By: Sean Crose
Trainer Eric Kelly knows his way around the sport of boxing. “If Kelly looks familiar,” I wrote back in 2020, “it’s because he has been spotted everywhere, from Vice Sports (where he’s been a broadcaster), to commercials (he was in a Powerade ad) to the UFC (where he’s worked as a boxing trainer and cornerman). Kelly’s home, though, is Southbox, where he offers guidance – and sometimes pizza – to those want or need it, regardless age, background, or pedigree.” Southbox is Kelly’s New York City gym. Noted for providing children with his charitable “Pizza Box” program, the gym is also known as a place for serious fight training. Just ask Gervonta Davis.
“He was training at my gym,” Kelly tells me the day after Davis’ thunderous win over Rolando Romero Saturday night at the Barclay’s Center. “He was there for a few days.” Not that Kelly and Davis were complete strangers. “I met Tank before,” he tells me. I know his coaches well.” According to Kelly, what stands out about Davis is essentially what stands out for all great fighters – hard work and dedication to craft. “The guy’s an intelligent boxer and a hard worker,” says Kelly after watching Davis prepare for Romero in his gym. “I’m a fan”
Needless to say, Kelly was impressed – as most were – with Davis’ impressive performance Saturday night in Brooklyn. “He let Rolly (Romero) knock himself out,” Kelly says of Davis. “He’s showing he’s a well versed fighter.” Kelly was also impressed with how Davis was able to turn his fight with Romero into a must see event. “His live gate was amazing,” says Kelly. “When was the last time you saw Madonna at the fights?” If Kelly sounds passionate about boxing it’s because he lives and breathes it. A top ranked amateur, the man was a fighter to look out for before a pool cue accident damaged his eye.
Still, good as he was, it literally seems as if Kelly is a person called to help others. His Pizza Box program helps a lot of kids get off the streets and into an environment where they can do something truly productive with their lives. “You’re where you’re supposed to be,” Kelly says of young people who enter his gym in order to engage in free training. “One day you’ll be in a position where you can give back.” A man who knows his business – both in and out of the ring.