The night of June 1st 2019 is etched into British boxing history. Anthony Joshua lost in shocking fashion to Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden in his American debut, a loss that demoted him from number 1 to number 4 best heavyweight in the world at that time and no better than number three after he thrashed Ruiz in the rematch 6 months later. On the same card, Sunderland’s Josh Kelly was also supposed to be showing the huge American Tv audience who the next big star from across the pond was.
Kelly failed to win over the American fans but he learnt a lot that night against the 34-year-old tough and seasoned Philadelphian Ray Robinson after battling to a majority decision draw and so did we.
Kelly came out of the Team GB squad with a golden ticket to boxing fame, titles and glory. He was perceived as exceptionally talented, good looking, cocky but likeable, the whole works. But some of us oldies have seen this same scenario before, a fighter that has great success while wearing the vest and takes that talent into the professional gym and makes world-class pro’s look ordinary, but on fight night they perform like Superman with that piece of Kryptonite hanging round his neck.
If you listen to trainer Adam Booth, if Josh Kelly ever performs at the level that he has in the gym then he will go on to be a world champion, but I have seen this scenario before and the boxer in question never once reached that performance level when it counted despite having a very successful career and fighting for a world title.
Avanesyan takes on Kelly in defence of his European welterweight title at The O2 Arena in London on Saturday, March 28th. Their fight goes out live across the UK on Sky Sports and on the DAZN streaming service in America and the viewers will get the chance to see if Kelly can finally shed the Kryptonite he has carried into the ring in his previous 11 contests.
David Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 Ko’s) is an over-achiever in some people’s eyes, the polar opposite of his opponent Josh Kelly, the Russian born 31-year-old has already won a world title and beaten modern great Shane Mosley despite turning pro and losing his unbeaten record in only his second outing. Further losses to Lamont Peterson and recent world title challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas appeared to mark the beginning of the end to Avanesyan’s days at the highest level but he has since bounced back by ripping the EBU title away from the fancied Spaniard Kerman Lejarraga (27-0-0) in Bilbao in March 2019 with a 9th round Tko and then returning to repeat the feat in the 1st round 6 months later. A third trip to Spain resulted in another 1st round win over Jose Del Rio in a European title defence.
Booth and promoter Eddie Hearn and are taking a huge risk facing Avanesyan at this stage simply because Kelly hasn’t shown us a world-beating performance yet and Avanesyan appears to be in the best form of his career.
Now living in Newark, Nottingham, England, and trained by Carl Greaves, Avanesyan can look ordinary while allowing his opponent in close and defending behind a high held guard but he is clever and awkward and adept at switching stance. He dropped Lejarrga in the 4th with a short right hook from the southpaw stance. His underrated bodywork paves the way for his fast and heavy hooks to the head.
In the Lamont Peterson fight, Avanesyan lost because he didn’t know how to deal with Peterson’s superior in-fighting skills, but against Lejarraga he showed that he had learned from those shortcomings and now looks like a more complete fighter.
Kelly could finally produce the performance that we have all been waiting for but if he fights in the manner he did against Robinson then he will come up short. He got hit far too much and picked up damage around the eyes so a cuts stoppage is always a danger for him. He has all the tools and he carries himself like a champion but that is not enough against the Avanesyan’s of this world if you can’t back it up.
Prediction: Avanesyan to win on points.