It all unravelled pretty quickly for Josh Kelly. The proud Mackem was stopped inside six rounds by David Avanesyan inside London’s SSE Arena, as the European champion drew an exclamation point on a fight that finally materialized in its fourth chapter.
The tide turned quickly in favour of the away fighter. “PBK” started fast as expected. Moving in and out with snappy and accurate single punches, Kelly landed the cleaner and more eye-catching work over the first couple of rounds, but as the Russian-Armenian continued to press forward, Kelly was soon becoming uncomfortable with the rhythm of the contest.
The effectiveness, skill and savviness of a pressure fighter is often demeaned in comparison to the slick, back-footed work of an outside fighter. In a clash of styles such as this, it’s easy to attribute the more intelligent work to the fighter in retreat, and label the come-forward fighter as simply “tough” and “game”. But Avanesyan spat in the face of these assumptions on Saturday night, showing real patience, skill and the understanding of a perfect game plan.
Solid, pin-point attacks to the body of Kelly laid the groundwork for what followed in the contest. Often overlooked by the commentary team, Avanesyan dug to the sternum of the challenger on countless occasions early in the fight, willing to give away the first three or four rounds on the scorecards to reap the rewards of testing Kelly’s conditioning.
Avanesyan didn’t allow Kelly a moment of respite from his constant assault, continuing to march into the pocket, forcing him to throw with him or try and tie him up. Avanesyan isn’t known for his one-punch power. After rehydration, he looked a couple of weight classes below Kelly, but his combinations didn’t need that concussive weight behind them when he was firing with such accuracy. Kelly was unable to avoid getting tagged, and his reluctance to block or parry with his left hand proved decisive in the final blow.
It was a huge “I told you so” moment for Team Avanesyan. Carl Greaves has spent years in the corner of the 32-year-old, and the fight played out to the exact script that he penned. Avanesyan and his personality are the antithesis to the bells and whistles that accompany “Pretty Boy” Kelly, but he emphasized emphatically how styles make, and win fights.
Pressure fighting isn’t simply brave, gung ho and one-dimensional. It’s not always the bull charging towards a matador. When it’s performed intelligently it can prove the perfect antidote to the silkiest box of tricks.
David Avanesyan and Carl Greaves will receive a lot of credit for Saturday night’s victory, and they deserve every drop of it.