The Flushing Flash, Kevin Kelley fought on February 17, but his performance was so quick that you may have missed it. Kelley, the former World Boxing Council featherweight champion and one of the sport's pioneering little men, knocked out Juan Carlos Ramirez at 2:29 of the second round at Cicero Stadium in Cicero, Ill.
A bit long in the tooth at age 38, Kelley revived his stagnant career with an impressive showing against Ramirez, a durable fighter who went the distance against the likes of Carlos Hernandez and Cesar Soto in losing efforts.
Ramirez is probably best known for getting crushed by Acelino Freitas in a fourth round knockout, after he deposited Freitas on the canvas in the second round.
Fighting a lot more flatfooted than usual, Kelley shuffled out of his corner and landed a series of left hands on the tip of Ramirez's chin. One of them sent Ramirez into the ropes and belly-flopping onto the canvas in the second round. Kelley showed the power and hand-speed of his youth when his battles with Derrick Gainer (KO 8) and Naseem Hamed (KO by 4) made it fashionable to be a featherweight and helped define an era of boxing in the 1990's.
At his age and weight – Kelley moved up to junior lightweight – he has no grand visions of challenging for a world title or at least petitioning for another shot.
His last significant fight was against Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003; Kelley was pummeled and stopped in the fourth round, and the message was clear: he was no longer an elite fighter.
“I'm happy with how my career is now,” Kelley said from his home in Las Vegas. “I have a lot of experience, and I am using it now when I fight. I feel a lot more relaxed than I used to. As you saw, I wasn't bouncing around the ring and using up energy against Ramirez. I went right at him. I was all business from the beginning. Now I take my time in the ring. There's no pressure on me to do anything. I'm enjoying the twilight of my career. I'm not in the mood to win a world title. I'm looking to make a little money and count the days until I get inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
He prepared for the fight by sparring with the “Pocket Rocket” Wayne McCullough, a steel-chinned veteran, in McCullough's 12-by-12-foot garage ring. Kelley fought against Ramirez as though half the ring was off limits, moving only when he had to and cornering Ramirez along the ropes for the knockout, which was brutal.
Trained by Don House, who guided Zahir Raheem to an upset win over Erik Morales last September, Kelley may have breathed new life into his long career with the win over Ramirez, even if he is uncertain about where the finishing line is.
His goals are firm and somewhat attainable. He wants a rematch with Hamed and more work as a commentator preferably at one of the networks he has toiled for like HBO and ESPN. His fight with Hamed in 1997 at Madison Square Garden was a classic slugfest that turned a lot of casual boxing fans into full-fledged junkies. It was their first taste of pure bliss in a boxing ring and they were hooked. With Hamed mulling a comeback and Kelley as talkative as ever, both seem possible.
“I'm enjoying what I'm doing now,” said Kelley, who was married last May. “I'm having fun again. This is like icing on the cake for me,” he said as one of his six kids cried in the background. “My hands are full, as you can hear, but I'm still having fun.”