Josh Kelly eyeing world title shot after struggles with hypochondria

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Josh Kelly insists his boxing career is in the best health yet since he has overcome his struggles with hypochondria.

Kelly (13-1-1, 7 KOs), 29, admits his mental health affected his boxing career due to his fear of falling ill and not being at his optimum best.

The English super welterweight contender was so unsettled ahead of a fight against David Avanesyan in 2021 that he says he downed whisky in the week of the fight to help with a sleepless night of worry.

The Sunderland-based fighter faces Gabriel Corzo (18-0, 3 KOs), from Argentina, at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle, England, on Saturday after registering three wins since the sixth stoppage defeat to Avanesyan for the European welterweight title.

"I was suffering from chronic hypochondria, I was worried I was getting ill all the time and not being at my best for fights," Kelly told ESPN. "I was washing my hands all the time, I started taking antibiotics for no reason two or three weeks before the fight, and I couldn't sleep in the weeks before the fight. I couldn't stop my mind racing. I was drinking whisky in the week of the fight just to try and sleep. I did two mini bottles on the Tuesday night. I wanted to be the best version of myself, but I was so worried about getting ill and underperforming.

"I lost that fight in the weeks before it, but David did what he had to do. It was about myself and outside of the ring, my mental health, and I've put that in place now and you've seen that in my last few performances. There's nothing wrong now, it's totally gone, I just had to go away and find myself for a bit."

Kelly did not fight for 16 months and has successfully relaunched his career at super welterweight.

It's not the first time Kelly has relaunched his career, either. He was previously a gifted young footballer and part of Sunderland Football Club's academy as a youngster in the North East of England. Kelly played both sports side-by-side before realising he could only focus on one.

"I feel bigger and stronger, more mature," Kelly told ESPN. "This is my natural weight class. At 147 pounds, I was having to lose weight on the morning of the weigh-in, and that was not good."

Now in a better place, circumstances have left Kelly possibly one win away from a world title shot. Kelly, who trains in South London with coach Adam Booth, is No 2 and No 7 with the WBO and IBF governing bodies respectively.

With undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo recently accepting the opportunity to step up two weight classes to challenge Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the future of the world titles at 154 pounds are in doubt.

Kelly believes the development could present title opportunities sooner rather than later for the likes of himself and says Australian Tim Tszyu is now the man to beat in the division.

"Charlo stepping up has really opened everything up in the division," Kelly told ESPN. "I'm highly ranked by the WBO, I'm not sure what will happen to his titles but it has blown the division wide open and I'm sure I can take advantage. Tszyu is the man to beat now, he's on top form at the moment, I don't know what Charlo has got left. Canelo is a massive fight for him, but he's not boxed for a long time."