Saleem Kelly of Red Bank recently returned from Nevada, where the competed in the 2015 USA Boxing Junior Open and Youth National Championships in Reno. The Red Bank Regional High School Junior finished third in the tournament, and is currently ranked number four in the nation for his age and weight category.
He qualified for the nationals after winning the New Jersey state title with a perfect record, winning both the New Jersey Golden Gloves and Diamond Gloves for his weight category. He went to the nationals with a perfect state record; his current lifetime fight record now stands at 15 – 1, his only loss being his semifinalist finish in the national tournament.
According to his coach Dan Doyle, who runs the Middletown PAL (Police Athletic League) Program where Saleem trains, this is an amazing accomplishment especially for someone who is new to boxing. Coach Doyle is also the president of the New Jersey Golden Gloves organization. These programs are all certified by USA Boxing, which is the National Governing Body for Olympic-style boxing in the United States and a member organization of the United States Olympic Committee.
Coach Doyle explains, “Saleem is in the most competitive weight class of 152 pounds, where most 17-18 year olds fall, and he was competing against guys with so much more experience than him,” the coach explains. “Some had been boxing for years with 100 fights under their belt — and he came in third in the competition! That is unheard of!”
Saleem took up boxing at the encouragement of his father Craig, who also boxed with the Middletown PAL, and trains Saleem when he is not working at the Middletown gym. In all, Saleem trains six days a week, four to six hours a day in his sport. He credits boxing for giving him focus and purpose.
“Boxing changed my life, most definitely,” says Saleem. “I wasn’t really on the right path and had an uncertain future. My dad put me in boxing and little by little I was winning and starting to like it.”
“I never knew this could be my calling. My confidence definitely improved, and I feel I still can grow as I continue in this sport.”
Saleem has dreams to box professionally, but until that time, he would love the opportunity to try out for the US Olympic team. Dan Doyle believes that is a real possibility, given Saleem’s amazing talent and dedication to the sport. USA Boxing uses this program as the farm team for America’s Olympic Boxers.
Saleem will next compete at the NJ Golden Gloves on February 28 at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, which with over 300 competitors is the biggest contest in New Jersey.