is normal, so obviously I’m here and everything is done for a reason, and I tell people all of the time when I meet them, I’m living proof there is a God.

My father didn’t box, my uncle didn’t box, nobody else boxed. My mother’s not on drugs, my father’s not a pimp; I’m not the typical story you hear on fighters. I’m from a middle-class family, my mother and father have been married for 43 years, but I fought with the tenacity of a guy that came from a broken family, the tenacity of the worst of the worst. When push comes to shove, I’m doing the shoving. I’m a very normal kind of guy outside of the ring. But when I have sweats on and gloves on I’m a different kind of a fighter. When I grab that microphone……now I can understand what God has put me here for, to connect to the world, and I feel that I have to spread the message that he is alive and well. When I grab that microphone I have that same tenacity that I had before in the ring, but the tenacity has shifted. It went from the glove to the mic.

MP: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans in closing?

I would like to be the first fighter ever recognized as one of the best fighters, also as well as one of the best commentators ever, to the game. That’s all I ever wanted, to be the best at what I do. I did it for the public, I want to share with them and give it to them. Something that they can embrace and have and change lives, they can live through my challenges and live through what I accomplished. They might feel that if I can do it, they can do it. Be it if they are trying to lose weight, excel in music, whatever they are trying to do, they can look at me and say if he can do it, I can do it, there is a God and there is a purpose.

Kevin Kelley
Nickname: “Flushing Flash”
Division: Featherweight – Lightweight
Professional Record: 60-10-2, 39 KO’s

Date Opponent Location Result

1988-09-08 Willie Barnes New York, US W TKO 2
1988-10-27 Vicente Arias New York, US W TKO 1
1988-11-10 Joey Corpus New York, US W PTS 4
1988-12-15 Agustin Silva New York, US W TKO 4
1989-02-09 Carlos Peralta New York, US W KO 2

1989-03-16 Anthony Barela New York, US W UD 6
1989-05-05 Anthony Barela Atlantic City, US W UD 6
1989-05-25 Bruce Flippins New York, US W TKO 4
1989-07-27 Jose Villasenor New York, US W KO 1
1989-08-24 Byron Chacon New York, US W TKO 1
1989-10-30 Jean Pierre Dibateza Den Haag, NL W PTS 8
1989-11-13 Fermin Rodriguez Den Haag, NL W KO 2
1989-11-30 Martin Mendoza Atlantic City, US W KO 1
1989-12-23 Russell Davison Hoogvliet, NL W PTS 8

1990-09-13 Cruz Saldana Duluth, US W TKO 1
1990-10-30 Jesse Sierra South Fallsburg, US W TKO 5
1990-11-30 Ernesto Quintana Las Vegas, US W TKO 1

1991-02-12 Boualem Belkif Rotterdam, NL W KO 3
1991-03-22 Harold Warren Callicoon, US W PTS 10
1991-05-27 Richie Foster Rotterdam, NL W KO 1
1991-06-14 Job Walters New York, US W TKO 6
USA New York State Featherweight Title
1991-07-23 James Pipps Monticello, US W TKO 4
1991-08-31 Juan Gomez Polo Willemstad, Curacao, AN W KO 2
1991-10-04 Cesar Almonte Waregem, BE W KO 2
1991-11-12 Rafael Zuniga Las Vegas, US W TKO 4
WBC Continental Americas Featherweight Title

1992-01-31 Hector Padilla Waregem, BE W TKO 2
1992-02-18 Troy Dorsey New York, US W UD 12
WBC Continental Americas Featherweight Title
1992-05-21 Tomas Valdez New York, US W TKO 2
1992-06-02 Alric Johnson Rotterdam, NL W PTS 10
1992-08-20 Antonio Hernandez Atlantic City, US W PTS 10
1992-09-25 Roberto Villareal Catskill, US W KO 3

1993-01-12 Peter Nieves New York, US W TKO 6
1993-03-23 Angel Gonzalez Rotterdam, NL W TKO 4
1993-05-13 Jesus Poll New York, US W TKO 6
1993-07-08 Adolfo Castillo New York, US W TKO 2
1993-09-11 Patrick Simeon Miami Beach, US W PTS 10
1993-12-04 Gregorio Vargas Reno, US W UD 12
WBC Featherweight Title

1994-05-06 Jesse Benavides Atlantic City, US W UD 12
WBC Featherweight Title
1994-06-26 Georgie Navarro Atlantic City, US W TKO 6
1994-09-24 Jose Vida Ramos Atlantic City, US W TKO 2
WBC Featherweight Title
1994-11-02 Pete Taliaferro Tunica, US W TKO 10

1995-01-07 Alejandro Gonzalez San Antonio, US L TKO 10
WBC Featherweight Title
1995-03-31 Ricardo Rivera Chester, US W KO 9
1995-07-28 Tommy Parks Bay Saint Louis, US D TD 2
1995-09-09 Clarence Adams Las Vegas, US D MD 12
vacant World Boxing Union Featherweight Title

1996-02-02 Louie Espinoza Las Vegas, US W UD 12
World Boxing Union Featherweight Title
1996-06-15 Derrick Gainer Jacksonville, US W KO 8
World Boxing Union Featherweight Title
1996-11-16 Edwin Santana Atlantic City, US W UD 12
World Boxing Union Featherweight Title

1997-03-14 Jesus Salud Albany, US W UD 12
World Boxing Union Featherweight Title
1997-07-12 Orlando Fernandez Tunica, US W KO 10
World Boxing Union Featherweight Title
1997-12-19 Naseem Hamed New York, US L KO 4
WBO Featherweight Title

1998-05-08 Vincent Howard Atlantic City, US W UD 10
1998-07-18 Derrick Gainer New York, US L UD 10

1998-12-17 Jorge Ramirez Reseda, US W KO 9
1999-05-08 Hector Velazquez Las Vegas, US W UD 10
1999-08-13 Benito Rodriguez Bossier City, US L PTS 10

2000-01-22 Frankie Archuleta Las Vegas, US W KO 9
2000-09-02 Erik Morales El Paso, US L TKO 7
WBC Featherweight Title

2002-04-27 Raul Martin Franco Las Vegas, US W TKO 2
2002-07-13 Humberto Soto Las Vegas, US W MD 12
vacant NABA Super Featherweight Title
2002-11-14 Johnny West Miami, US W KO 5

2003-04-12 Marco Antonio Barrera Las Vegas, US L TKO 4

2005-03-03 Felix St Kitts New York, US W TKO 8
2005-05-17 Jose Reyes Philadelphia, US W UD 10
2005-11-04 Sandro Marcos Ventura, US W TKO 4

2006-02-17 Juan Carlos Ramirez Cicero, US W KO 2
2006-06-10 Bobby Pacquiao New York, US L KO 4
WBC Continental Americas Super Featherweight Title
2006-09-28 Carlos Hernandez San Antonio, US W UD 10
2006-11-11 Manuel Medina New York, US L MD 12

2008-07-08 Jaime Palma Las Vegas, US W UD 10
2008-10-10 David Rodela Tucson, US L SD 8

2009-05-21 Vicente Escobedo Sacramento, US L TKO 2

Advertise Now On RSR

Purchase Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime

Leave a Reply