Published on 30/05/2022

By: Sean Crose

Coach Eric Kelly knows the sport of boxing well. “If Kelly looks familiar,” I wrote in 2020, “it’s because he’s been spotted everywhere, from vice sport (where he was a broadcaster), to commercials (he was in a Powerade commercial) to the UFC (where he worked as a boxing trainer and cornerman). Kelly’s home, however, is Southbox, where he offers advice — and sometimes pizza — to those who want or need it, regardless of age, background or pedigree. Southbox is Kelly’s gym in New York. Noted for providing children with its “Pizza Box” charity program, the gymnasium is also known as a place for serious combat training. Ask Gervonta Davis.

Davis training at Kelly’s Gym, Southbox

“He was training in my gym,” Kelly tells me the day after Davis’ thunderous victory over Rolando Romero on Saturday night at Barclay’s Center. “He had been there for a few days.” Not that Kelly and Davis are complete strangers. “I’ve met Tank before,” he told me. I know his coaches well. According to Kelly, what stands out about Davis is basically what stands out from all great fighters – hard work and dedication to craftsmanship. “This guy is a smart boxer and a hard worker,” Kelly said after watching Davis prepare for Romero in his gym. “I’m a fan”

Needless to say, Kelly was impressed — like most — by Davis’ impressive performance on Saturday night in Brooklyn. “He let Rolly (Romero) knock himself out,” Kelly says of Davis. “He shows he’s a well-versed fighter.” Kelly was also impressed with how Davis was able to turn her fight with Romero into a must-watch event. “His live portal was amazing,” Kelly says. “When was the last time you saw Madonna fighting? If Kelly seems passionate about boxing, it’s because it lives and breathes. A top amateur, the man was a fighter to watch before a pool cue accident damaged his eye.

Yet, as good as it is, it literally seems like Kelly is someone called to help others. His Pizza Box program helps many kids get off the streets and into an environment where they can do something really productive with their lives. “You’re where you’re supposed to be,” Kelly says of the youngsters who walk into her gym for free workouts. “One day you will be in a position where you can give back.” A man who knows his stuff, inside and outside the ring.