Josh Kelly believes a move up to super-welterweight will make the difference as he begins his second attempt to climb to the top of the professional ranks on Friday night. 

Kelly steps into the ring for the first time in 15 months when he faces Albania’s Xhuljo Vrenozi at the Indigo at the O2 in London on Friday night. 

It marks his return after being stopped in six rounds by David Avanesyan in a European welterweight title shot at Wembley Arena in February last year. 

But Kelly believes the move up in weight has suited him well. 

“I feel so much more comfortable at the weight,” Kelly said. “I have really enjoyed training for this fight and the weight has made a difference. 

“I feel refreshed. I’ve been in the gym throughout the year out. I’ve got a smile on my face and the main thing is that I enjoy it. It’s going to be a hard night for my opponent. 

“I’m going to show that there are levels in this sport and I am going to show where I am at and where I belong.” 

The fight will be chief support to the vacant British middleweight title fight between Linus Udofia Denzel Bentley on the first show by Wasserman Boxing to be shown by Channel 5. 

Kalle Sauerland, the head of Wasserman Boxing, is confident that Kelly, at 28, still has plenty of time to fulfil his potential. 

The 2016 Olympian has only had 12 professional bouts, which included the loss to Avanesyan and a draw with Ray Robinson in New York, and he believes he may have suffered from such high expectations. 

“He was put on a pedestal by Sky and that came with plenty of pressure,” Sauerland said. “Sometimes you have to take your time and learn the professional game. He has got so much talent and just gas to show that.” 

Kelly admitted that he was struggling with mental health matters around the Avanesyan fight but says the break and the move up in weight has helped with those. 

“I can still reach the top,” Kelly said. “I am looking forward to a good year. My route has never been easy, but I want to get somewhere this year. I am here for the big fights.”  

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.