Shaun Brown polls some of the leading names in the boxing trade to discover their picks ahead of Saturday night’s fascinating European welterweight title clash between Russian champion David Avanesyan and unbeaten Sunderland star Josh Kelly.
David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly is a fight that has been on the cards for nearly two-and-a-half years. They originally went head-to-head before a proposed clash on December 8, 2018. Then Kelly withdrew on medical grounds on the day of the fight. Heated words were exchanged between both camps. Accusations flew.
Avanesyan journeyed to Spain and won the European welterweight title via stoppage against Kerman Lejarraga before Kelly was named his mandatory challenger. The Sunderland star battled to a draw with Ray Robinson in America then Avanesyan travelled back to Spain and halted Lejarraga for a second time. Avanesyan vs Kelly then reared its head again; this time scheduled for March 28, 2020. Hello Coronavirus, goodbye fight.
After more words, another date (this Saturday night), and some handbags in the Matchroom bubble, here we are again. Finally, David Avanesyan and Josh Kelly will throw down on Sky Sports for the European title. Boxing Social took out a phone and asked some of British boxing’s finest for their picks. Here is what they said.
Billy Nelson: I feel David’s big fight experience and extra power will win the fight for him by stoppage.
Lee McGregor: Josh Kelly masterclass. Firstly, I thought Avanesyan but I think the delays will have suited Kelly big time and he will have improved and learned so much in that time. I think this is the right time for him.
Joe Hughes: I think it’ll be a great fight that Avanesyan will win closely on points if the scoring is fair. I think he will be too strong and busy, especially down the stretch.
Gamal Yafai: Josh Kelly late stoppage.
Shane McGuigan: I think Kelly on points. I think he will have too much speed and talent for Avanesyan. It will be a hard fight, with Avanesyan coming on strong but I think Kelly will bank enough rounds early to secure a pretty wide points decision.
Tyrone McKenna: I think it’s a really tough fight that I can’t wait for. I think Josh is going to come out and dominate this fight. He looks in unreal shape and seems to have an attitude to prove a point in this fight where maybe some people have doubted him after his draw with Ray Robinson. He’s going to go out looking for a statement and I think he stops him in round eight.
Kash Farooq: It’s a 50-50 fight. David has been really good in his last few fights, but Josh Kelly’s skills are good and it’s hard to hit him. It’s on the night who really wants it the most but I’m going with Avanesyan.
Rhys Edwards: Going to be a good fight. That Avanesyan can fight for sure but I think he’s a bit slow on his feet and lacks the boxing abilities Josh has got. I’m going Kelly on points.
Kal Yafai: I’m going for Josh to win and possibly force a stoppage late. Josh has a point to prove and I think he’ll pull out a top performance. His reflexes and quick counters will be a big problem.
Anthony ‘Arnie’ Farnell: I think if Avanesyan gets past four rounds he will win with his work-rate and pressure. Josh is explosive early, but I don’t think he’s ready for a dogfight.
Leigh Wood: Depends on Kelly. He’s capable of winning or throwing it away. If he comes out and shows too much early Avanesyan will stop him. If he boxes with the fundamentals he can win. Based on the last three performances, I’m going with Avanesyan.
Ted Cheeseman: I’m going for a draw as I believe Josh Kelly will start quicker and pick up early rounds then Avanesyan will take over in the later rounds as Kelly gets tired. There will be a few close rounds in the fight so I’m going with a split draw.
JJ Metcalf: I fancy Avanesyan late. I just think the experience at world level will help him in the late rounds.
Jez Smith: Skills pay the bills and I think Kelly is too sharp and too slick and wins with a wide points victory.
Jon Pegg: I think Avanesyan will be too busy and too relentless. Similar in style to how Michael Gomez beat Alex Arthur only longer by an eighth or ninth round stoppage in a fierce fight that suits Avanesyan more than Kelly.
Denzel Bentley: I think it’ll be a close fight and it could go either way but I’m going to lean more towards Avanesyan. I just think he’s going to try and rough Kelly up and drag him into a dogfight.
Dennis McCann: Josh Kelly for me. A great 50-50 fight. Josh has a bit more finesse, little fresher and a sharp operator.
Sean McGoldrick: Josh Kelly on points. I can see David giving Josh a tough fight and making him work for everything. I think he’s got enough – in a very tough, competitive fight.
Charlie Edwards: Josh Kelly on points in a close fight. I think Josh will win a close decision with some unsteady moments.
Liam Smith: I predict Kelly on points. More ability and I feel he’s in good enough shape now to tough it out late when it gets tough.
Lerrone Richards: It’s a tough fight to call. Going by current form you would say Avanesyan but I think Kelly will rise to the occasion. Josh Kelly on a close points decision.
Caoimhin Agyarko: I think Kelly stops him late. I think we’re going to see something special from Kelly.
Steven Ward: I think Kelly. Plays it safe a lot early, moves and frustrates Avanesyan and then pressures him after a few rounds and has rhythm and timing. Kelly late stoppage.
Gavin McDonnell: Hard fight to pick for me. I think if Kelly is the real deal, he will find a way, but David is hard as nails. Kelly points or David to stop him. But, if I had to, I’d say Kelly on points.
John Docherty: Josh Kelly wide points win. Just think he is going to be one step ahead all of the time and boxes his way to a unanimous win.
Maxi Hughes: I’m picking David. Purely down to experience. He’s fought at a higher level plus I think he’ll have the bit between his teeth with being messed around previously by Kelly.
Anthony Cacace: I’m backing Avanesyan because he’s relentless and a beast.
Alex Arthur: I think Kelly wins. Younger, fresher and hungry to be a champion.
Jack Bateson: I think it could be a fight of two halves with David coming on stronger later on, but I think Josh will pick up a wide enough lead early on to get a close decision on points.
Nathan Gorman: I think it’s a good fight, proper 50-50. Josh has all the skills, but David has the experience at the higher level. It wouldn’t surprise me what’s going to happen, but I have a feeling David’s experience will pay a toll into the later rounds.
Gary Lockett: I think it’s a close one and David is really firing at the moment, especially after those two excellent wins against Lejarraga. Josh Kelly’s talent has never been in question and he meets a serious test tomorrow in Avanesyan. If I had to put my neck on the line I’d say Kelly on points but I wouldn’t rule out an Avanesyan win either.
Avanesyan – 11
Kelly – 19
Draw – 1
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.