MACAU — At age 35 and coming off the first back-to-back losses in his career, Eric Kelly is racing against time as he hopes to get back among the featherweight division’s elite and again get a shot at the title that has long eluded him.
"I'm just happy that ONE still gave me an opportunity to fight again despite my previous losses," Kelly said in Filipino, who dropped both of his matches in 2016 against perennial title contenders EV Ting and Narantungalag Jadambaa.
To prove he still belongs with the division’s best, Kelly must overcome the stiff challenge from former lightweight champion and Japanese veteran Kotetsu Boku (25-11-2) in the main card of ONE: Kings and Conquerors at the Venetian Hotel and Casino on Saturday.
"Boku's already a veteran and can be considered as somewhat a legend in the organization," said Kelly.
"That's why I really need to be careful in my approach against him."
Kelly is wary of the toughness that Boku brings to the table with the 40-year old Japanese known for his tough chin and heavy hands.
That's why Kelly (12-3) will look to take advantage of his quickness after spending a month of training in his hometown of Baguio.
"He's a very skilled fighter. But I'm younger so I expect him to fade out when the fight gets longer," said Kelly, who once stood out as one of the most well-rounded fighters in ONE Championship.
"You know when fighters get older. They tend to slow down. I think that's my main advantage heading into the fight," he added.
Kelly is hoping to get another shot at the featherweight title after losing in his first try against fellow Igorot Honorio Banario.
For now his focus is getting back into winning ways.
"I'm just going with the flow. There are a lot of younger fighters with great skills and advanced training," Kelly continued.
"I still dream of becoming World Champion someday but for now, I'm just gonna focus on my next fight and focus on being better."