Former kickboxing champion is bringing his sport to
Professional kickboxer Danny Kelly left the ring in 2001 with a 27-1 record. By the time he was through with competing, he had achieved all he could in the world of competitive kickboxing, earning five titles and amassing a nearly-perfect record.
Kelly’s only loss in the ring came late in his career, just about the time that he was considering a retirement from fighting. He wanted to go out with a bang and so he sought out the best fight he could get, against an up-and-coming opponent with a 13-0 record and 11 knockouts to his credit.
For the first three rounds of the fight, Kelly was at top form. But, in the fourth, he got caught with a hard left hook and hit the mat.
“It was the first time I had ever been knocked out,” Kelly said. “I’ve boxed with a broken hand before but that was the first time I had ever been knocked out.”
Three fights later and it was time for a rematch, which Kelly won handily. And then he retired.
“After that, I kind of figured that I had accomplished everything I could in the ring,” Kelly said. “So, I changed my focus.”
These days, Kelly’s focus has shifted away from the art of landing a perfect punch to the art of teaching others how to.
Yes, Pat Schleeter of Schleeter’s Academy of Martial Arts has some company in his studio on San Benito Street these days as Kelly will be sharing the space to teach his kickboxing class three times a week.
“From what I’ve heard and seen, there are some great athletes here in Hollister,” Kelly said. “And that’s why I think this is going to work. Take the two-sport athletes in high school for example. For the ones who want to keep active in their offseason, kickboxing is perfect.”
Kickboxing isn’t just for those who want to equip themselves with self defense skills. The sport can also do wonders for people who are just looking to get into shape or even for those looking for a boost in self confidence.
Maureen Ramirez started attending Kelly’s class only three weeks ago but has already noticed a difference in the way she feels and looks.
“I take martial arts here too (at Schleeter’s) but I wanted to try kickboxing for the workout,” said a sweat-drenched Ramirez, whose son Joshua also takes lessons from Kelly, after Wednesday’s class. “And it’s a tough workout for the whole body. I’ve already lost some inches.”
Kelly has only been instructing the class for a little over a month now but he’s already starting to see his students instinctively implement some of the things he’s been teaching them in their daily workouts.
As Wednesday’s class came to a close, Kelly’s students broke off into pairs and began working on defensive technique. The moves they are working on require subtle, yet precise, motion of the body as they react to punches coming at them from their sparring partner but Kelly’s students have already reached the point where their reactions on defense come as second nature and without any thought.
And that’s exactly what Kelly is striving to achieve with his students.
Kelly’s effectiveness as an instructor is evident in the rise of one Clint Cornell. Cornell had never boxed before he met Kelly but, after only eight months under Kelly’s wing, Cornell became a Golden Gloves Tournament winner as one of boxing’s young stars.
“(Clint) won the tournament at one weight division lower than the one I tried to win when I was boxing,” Kelly said. “He went out there, fought three great fights and took the tournament. It gave me some closure because I couldn’t quite do it. But, I did it as a trainer.”
Hollister residents have a lot of options when it comes to either boxing gyms or studios that teach martial arts and Kelly knows that. But he believes that kickboxing will catch on here in Hollister. And that has a lot to do with the fact that kickboxing can serve so many purposes. Whether it’s practiced for self defense, which kickboxing covers and then some, for competition, or simply as an alternative to going to the gym to get into shape, Kelly believes that kickboxing has something to offer just about anyone.
“I love the competitiveness of kickboxing,” Kelly said. “When you’re in he ring, you’re going non-stop for two minutes at a time, all-out each round. In martial arts competition, someone scores a hit and they back both fighters off. That’s a score and they happen one at a time. And that’s fine but I always wanted that continuous action like you see in a basketball game. That’s why I love boxing. But, even in boxing, you’re only worried about your opponent’s two fists. In kickboxing, you’re worried about four things, fists and legs.”