First scheduled to fight in Dec. 2018, David Avanesyan and Josh Kelly are finally locked in and set to meet on Saturday (Feb. 20, DAZN, 2 pm ET) for Avanesyan’s European welterweight title.
Will the veteran keep a strong roll going, or will Kelly announce his arrival in the welterweight division?
We make our picks.
Scott Christ (4-1-1)
Avanesyan is not an elite guy, but his losses have either come against good fighters (Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Lamont Peterson) or early in his career (Andrey Klimov, who isn’t a bad fighter, either). He’s definitely beatable, but he has been tearing through opponents in his last three fights, and don’t forget that Kerman Lejarraga had high hopes before he met Avanesyan.
Neither guy has fought since Dec. 2019, so nobody should have an activity advantage in itself. The question may be more about improvements Kelly has made in the gym versus the older Avanesyan possibly rusting a bit more and losing some of his momentum before he could ever take true advantage.
Kelly’s got skills, but is he good enough to succeed with his somewhat arrogant style against better opponents? Ray Robinson gave him hell, and I think the Avanesyan we’ve seen over the years can, too. I’m edging to the veteran here. Yes, if Kelly comes out with some tweaks to his game, I think he has the potential to be the better fighter, with more to his game. Avanesyan is good but basic in style and attack. I’m betting on Kelly having not fixed enough, or reverting to type when the going gets tough. Avanesyan MD-12
Wil Esco (4-1-1)
This strikes me as a fairly even fight on paper. Avanesyan has lost to fighters below the elite tier, and Kelly hasn’t yet reached that level. Kelly does have the youth advantage here which I think might be most significant in this fight, so if there’s any edge I’m going to give it to Kelly there. In my estimation we already know who and what David Avanesyan is, so the question is more about how high is Kelly’s ceiling? I honestly don’t know that it’s much higher than Avanesyan’s, but even if it’s on par I think there’s something to be said for youthful exuberance. I’ll take Kelly on the cards. Kelly UD-12
How to Watch Avanesyan vs Kelly
Patrick L. Stumberg (4-1-1)
While it’s probably more a hunch driving this pick than any sort of deductive reasoning, I think Kelly can do it. So long as he gives Avanesyan’s power a lot more respect than he did Robinson’s, his length, eye-catching style, and home-field advantage should be sufficient to carry him to a controversial decision win. Kelly SD-12
Lewis Watson (3-2-1)
So much has been made of the three previous postponements of this fight that it’s easy to forget just how good this match-up is. Kelly has been regarded as one of British boxing’s future stars, but until he can clear this Avanesyan sized hurdle then it’s hard to look too far into the future.
Avanesyan looks hungry for this one. He told me of the pain he endured by being away from his family over Christmas to complete the third of four camps he’s sweated through for this fight – 26 weeks of his career have been dedicated to preparing for PBK fights and trainer Carl Greaves is convinced he’s put together the gameplan to get the win. Avanesyan is hard-hitting, aggressive and spiteful in his attacks – Kelly will have to box a perfect fight to stay out of danger.
But what is that perfect fight? If Kelly is to box off the back foot and try and pick off the Russian’s advances it could be a long night in retreat. Kelly is yet to complete a 12-rounder as a pro and it’s unclear if he is able to box to Adam Booth’s instruction for 36 minutes. He’s going to have to fight fire with fire in pockets, and that’s when we’ll see who truly has the edge in this battle.
I like the style of Avanesyan to give Kelly kittens at some point in the fight. The proof in the Kelly pudding will depend on whether he can ride these storms. In reality, it’s a coin toss. Avanesyan TKO-10