Sunderland’s welterweight sensation Josh Kelly was a chubby but skilful Wearside footballer… but he idolised Paul Gascoigne

SUNDERLAND boxer Josh Kelly has a dark secret, one that even his devoted Mackem fans won’t like… he grew up idolising a Geordie legend!

The 7-0 welterweight stylist was surprisingly both a chubby teenager bullied over his baby fat and a mercurial footballer old-school coaches could not handle.

 Josh Kelly is the Sunderland welterweight sensation fighting on Saturday

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Josh Kelly is the Sunderland welterweight sensation fighting on Saturday

That combination – and a certain Euro ‘96 goal – meant the Wearsider worshiped a footballer from the wrong side of the Tyne in Newcastle idol Paul Gascoigne.

When you witness Kelly’s cavalier boxing style and see him play the joker in Adam Booth’s gym, you see the similarities between him and the 51-year-old boxing fan.

But new-dad Kelly, 24, admits it’s a comparison he has had to keep underwraps due to the fierce rivalry between the two football clubs.

Ahead of his Saturday fight on the Tony Bellew vs Oleksandr Usyk undercard, Kelly told SunSport: “I used to watch Gazza all the time as a kid, all of the time.

 Josh Pretty Boy Kelly is one of Britains brightest rising stars

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Josh Pretty Boy Kelly is one of Britains brightest rising stars
 This iconic Paul Gascoigne goal lit up Euro 96 for England and Josh Kelly

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This iconic Paul Gascoigne goal lit up Euro 96 for England and Josh Kelly
 Gazza is a boxing fan and recently met WBC heavyweight king Deontay Wilder

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Gazza is a boxing fan and recently met WBC heavyweight king Deontay Wilder

“When he scored that goal against Scotland, when he chipped it over the defender’s head, I did one exactly the same. When I told my dad it was just like Gazza he said, ‘oh no, don’t say that’.

“Because I was from Sunderland and he’s a Geordie, not a lot of people liked him but I have always looked up to people like that with style and flair.

“He has been coming to some fights but he is a Newcastle lad isn’t he so we would have to meet on neutral turf, I am not going to meet him in Newcastle!”

 Josh Kelly watched Gazza score this wondergoal and repeated the skills

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Josh Kelly watched Gazza score this wondergoal and repeated the skills
 Josh Kelly used to watched loads of videos of Geordie legend Gazza

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Josh Kelly used to watched loads of videos of Geordie legend Gazza
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Joshua Jr Kelly born this morning 7lbs absolutely perfect emotions can not describe the pride and joy this little man has just brought me ❤️ so proud of my beautiful wife @remysmithx He’s to little PBKJR 💙🕺🏽 #PBK #PBKJR

A post shared by Joshua Kelly (@joshkelly07) on

Pretty Boy added a beautiful little lad to his family just days before his Manchester Arena bout.

The 2016 Team GB Olympian tried to help partner Remy along the process along so the arrival did not clash with his eighth pro fight, as he insists on being a hands-on father.

Kelly said: “We were given two due dates, October 21 from a doctor over in Spain and November 6 over here, I wanted the Spanish one as it was further from my fight.

“I was giving her loads of pineapple and curry and sending her on walks to try to move it along.

 Adam Booth trains Josh Kelly at his Redhill training base

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Adam Booth trains Josh Kelly at his Redhill training base

“The baby has motivated me a lot more, when I am digging in during sparring I am not just doing it for myself anymore.

“To support my family in the future and give back to the people that supporterd me, will mean everything to me. If I can help my family then that will be my job done.

“And I am glad it’s a boy because I don’t know what I would do with a girl. I have a 12-year-old sister and I am always ringing her up back in Sunderland and telling her she is banned from going to whatever parties are happening back home!

"It’s hard enough being a big brother to a sister, let alone a dad to a little girl."

 Welteweight star Josh Kelly has his eyes on two more fights in 2018

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Welteweight star Josh Kelly has his eyes on two more fights in 2018
 With a young son to feed, Josh Kelly is hungrier than ever to succeed

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With a young son to feed, Josh Kelly is hungrier than ever to succeed

Kelly and Remy held off naming their little man until he arrived – eventually settling on Josh Jr –  as dad knows the pain of getting stuck with a moniker that doesn’t suit.

He said: “I was never too keen on the Pretty Boy nickname, it started when I was a kid and a lad on the Team GB team used to call me it.

“It was a mickey take, he used to think I loved myself and now I have to carry it through my career.

“I like the PBK bit, friends try coming up with alternative meanings, but I think Pretty Boy will disappear eventually, especially if I keep getting punched in the face for a living.”

 Josh Kelly does not like his Pretty Boy nickname but it looks hard to shake off

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Josh Kelly does not like his Pretty Boy nickname but it looks hard to shake off

Sunderland fans have had to endure a horrendous few years watching their side plummet down to League One, with a host of mercenary players coming in, getting rich and clearing off.

It probably won’t help to hear they could have had a homegrown starlet in their ranks if academy coaches had not tried to stifle young Kelly’s skills and eventually force him to focus natural flair on fighting.

He said: “When I was a kid I always watched Prince Naseem Hamed, Ray Leonard, Willie Pep and I loved how they boxed and I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it.

“I was the same at football, when I was in the Sunderland academy I wanted to have the ball and take people on and they would always tell me I have to pass it.

"I was released and taken back a few times but then I focussed on boxing because I wanted a sport to show my flair in.

 Josh Kelly has the skills to be one of Britain‘s best boxers

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Josh Kelly has the skills to be one of Britain‘s best boxers
 Josh Kelly is over the moon with his baby son who arrived at the perfect time before his fight

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Josh Kelly is over the moon with his baby son who arrived at the perfect time before his fight

“I remember my first ever session with the academy, basically my trial. I got the ball, went past three people, passed the ball, got it back and had a shot.

"They stopped the session and had a go at me for not passing straight away, they told me the simple thing is always best but I was thinking ‘well why doesn’t Ronaldo do that then?’

“My flair was just built into me as a kid, I can box simple and hold my hands up but if I am not getting caught and I am winning fights then that’s how I will box.

“People think I will change my style when I step up in class but I have a lot of layers and people are going to see them.”

Paul Gascoigne lands cheeky punches on heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder ahead of Tyson Fury bout

SUNDERLAND boxer Josh Kelly has a dark secret, one that even his devoted Mackem fans won’t like… he grew up idolising a Geordie legend!