CHESTER, W.Va. - Joey "The Hitman" Holt proved he's more than just a power puncher.
The 2004 East Liverpool graduate improved his professional boxing record to 4-0 on Saturday night with a four-round unanimous decision victory over Toledo's Anthony Kelly in the second fight of a six-bout card at The Harv.
Kelly became the first to go the distance with Holt (4-0, 3 KO).
East Liverpool's Joey Holt lands a right hand against Toledo's Anthony Kelly on Saturday at Mountaineer. (Photo courtesy of Jimmy Joe Savage)
"I was just warming up," Holt said of the junior middleweight clash. "I had him hurt a couple times in there. I've got to put my punches together a little better, but that will come with more experience."
From the outset, Holt displayed a new facet to his game using a shoulder roll technique to avoid punches from Kelly. Known for his power punching, Holt said he is working on becoming a more well-rounded boxer.
"With my trainer Tom Yankello, we've been focusing a lot on defense," Holt said. "We know the power is there and I've got pretty decent boxing skills. Having a good defense though is what helps you stay in the game longer."
The work Holt has put in at Tom Yankello's World Class Boxing Gym in Ambridge, Pa. was evident from the opening bell. In the first round, the East Liverpool native made Kelly continually miss his target before Holt was able to land two big right hands, one to the body and one to the head, as the round came to a close.
By the final two rounds, Holt had Kelly on shaky legs on several occassions but simply ran out of time before he could keep his knockout streak in tact.
"Getting the win is the most important thing right now," the 28-year-old Holt said. "I want to keep getting better. The knockouts will come. I just needed another round. When we get to six rounds, I don't think those guys will be able to stay in there."
All three judges had Holt easily winning the bout. Two judges had the fight scored 40-36, while the other had it 39-37. This writer had the bout scored 40-36.
The 22-year-old Kelly (0-8-2) took the fight on just two days notice after Holt's scheduled opponent, Chillicothe's Dustin Caplinger, dropped out. According to Holt, the last minute change had little, if any, effect on his mindset entering the ring.
"Right now in my career, we don't work on any gameplan for my opponent," he said. "We're just working on what I can do and how I can be the best fighter I can be. But, I give this kid credit for taking the fight so quickly. He was tough and took some good shots."
As in his previous fights at Mountaineer, Holt once again was represented by a large fan base from the East Liverpool area. There appeared to be as many in the stands for Holt -clad in their "Hitman" t-shirts - as there were for any of the headlining fighters.
"I've got the best fans out there," Holt said. "They follow me every time I fight. I couldn't do it without them."
Both fighters weighed in at 155 pounds, one over the junior middleweight limit. Holt said he would attempt to move down to the 147-pound welterweight limit in the near future.
After the fight, Holt expressed his thanks to his trainer Tom Yankello, Team Impact, Harry and Deb Stewart, Oasis in East Liverpool and Jim Hall of Bloody Buddy Fight Gear.
In the night's opening bout, Buffalo's Greg Brady scored a third-round knockout over Baltimore's Travis Reeves in crusierweight action. Also scheduled to appear on Saturday's card was Lorain's Wilkins Santiago, Akron's Nick Firtha and Pittsburgh's Morgan Fitch and Billy Hutchinson.
In other boxing news, a documentary, "The Good Son" about Youngstown's Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini will be available to view on Tuesday via iTunes and Video on Demand.