Benn: I hope Kelly wins but Avanesyan is an animal

A fascinating showdown between Conor Benn and Josh Kelly seems written in the stars, but the Ilford puncher isn’t sure his domestic rival will get past dangerous European welterweight champion David Avaneysan on Saturday evening.

Sunderland star Kelly (10-0-1, 6 KOs) finally faces Russian rival Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 KOs) at the SSE Arena in Wembley this weekend, following several cancellations that have sparked friction between the two camps. The bout should prove a true litmus test of Kelly’s pro potential after early predictions of superstardom have been diluted by a number of solid rather than spectacular performances.

The vastly-improved Benn, now a legitimate welterweight contender after a remarkable reinvention by trainer Tony Sims, naturally prefers a Kelly win so they can settle their own rivalry in the ring, but feels his fellow Brit is heading into deep waters against Avanesyan.

“It’s a hard fight but I back the Brit,” Benn (17-0, 11 KOs) told Sky Sports. “I hope Kelly does the business, I really do. Not only for our fights further down the year, but I want to put Britain on the map.

“But my opinion on the fight? I believe Avanesyan might be too much. I can only go on their last two performances and Avanesyan’s were great, [they] were outstanding.

“It’s going to be a hard one for Kelly, but if he lives up to the hype and praise that everyone gives him, he’ll come through with flying colours and really show what he is made of. He will rise to the occasion. But Avanesyan is an animal.

“Mid-to-late rounds, Avanesyan stoppage or Kelly will out-box him. It depends how Kelly moves on the night. It’s now or never for Kelly. He’s got a massive amateur pedigree, he’s done it all in the amateurs, [but] he needs to make these steps up quickly.

“I’ve been calling for [the Kelly] fight for a while,” added Benn. “My stocks aren’t coming down. He should have taken me down when he had the chance but he’s got no hope now.”