Olympic boxers Josh Kelly and Pat McCormack handed hard draws in Rio
If Wearside's Olympic boxers are to bring medals back from Rio, they are going to have to do it the hard way.
Josh Kelly and Pat McCormack have been handed difficult draws in the opening stages of the tournament.
Both gifted young men – who are aiming to emulate Sunderland’s Tony Jeffries , who won a medal at the 2008 Olympics – face the task of eliminating the number two seeds.
Kelly has been paired with Walid Sedik Mohamed in the bottom half of the U69 kilo drawsheet.
And victory for the Sunderland boxer against the Egyptian in the early hours of Tuesday night (2am BST) would set up a huge fight in the round of 16 with Daniyar Yeleussinov.
The Kakakhstan is the 2013 World Champion and the 2015 World silver-medalllist - only the invincible Moroccan Mohammed Rabii is better.
But Paul Kelly, Josh’s dad and Houghton ABC coach, says his son is not daunted.
“I think Josh and Pat have probably had the worst luck in the draw,” said Kelly. “Every fight for them now is going to be like a final.
“But I spoke to Josh and he’s really up for it.
“He doesn’t give a monkey’s about the reputation of who he’s fighting.
“He’s been through a lot just to get to the Olympics and he’s going to go out and enjoy it and box.
“I know I look at my son through rose-tinted glasses but he has the talent to beat anyone.
“If he can get it right on the night and everything falls into place he can beat Yeleussinov.”
However, Kelly Snr has been around boxing long enough to know the last thing a fighter should do is get ahead of himself.
“I don’t know a lot about the Egyptian, apart from he was silver medallist to Rabii in last year’s African Confederation final,” said the coach .
“Josh won’t take him lightly – every boxer in that Olympic draw is a quality kid.”
McCormack has a testing round of 32 curtain raiser in the early hours of next Friday against Ablaikhan Zhussupov (2.15am BST).
And, should the 21-year-old see off the Kazakhstan fighter, he is drawn to meet Yasniel Toledo López.
The Cuban was the bronze medallist at the 2015 World Championships in Doha and is seeded second in Rio.
However, McCormack, providing the Kazakh is put aside, will relish his scrap with the 26-year-old, who represented his country at London 2012.
McCormack, coached by Graeme Rutherford at Birtley ABC, has arrived at the Games as one of the best light-welters on the planet.
The Washington boxer has lost only once in 13 contests this season and recently showed his class by winning the World Olympic Qualifier in Baku, without dropping a single round.
“I’ve been fighting top level opposition and been beating them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hartlepool neighbour Savannah Marshall has been drawn against veteran Swede Anna Laurell in the women’s middleweight division. The pair will clash on Sunday.