In just 31 short years, already Eric Kelly has made a formidable name for himself. The Bed-Stuy resident and former boxer has won four national titles, two New York City Golden Glove titles, two national number-one rankings and an alternate spot on the 2000 USA Olympic Boxing team, amongst other accomplishments.
Born in Titusville, Florida, Kelly’s family moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant when he was still very young. He grew up on Halsey Street and attended P.S. 5. He began his boxing training as a pre-teen, at the Bed-Stuy Boxing Center on Marcus Garvey Blvd. and Gates Avenue.
He attended Thomas Jefferson High School in East New York. However, he spent many days working out and building his stamina at Boys and Girls High School's track and field. “Boys and Girls High School track made me the champion I am today,” said Kelly.
Today, Kelly is retired from boxing and works as a physical fitness trainer at the Church Street Boxing Gym on 25 Park Place in Manhattan. And he still lives in Bed-Stuy. He also does a little bit of modeling and owns a fashion line called Triumph Sports.
Kelly’s boxing career has taken him all over the world, where he has had the unique opportunity to meet hundreds of professional boxers, past and present.
Joe Frazier was one of the boxers he had the pleasure of meeting on a few occassions. He said when he heard the news that boxing legend Joe Frazier died on Monday, November 7, of liver cancer, he was “shocked, devastated.”
Frazier also known as “Smokin' Joe,” was an Olympic and undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion, whose professional career began in 1965 and lasted until his last fight in 1981.
Frazier's style was often compared to that of Henry Armstrong and occasionally Rocky Marciano, as he was best known for his relentless style of bobbing, weaving, grunting with all out aggression, wearing down his opponents. Frazier's best-known punch was a powerful left hook, which accounted for most of his knockouts.
The International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) rates Smokin' Joe among the ten greatest heavyweights of all time. He is an inductee of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
In late September 2011, Joe Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer and eventually was admitted to hospice care where he stayed until he passed away.
In an exclusive interview with Bed-Stuy Patch, Eric Kelly shares his memory of Joe Frazier:
Bed-Stuy Patch: What went through your mind when you first heard the news that “Smokin Joe” Frazier died?
Eric Kelly: I was in shock. I was devastated. I didn’t know him personally. But I had the chance to meet him on a few occasions, and he was a very nice man, a good person. It was an honor to be in his presence, and I’d always had the greatest respect for him as a boxer.
BSP: As a boxer, can you tell me, who is Joe Frazier to the boxing world?
EC: He was one of the greatest fighters of our time. Yes, Muhammad Ali was the greatest. But Joe Frazier was a legend. He has fought so many fighters on an amateur and professional level worldwide. I’m a taller guy, lightweight figher. Joe was a shorter guy, heavy weight. But what I admired most about his style was that he had very good slipping (moving to left and right) and was really good with bobbing and weaving.
BSP: What’s your specialty?
EC: Well, I’m no longer a boxer. But my strength was my hands speed and my ability to adapt to many different styles of boxing, which helped against fighting my opponents.
BSP: Did you emulate or look up to Frazier? And what other boxers did you look up to.
EC: Yes, Frazier was definitely one of the leaders in boxing— one of the best that ever dominated the sport. He opened the gates for so many other boxers. During the time of my career, I also looked up to Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd No longer a boxer. I actually back in my career during the mid-90s, like Oscar de La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather.
BSP: For today’s aspiring boxers, or even young people who may not really know Joe Frazier or the impact he had in the sport, what would you like for them to know about Smokin’ Joe?
EC: First they, should know that boxing is more than a fighting sport; it’s a discipline sport. But also, it taught me the importance of teamwork and follow through, as one hand washes the other. As for Joe Frazier, I want people who may not really know him to remember him as a friendly, positive, open guy. I want them to remember him as legend.
You may follow Eric Kelly on Twitter at twitter.com/erickelly.