David Avanesyan retained his European welterweight title in a rematch against the man he won the belt from six months ago, returning to Bilbao, Spain, and this time stopping Kerman Lejarraga in the very first round.
Russia’s Avanesyan (25-3-1, 12 KO), a 31-year-old veteran previously best known for beating a badly faded Shane Mosley in 2016 and losses to Lamont Peterson and Egidijus Kavaliauskas in 2017 and 2018, has now firmly established himself as “the man” of the European-level welterweight scene.
27-year-old Lejarraga (28-2, 23 KO), a popular fighter in his home country, was being hyped as a potential world title contender for a while. He came over to the US in June 2017 for a look on a Lou DiBella card, where he stopped Jose Antonio Abreu in two, then went back home and won the European title against Bradley Skeete in Apr. 2018, another second round stoppage. He knocked out Frankie Gavin in the fourth round seven months later, but then was stopped by Avanesyan in March of this year, in the ninth round.
Lejarraga had hoped to get the belt back and his career back on track, but Avanesyan wasn’t having it. He dropped the Spaniard twice in the first round, and though Lejarraga got up both times, referee Anssi Perajoki of Finland pulled the plug there, to the great displeasure of Lejarraga and his team.
At least for now, I think we can firmly count Lejarraga out of the world title scene, while Avanesyan has put himself back in that mix. There had been talk of Avanesyan fighting British prospect Josh Kelly — the fight was scheduled for late last year, before Avanesyan won this belt, but Kelly pulled out on fight day — and with Kelly coming off of a 10-round draw with Ray Robinson in June, that might make more sense for Kelly now than it did before — on the other hand, it might be an even bigger risk for Kelly now than it was before.
Avanesyan has options now. He could fight in Europe on this level and surely do quite well for himself, or he could take another run at the world stage, if he still has that sort of desire. With Top Rank desperate for welterweights, he might make sense in 2020 as a possible Terence Crawford opponent, even. At least ESPN could tell TV viewers they have “the European champion.”