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David Avanesyan-Josh Kelly: European welterweight showdown after three-year wait

After three years and three postponed dates, one of the most anticipated fights of the year will take place on Saturday.

Adopted Newarker David Avanesyan, who is trained by boxing coach Carl Greaves, will go head-to-head with former Olympian Josh Kelly at Wembley Arena as he bids to defend his European welterweight crown for a third time.

Greaves hoped Saturday night’s bout would end a 27-month saga after Kelly withdrew on the morning of their first scheduled clash in December 2018.

David Avanesyan lifts the European belt.Picture: Adrian Rubio
David Avanesyan lifts the European belt.Picture: Adrian Rubio

The much-anticipated date in March 2019 was then postponed due to covid as the UK — and most of the world — went into lockdown.

The fight was pushed back for a third time in January 2021 when the sports governing body postponed all events in the UK due to an increase in coronavirus cases.

“But now, there is nothing that will stop the fight,” said Greaves, who hoped a win for the 32-year-old welter would present a world title fight.

Carl Greaves with boxer David Avanesyan, who is defending his European belt.
Carl Greaves with boxer David Avanesyan, who is defending his European belt.

“Honestly, it has been the best camp we have ever had together.

“Mentally and physically David is in a fantastic place and usually it is one or the other that isn’t always 100%, but this time the mindset has been perfect and the sparring has been perfect.

“We are very confident and he has had more than 115 rounds of tough sparring against top class fighters.”

In the build-up to fight week Avanesyan’s challenger, Kelly, posted a picture of himself which gathered a lot of attention among boxing fans, with many commenting on his muscular physique.

Greaves said: “I know Kelly has got four or five kilos to come off still and once he starts dropping his water weight he will start eating into his muscles.

“He looked the part, don’t get me wrong, but his eyes still looked big and when you start dropping weight quickly, like he will have to, it will play into David’s hands.

“I am surprised that the picture was even posted because it has made us even more confident, to be honest.

AVANESYAN on the pads with trainer Greaves.
AVANESYAN on the pads with trainer Greaves.

“It was tough for him (Kelly) two years ago to make weight when he pulled out.

“He looked terrible on the scales then, and now he is even bigger — he has even more muscle mass and he has to make the same weight.

“David has always been a small welter, but he has grown into the division. He doesn’t struggle for weight, he makes it properly and you can see that by his strength in his last three performances — they were all stoppages.

“He beat Kerman (Lejarraga) in nine rounds, which proved he still had his power in the later rounds and then he did him in the first round in the rematch.

“But listen, I’ve said it before, Kelly is a great pro. He’s a former Olympian and everybody is talking about him, but I just think his calibre of opposition, apart from Ray Robinson, hasn’t been up there.”

David Avanesyan celebrates in ring. Credit: @Adrumor (18378165)
David Avanesyan celebrates in ring. Credit: @Adrumor (18378165)

Having ripped the European title from Bilbao’s Lejarraga on away soil in March 2019 and making two successful defences later that year, Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 KOs) told Matchroom Boxing it was time to move up to world level.

“The first time we were supposed to fight Kelly said ‘no fight’ three hours before the first bell,” said the Russian-born fighter.

“It was very difficult for me. You give everything to this sport, all of that hard work and losing the weight. I still don’t understand why.

“People say that Kelly was feeling unwell, but I saw Kelly in the evening after the weigh-in looking happy and speaking with friends. Everything was good.

“I’ve been training for this fight for over two years. I hope everything will be okay this time. I will never disrespect any fighter, but let’s just say the events of the past couple of years have made me very angry.

“The fact I have to spend Christmas away from my family and young child has given me extra motivation, not that any was needed.

“Kelly is a good fighter. He was a good amateur boxer. His professional record is good so far. He’s sharp and fast.

“I have the experience over him ­— now is my time.

“I need to take the big fights. I’m ready. I’m working with my team to give everything for another world title.

“My style is to give everything, take my time and ensure that I get the win.

“I want to show the fans a good fight. I’ll do my best and give everything to win. After Kelly I need another world title fight.

“For now, all of my focus and energy is on my fight on February 20 and defending my European title.

“I am here to deal with Kelly once and for all.”

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