Russian dog of war David Avanesyan shrugged off a sharp start from Josh Kelly to score a hugely impressive sixth-round stoppage and retain his European welterweight crown at the SSE Arena in Wembley on Saturday night.

The dangerous Avanesyan soaked up Kelly’s early artillery before grinding him down like a Russian tank on a roll. It was a pulsating encounter and, while naysayers will be quick to hound ‘Pretty Boy’ Kelly for this loss, backing your boxing belief has to be preferable to manufacturing a twenty-fight win streak against lesser opposition.

“I feel very, very good,” EBU champion Avanesyan told Sky Sports afterwards. “I waited a long time for this fight. I put a lot of hard work into this fight. I came to join my coach and my manager from another country. I’ve had long spells away from my children. I miss them. I haven’t seen my children, my parents and my friends for a long time. 

“Thank you to my team and to the English fans for giving me this opportunity. Thank you to Matchroom, they put on the number one best show. I’ve had many big nights against the likes of Shane Mosley and Lamont Peterson, but this one with Matchroom is number one. 

“I am very happy. Thank you to god for my win today. Thank you to my manager and my coach. Carl [Greaves] sacrificed a lot of time with his family for my training. He has been my friend, my driver and my coach. I don’t like to speak too much. This is business. I know Josh is fast. I am fast, too. Boxing is difficult. When you lose, many people think you are finished. This is boxing, you go down. This is life. I will wake up tomorrow morning a champion.”

Trainer Carl Greaves added: “I told everybody this would happen and they all thought I was a crazy coach who knows nothing. I knew exactly how it was going to go. I’ve spent over five years with David now. I’ve seen so much. I’ve seen all of these talented kids keeping him off for a certain amount of time, 30 seconds to a minute, but he finds a way every time. I was so confident in this fight. I knew it was going to go like that. I’m a bit gutted because I had £500 on round seven!”

Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KOs) started smartly behind a speedy, rapier jab, happy to meet the dangerous Avanesyan head on. The Sunderland man enjoyed an early ascendancy, landing a flush left hook that swivelled Avanesyan’s neck on his shoulders. But by the end of the session, the back of Kelly’s head was streaming with blood after an apparent accidental butt.

Avanesyan (27-3-1, 15 KOs) kept applying a steady drip of pressure, but by the fourth the slicker Kelly had a bit of a swagger as he unloaded rapid-fire jabs and hurtful body shots to which the Russian had no answer…yet. But Kelly had sustained a cut right eye despite all his dominance in the round as the relentless Russian rumbled without pause.

The champion concentrated on Kelly’s body in the fifth, in the hope his legs would fail. The Russian was coming on strong and fast. That endless pressure told in the sixth as a tiring Kelly was clubbed to the canvas by a succession of right hands. The Sunderland man looked in dire straits. When another right hand buckled Kelly’s legs and he dropped to the canvas, trainer Adam Booth cast in the towel.

Avanesyan’s power and industry gunned down Kelly in a thriller.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

In a grudge match, the greater size and technique of ‘Albanian King’ Florian Marku ultimately proved too much for an incredibly game Rylan Charlton who was stopped in the eighth after his corner threw in the towel.

Welter Marku (9-0-1, 6 KOs) had greater poise and precision, immediately dictating behind a stiff jab and holding the vital edge in speed. Charlton worked the body, but his pressure was handily soaked up by the sturdy Albanian.

Near the end of the fourth, a hefty right hand made Charlton dip at the knees and Marku pounced. Somehow Charlton remained upright on the most rubbery of legs. Yet, out of the blue, Charlton scored a knockdown in the sixth with a solid left hook that saw Marku taste the canvas after turning over slightly on his ankle. 

But by the eighth, Marku was finding his target with sickening regularity. With an under-fire Charlton (6-1-1, 3 KOs) too game for his own good, his corner compassionately threw in the towel with their man’s fighting pride intact. Marku moves on, Charlton loses with credit.

Marku (right) overwhelmed a remarkably game Charlton.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

A week after Mauricio Lara shocked Josh Warrington, another Mexican import Gabriel Valenzuela scored a fine road win with a gruelling, majority decision over Robbie Davies Jr. in a well-contested super-lightweight scrap. Scores were 96-95 (twice) and 94-94.

Valenzuela (23-2-1, 13 KOs) didn’t come to lie down. He took the fight straight to switch-hitter Davies with one flush right hand giving the Scouser pause for thought in the opener. The Mexican had fast hands and ambition. 

The ropes kept an out of sorts Davies up in the second and it could have easily been called a knockdown. In the third, a right hand sent Davies down officially and it was clear he had an uphill task on his hands. 

But the Scouser dug in. With his nose bleeding, Davies regrouped and adjusted to frustrate and outhustle the visitor in the middle rounds. But whenever Davies (20-3, 13 KOs) switched to a southpaw stance his rhythm suffered as he was caught too square and pegged by right hands. Davies also got away with his share of rabbit punching, yet it was the away fighter who was deducted a point for an infringement.

In one last big effort, Valenzuela summoned a grandstand finish in the final round and seemed to have done just enough. That proved to be the case.

Valenzuela (right) arrived with ambition and left with a victory.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

In a good learning fight, Chatteris stylist Jordan Gill staved off a relentless Cesar Juarez to earn a hard-fought verdict in a pleasing featherweight rumble. Scores were 98-92, 98-93 and 96-94.

Former world title challenger Juarez brought the expected pressure with the nimble Gill showing angles, smart counters and boxing capably for the first four rounds, in particular. In the fifth, the ceaseless Mexican narrowed the gap and pinned Gill (26-1, 7 KOs) in a corner, unleashing a two-fisted barrage to head and body that ruffled the Englishman’s feathers for the first time. 

Often ending rounds with a surge of pressure, Juarez (25-10, 19 KOs) never took a backward step and gave the more skilful Gill some uncomfortable moments without ever quite threatening the upset. His energy levels rarely dipped as Gill was forced to withstand an endless siege before prevailing on the judges’ scorecards due to his greater craft and variety.

Gill (right) was ultimately too polished for a ceaseless Juarez.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

In his pro debut, ‘The Romford Bull’ Johnny Fisher steamrollered West Midlands trier Matt Gordon in the opening round of a heavyweight encounter.

It was predictable target practice with an aggressive Fisher (1-0, 1 KO) sending Gordon (2-6-1, 0 KOs) backwards into the ropes with a volley of right hands where a knockdown was rightfully called. Gordon rose for more, but was decked with another right hand and, after scrambling to his feet, referee Ian John Lewis waved it off in the first.

Heavyweight Fisher’s pro career started with a clinical victory.
Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.

Main image and all photos: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.