David Avanesyan and Josh Kelly have had over two years of some back-and-forth talk, ever since a scheduled Dec. 2018 fight between the two was scrapped at the last minute when Kelly pulled out, claiming illness the day of the fight.
Now, the two are finally scheduled to meet again on Saturday, Feb. 20, headlining a DAZN card. This time around, Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 KO) is coming in on a hot streak, and will be defending the European welterweight title. The 26-year-old Kelly (10-0-1, 6 KO) is more questioned now as a prospect than he was then, if anything, and it makes for a very intriguing matchup with a bit of bad blood.
“The first time we were supposed to fight Kelly said ‘no fight’ three hours before the first bell,” said Avanesyan. “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.”
Avanesyan gives Kelly respect, but expects to win, and is looking to get back to the world title scene, having fought on the fringes of the world titles in 2015-17.
“Kelly is a good fighter. He was a good amateur boxer. His professional record is good so far,” Avanesyan said. “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.”
To get where he wants to go, he has to beat Kelly, of course; at 32 and without any great fan base or anything, Avanesyan just can’t afford to lose at this level if he wants to go higher again.