Armenian-born David Avanesyan will defend his European welterweight championship against England's Josh Kelly in a grudge match at The O2 in London on Saturday March 28th, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US. The rivals were due to meet back in December 2018 before an illness forced Kelly to withdraw from the contest on the morning of the fight, leading to “bottle job” jibes from Avanesyan’s manager Neil Marsh as bad blood boiled over between the camps. Russia’s Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 KOs) dealt with the disappointment by firmly establishing himself as ‘the man’ of the European welterweight scene, ripping the blue belt (pictured) from Spain’s Kerman Lejarraga on hostile turf in March. Avanesyan then destroyed Lejarraa in the opening round of their September rematch.
Avanesyan, who holds a win over Shane Mosley, made light work of Jose del Rio last time out in Barcelona, crushing the Spaniard in the opening round, and now finds himself on the cusp of a world title shot should he inflict a first defeat on Kelly.
Kelly (listed at 10-0-1, 6 KOs but he has a pro loss in the World Series of Boxing, so 10-1-1 is more accurate) is a 2016 Olympian from Sunderland. He outclassed Poland's previously unbeaten Przemyslaw Runowski at The O2 in April last year before drawing with Ray Robinsoni two months later in his US debut. Kelly then decisioned Nicaragua’s Wiston Campos in his last outing to set up his long-awaited showdown with Avanesyan.
“It’s a good opportunity to silence the doubters,” said Kelly. “He is the favourite now. He has proved how good he is in the last three fights. It’s going to be a good fight, but one I’m quietly confident about. I do feel excited. I feel like this is a turning point in my career. If I win, when I win, then I take it to the next level. A lot in the future is lying on this fight. Two fights ago I fought Ray Robinson, which was a massive step-up. I don’t think people realised how big of a step-up that was, but now I’m fighting Avanesyan, I should get the credit I deserve.”
“I have unfinished business with Josh Kelly,” said Avanesyan. “I’m delighted the fight has finally been made and I will have a chance to inflict a first defeat on his professional career. As the British fans know, I will fight anyone anywhere and I determined to put a big show on for them in every fight as they treat me so well and I love them. After I deal with Kelly, I want [promoter] Eddie Hearn to deliver me a world title shot... and secure my family’s future.”
“This is just a brilliant fight – absolute sink or swim time,” said Hearn. “Avanesyan is a world class Welterweight who sits in the top 10 with every governing body but for every great Olympic prospect comes judgement day and this is it for Josh Kelly. The fight that could turn him into a real star and a legitimate World Title contender. It’s the ultimate stage, the ultimate test – don’t miss it.”
Adam Smith, Head of Sky Sports Boxing, said: “Josh Kelly is one of the hottest talents in British boxing – and now he gets the perfect platform to showcase his dazzling skills against David Avanesyan. We’ve followed Josh’s career since he’s turned professional, but this is a real acid test against the dangerous European Champion. Josh is part of a red-hot welterweight division, brimming with big names, and we cannot wait to see him light up The O2 on March 28.”