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Interview: David Avanesyan promises to exploit Josh Kelly’s mistakes, feels close to his peak

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David Avanesyan and Josh Kelly are finally due to meet on Feb. 20 with the Russian’s European welterweight title at stake.

Kell Brook v Michael Zerafa Public Workout - Sheffield Winter Garden Photo by Simon Cooper/PA Images via Getty Images

It’s rare that “fourth time lucky” is required in boxing. If third time’s a charm, then it must take some serious misfortune to require one more attempt. But that’s where we are with David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly – a cursed match-up for the European welterweight title that is now scheduled for Feb. 20 as part of Matchroom Boxing’s 2021 slate.

“The whole thing has been very frustrating,” Carl Greaves, Avanesyan’s trainer and promoter, told me this week. “Over the four fights in total that were supposed to happen we will have done around 26 weeks training for this one opponent – Josh Kelly”.

I asked him whether it would be more of a relief than anything to finally get this fight over the line, and Greaves agreed.

“I’ll be glad once this fight is out of the way so we can finally move on,” he added, also alluding to Avanesyan’s professionalism throughout the two-and-a-half-year debacle. “There is always the same hunger with David. He trains very hard and is a pleasure to work with. I’ve not seen much difference across all the camps – he’s a consummate professional.”

It’s been a tough few months for his Russian charge. Avanesyan (26-3-1) has been looking to build on a blistering 2019 for some time now. The 32-year-old walked through Kerman Lejarraga twice and blew out Jose del Rio in Spain over an impressive 12 months in the 147-pound division, but hasn’t graced a ring since December of that year.

“As soon as the fight got postponed I wanted to go home to see my family as I missed them over Christmas,” Avanesyan told me candidly. “Matchroom kindly paid for my flight to go home. There was no direct flight to Moscow so I had to change in Dubai where I stayed for a couple of nights to relax. I was able to go home for a week where I was able to train twice a day, before I returned to the UK where I’ve been back training with Carl since the 16th [January].”

Now that he’s back in Blighty, both eyes are firmly fixed, once again, on Josh Kelly. I asked David whether he thought this wait would suit either himself or Kelly.

“We have both been out of the ring the same time, so I don’t think anyone has the advantage. He’s younger, but I’m very fresh and have a lot more experience.”

He’s right. Kelly is a relative novice in the pro ranks having only eleven fights since turning over in 2017. Kelly represented Great Britain at the 2016 Olympic Games, but Avanesyan believes he has the physical and technical advantages ahead of their scheduled fight.

“He was a good amateur boxer, very flashy and likes to showboat. But he makes loads of mistakes, which I will exploit. I’m close to my peak but – as you’ve seen from my performances in 2019 – I am still improving all the time.”

The bookies are struggling to split both fighters, with Avanesyan currently even money with a lot of firms. But the Russian feels comfortable in the UK, lives happily in Newark, Nottinghamshire, and hasn’t any concerns over the judging on Matchroom’s show.

“People are saying that if it goes to the judges I will not get the decision in England, but I have a lot of English friends and my team are English. I’m not concerned but I don’t expect to leave it in the judges’ hands anyway.”

He tells me that a win would see him and his team push for a final eliminator or a world title shot in the welterweight division, with some huge-money fights on the horizon if he’s successful on Feb. 20.

His hometown of Tabynskoe in the southwest of Russia is behind David, with this fight being “big news” back home. He’s a “massive name” in his home city, and everyone will be behind him on fight night.

So how does the fight pan out? “I hit hard with both hands,” he concludes. “Let’s see how he reacts – but I won’t give my game plan away”.

Since the original announcement in 2018, this fight has been cursed. But come Feb. 20 David Avanesyan is convinced it’ll be worth the wait.

Avanesyan vs Kelly will stream live on DAZN on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles