David Avanesyan came from behind to keep his win streak alive, stopping Josh Kelly in the sixth round to retain the European welterweight title in London.
Avanesyan (27-3-1, 15 KO) was looking a step behind the younger Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KO) in the first two rounds especially, even stung a bit in the second, but his will to win carried him into the fight, as did a cut on the side of Kelly’s head which bled a lot, caused — it seemed — by an accidental elbow in a clinch.
The cut is no excuse, though the loss of blood is never fun, and really, this was just an experienced, hard-nosed veteran fighter taking a younger guy to the woodshed, which is not meant as disrespect to Kelly, who had the right plan and effort early, was executing well, but just found himself out-hustled and out-gunned.
Avanesyan put Kelly on the canvas in the sixth round, and had him going again, legs wobbled and shaking, before the Russian-Armenian put Kelly back on the canvas a second time. At that point, trainer Adam Booth threw the towel, as Kelly was being overwhelmed by a guy who just wasn’t going to lose this fight.
For Avanesyan, it was a long time coming. This fight was originally supposed to happen in Dec. 2018, but as we’ve been over many times, Kelly pulled out on fight day claiming illness, and the two camps have jawed back and forth over and over. It was scheduled for early 2020, didn’t come off, then Jan. 2021, didn’t come off, and we got it tonight.
The teams may have had serious beef, but Avanesyan showed Kelly respect in the ring after it was over, and in his post-fight interview.
“I waited a long time for this fight,” Avanesyan said after the fight, describing the many training camps and time away from his family. “This was my night. It was a big fight. I know boxing likes us to speak bad for show, but I know (Kelly) worked hard.”
“I knew exactly how it was going to go. I’ve spent over five years with David now. I’ve seen talented kids that can keep him off a certain length of time, but he finds a way every time,” trainer Carl Greaves added. “I was so confident in this fight because I knew it was going to go like that.”
“Sometimes you come across a guy that will not be denied, that’s too strong, that has the will beyond others. Tonight that was David Avanesyan,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “I said in the build-up, I’ve never seen two camps so confident. You have to say one thing, Josh Kelly had a wonderful camp, he was in the shape of life, he couldn’t have been better in the ring tonight. But this man would not be denied.
“Avanesyan was too tough. He comes from some serious stuff. He deserves his success, because it hasn’t always been easy. What we saw tonight was an elite welterweight, a world class welterweight, against a really good prospect who I believe can be a world class fighter, but (Kelly) was just out-manned, out-hustled, and out-fought.”
Hearn gave no prediction for what’s next for Kelly, but did hope that he’d be given credit for taking a tough fight.
“He took the step up. I hope people give him the credit for that,” Hearn said. “We know in boxing, too many fighters, teams, managers, advisers, lawyers, don’t want to step up. You need to take a step up. If you believe you can win, you should. Josh Kelly took the step up, and he should be applauded for that. He came to win, but tonight belongs to David Avanesyan.”
Florian Marku TKO-8 Rylan Charlton
A fight that lived up to the pre-fight talk from both of these still relatively novice welterweights, who each brought their best effort and put on a very solid show, each of them having to walk through some fire.
The Albanian Marku (8-0-1, 6 KO) kept on talking, in fact, through the early stages of this fight especially, and despite the come-forward determination of Charlton (6-1-1, 3 KO), it seemed like Marku was going to win this going away, getting up clear on the cards despite the best efforts of Charlton, who upset Joe Laws last October on a Matchroom card in Peterborough.
But Charlton, who showed a lot of toughness and survived being hurt pretty badly, came back to drop Marku with a left hook in the sixth round. Marku had to get on his bike a bit from there to survive the round, but he did so, and in the eighth, hammered Charlton with a few shots that made Charlton’s corner throw the towel on their man, too tough and stubborn to go down but being beaten up.
“Rylan is a really, really tough guy. I don’t have a problem with him, but this is the fight game,” Marku said, showing respect for Charlton taking the fight. “If someone beat me, I would say congratulations to him. They told me I don’t know how to box, but I showed today, I can box, I can fight, I can do everything.”
Marku also sent a message to Conor Benn, who was in attendance.
“Conor Benn will never risk his record with me. I’m going in there to die, and Conor Benn knows that, and he will never fight me,” Marku said as Benn looked on with a smile. “He chooses opponents with eight losses! Someone with eight losses doesn’t care to lose one more time. But me, I’m undefeated, and Conor Benn will never choose to fight me.”
Gabriel Valenzuela MD-10 Robbie Davies Jr
Boy, this one could be a hot button issue for Robbie Davies Jr and his team. Not that Valenzuela won a close fight, the scores were fair — judges had it 94-94, and then two cards of 96-95 for the Mexican underdog, while we had it 95-93 for Valenzuela, too — but how they got there at all.
Davies (20-3, 13 KO) making this fight close was pretty heroic, actually. The former European, British, and Commonwealth champ had all sorts of trouble in the first three rounds, being repeatedly nailed by a right hand from Valenzuela (23-2-1, 13 KO), and getting dropped in the third. But through it all, trainer Dominic Ingle insisted Davies stay in a straight southpaw stance, not his normal approach. Davies followed the advice and grinded and scrapped enough to make it close, but there was really no argument for him to win, even card was as good as he could have done.
DAZN commentary were openly questioning Ingle’s advice, and jeez, I’m not someone who thinks they know better than a veteran trainer like Ingle, and maybe there was something else going on with Davies that made the southpaw stance flat-out necessary, I have no idea, but as we see it now, this was really questionable advice at the very least, and it’s going to be talked about. Davies never seemed fully comfortable boxing straight southpaw, but he did have his moments and stayed in the fight, too.
Eddy Reynoso told Gabriel Valenzuela he could earn a spot on a Canelo undercard.— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) February 20, 2021
Then the Guadalajara native traveled to the UK and scored an upset victory @CANELOTEAM pic.twitter.com/aMHSjFO86P
Good fight, though, however odd a path we took to make it one. Valenzuela was docked a point in the fourth, which he’d earned for repeatedly hitting late on the break. And Davies could easily have been docked at some point, too, as he fought a little dirty, using his head and also throwing some shots behind the back of Valenzuela’s head.
We noted coming in that there were some similarities in this matchup to last week’s Mauricio Lara over Josh Warrington shocker. This wasn’t the beatdown that was by any means — although early it looked like it was heading that way — and Davies really fought his ass off to stay in this fight, but the result is basically the same, another pretty unheralded Mexican underdog coming in and snatching a win at Wembley.
Johnny Fisher TKO-1 Matt Gordon
FISHER STOPS GORDON @JohnnyFisherBox floors Matt Gordon twice for a quick KO win, what a debut! #FisherGordon pic.twitter.com/W5ozf9ht1D— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) February 20, 2021
Quick work for the debuting heavyweight Fisher, as he got two scored knockdowns on Gordon (2-6-1, 0 KO) and the stoppage in 2:29.
Fisher is 6’5”, weighed about 240 here. Big guy, can punch, looks naturally strong. Matchroom are giving him a whirl. He’s not set to come in as a huge blue chipper or anything, and knows he’s got lots of work to do going forward.
“I feel really good, it’s pressure off my shoulders,” Fisher said. “He’s given other fighters two or three rounds, so to get him out of there in the first round, I feel really good. Six months ago, I just finished university and I was helping my dad work through lockdown, and I’ve got a great opportunity with Matchroom.”
“We see so many heavyweights come through the system. Here’s a great, exciting young heavyweight who didn’t come through the system,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “We don’t see that anymore. When we see fans back, the whole of Essex is going to come out to see this young man fight. We’ll go nice and slow with Johnny Fisher. Four amateur fights, but he punches very, very hard, they tell me his chin’s phenomenal. Baby steps, and I believe this man’s going to go up the domestic ladder, and then it’s up to him.”
Jordan Gill UD-10 Cesar Juarez
Scores here were 96-94, 98-93, and 98-92 for Gill, and Bad Left Hook also scored it 98-92 on our unofficial card. The scores were all fair; I could have seen Juarez getting four rounds, I also could have honestly understood Juarez only getting one round, which would have been the fifth, where he definitely was the better guy for three minutes.
Juarez (25-10, 19 KO) looked better here than he had in his last couple, stoppage losses to Angelo Leo and Carlos Castro, both good fighters at 122 and 126, respectively. This performance probably buys the 29-year-old Juarez more time as a solid gatekeeper at the very least; he still gave a terrific effort, put on a lot of pressure, asked questions of Gill (26-1, 7 KO), and Gill just answered the questions well enough to take the deserved win.
But it was a pretty good fight, some good moments from Juarez, who was grinding hard after starting slow in the first couple, and did put the pace to Gill, who tired a good bit down the stretch.
“I tried to box at range, pick my moments. I knew he’d come on strong, but I tried to nullify him when he’d come in,” Gill said. “He was so tough, and his pressure was so high. He asked a lot of questions of me, and I felt like I dealt with them in good fashion. At times, I didn’t feel my best in there, but when you’re stepping up in levels, you’re always going to feel like that.”