Four-time National amateur boxing champion Eric Kelly is excited about his first acting role in a movie, “Day of the Fight”, which was scheduled to open nationwide last Friday.
The 43-year-old Kelly plays an assistant coach and uses his real name. “Day of the Fight”, starring Oscar-winner Joe Pesci, Michael Pitt and Ron Perlman, follows a once-renowned boxer (Pitt) as he takes a redemptive journey through his past and present on the day of his first fight since he left prison.
“I’m so excited,” said the USA Boxing Alumni member Kelly. “I’ve been on TV but never in a movie. It’s amazing. I have a good role, a speaking part, not a cameo. Joe Pesci is a legend, but I didn’t directly work with him. I’ve been a longtime friend of Michael Pitt. I’m his boxing trainer in real life. He’s a great actor who people got to know on Boardwalk Empire. He asked me if I’d be interested in being in a boxing movie. I love entertaining and I’m blessed to be part of it.”
Perlman, of Sons of Anarchy fame, plays Pitt’s head coach, Kelly works with Ron as the assistant coach.
“He’s a great actor, too,” Kelly added. “I had to teach him to hold mitts. He’s like a sponge, he soaked everything up.
“Another acting legend is Forrest Whitaker, who played an assistant trainer in the movie, Big George (about Hall of Fame boxer George Foreman. I look at him and I’m playing the same role. Plus, we both have bad left eyes.”
One of the best United States amateur boxers of all-time, Kelly finished with a remarkable 104-14 record, including numerous medals and awards, culminating with him being named alternate for the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia.
Born in Titusville, Florida, Kelly moved as a child with his father to the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, and his father encouraged him to box. Eric trained at the New Bed-Stuy Boxing Center and later at the famed Gleason’s Gym, winning his first national title at the age of 16.
In 2001, Kelly was the No. 1 ranked middleweight in the U.S., but he lost in the championship final of the USA Boxing Championships to an unranked Andre Ward, who went on to capture a gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Kelly was an Olympic team alternate.
Kelly’s life dramatically changed while training at the United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC), where Kelly was trained by Al Mitchell, on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. During a brawl in a barroom, he suffered nerve damage to his left eyelid, after being struck in the face with a pool cue, ending his boxing career prior to him turning pro.
Kelly credits his USA Boxing experiences for preparing him for his latest role in “Day of the Fight.”
“It helped me bigtime,” he explained, especially as a member of the USA Boing National Boxing Team. “I learned how to follow schedules, taking advantage of opportunities, communications, sharing and helping people, how to take orders, celebrity maturity and it was a great confidence builder over the years.”