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January 1, 2004

A Boxing Life in Philly

By Gregory Bresiger

An OTC executive benefited from lacing them up.

It all started for Fran (Franny) Kelly with a childhood beating administered by some neighborhood kids.

Kelly's father, Jack, was a former middleweight club boxer who lived in Philadelphia's famed North Philadelphia, a sometimes rough area that produced many fighters. The father, who never wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and raised his family in a Philadelphia suburb, decided to do something about his son's problem.

"He brought me into the gym for a few days and showed me how to fight," Kelly explained to Traders Magazine. His father thought that ended the problems; his son would be able

to defend himself against bullies. However, the son became intrigued by pugilism. He wanted more.

"I sort of extended things by starting to fight in clubs in Philadelphia," said Kelly, who's the head of OTC trading at Susquehanna International Group (SIG) in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

The Middleweight

Later, as a middleweight, he would move on to the Golden Gloves competition in Philadelphia. In the mid-1960s, he fought his way to the semi-finals before losing. He was 5'10 and fought at about 160 lbs.

Kelly had done well with his pursuit of a sport that his father discouraged as a career. The father hadn't known about his son's success in the squared circle, but accidentally found out when Kelly was offered an Olympic boxing tryout in 1967. The news came as a shock to him.

"I told my father not to worry. That, of course, I'm going to finish college," Kelly said. Nevertheless, he also told his parents that, while his boxing would never be on the professional level, he always would be in for "the challenge."

Kelly, 55, who has long since hung up his gloves, says boxing always gave him "an adrenaline rush." In 1975, after Kelly had established himself in the trading industry, he decided to put on the gloves to raise money for charity.

"That's when I decided to represent Philadelphia in the Wall Street charity bouts, fighting as the "Broad Street Bully" in 1976. He also trained under the direction of Arthur Mercante, the then head of the New York Boxing Association and the referee in several high profile heavyweight matches. Kelly's father would see him fight in New York and would be delighted.

Kelly fought in several celebrity events, including bouts with actor Tony Danza and television journalist Geraldo Rivera.

"Tony Danza was very good. Geraldo was good, but he wasn't nearly as polished as Tony Danza," Kelly said. It has been over a quarter of a century since Kelly fought, although he remains a boxing fan.

He says boxing was good preparation for his career because it bears certain similarities to trading. It increases a person's competitiveness, a competitiveness you need to survive in trading or in the ring, Kelly says.

"You're facing someone who is trying to take your head off. And at the same time, you have to keep your sense of timing and presence. You can't mess up and run out of gas," Kelly said. "It is like trading in a lot of ways because you have to be smart and know how to execute and make the client money," he added.

A Dedicated Pro

Kelly, with some 35 years in the securities industry, came to Susquehanna in 1996 and began Nasdaq trading there with some four people. Today, he oversees an OTC desk of 70 people and some 30 traders. And he adds that the principles of good boxing remain with him in his professional life.

"You have to be prepared," Kelly said. "You have to dedicate yourself or you're going to get hurt."