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David Avanesyan vs. Josh Kelly targeted for end of March

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By Charles Brun: Josh Kelly (10-0, 6 KOs) will be experiencing his moment of truth when he challenges EBU welterweight champion David Avanesyan (26-3-1, 14 KOs) at the end of March. This is when Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn will find out if he made the right decision in signing the 2016 Olympian Kelly or not.

If Kelly loses to Avanesyan, then Hearn will need to face the facts that the 25-year-old isn’t cut out to fight on the world stage at the professional level.

Josh Kelly NOT improving

Hearn can then either cut the cord and let Kelly drift away to another promoter, and focus instead on putting his energy into Daniyar Yeleussinov’s career or he can stick it out with him. The 2016 Olympic medalist Yeleussinov (9-0, 5 KOs) looks like he’s more cut out for the pro level than Kelly.

Right now, it doesn’t look like Kelly is improving at all. All the same flaws that Kelly showed in his fight against Przemyslaw Runowski last April, he’s still showing the same weaknesses in his game. Kelly still fights with his hands down by his waist much of the time, and he’s getting clobbered when he does this. He’s not shown the ability to learn from his mistakes, and he’s struggling to beat mediocre opposition.

Kelly is picking a BAD time to be facing Avanesyan in 2020

Avanesyan is coming off of an outstanding 2019 in which he knocked out Kerman Lejarraga TWICE, and stopped Jose del Rio in the 1st round in his last fight on December 12. The talented 31-year-old Russiaan Avanesyan is looking vastly improved in all areas of his game since his 6th round knockout loss to Egidijus Kavaliauskas in February 2018.

Unlike Kelly, Avanesyan is an example of a fighter that learns from each fight that he takes. He progresses, and retools his game to come back better each time he fights. He has new weaponry, and he’s worked on his defensive. In some respects, Avanesyan rivals Canelo Alvarez with the way that he learns and improves from each fight. In the case of Kelly, he’s not learning and he’s definitely not improving.

Kelly has looked awful in his last two fights against Wiston Campos (31-7-6, 19 KOs) and Ray Robinson. Josh was held to a 10 round draw against Robinson last June, and he was incredibly lucky not to have been given his first career defeat. Robinson appeared to do more than enough to deserve a victory in that fight.

Josh Kelly is the underdog against Avanesyan – Hearn

“Josh Kelly, this is to the stage where I can’t wait, because this is it,” said Hearn to IFL TV. “David Avanesyan is in the form of his life. Josh Kelly comes off of a long break after a draw [against Ray Robinson]. I was really pleased with him getting those 10 rounds [against Wiston Campos], to be honest with you in Phoenix, because I think he needed that going into the Avanesyan fight.

“He now goes into it as an underdog,” Hearn said about Kelly being underdog against Avanesyan. “You got Adam Booth, you got, ‘He done this’ and ‘you pulled out of last fight, and this and that. This is a really good main event Saturday night fight night where we find out if Josh Kelly is the goods, and I believe he is the goods,” said Hearn.

You can imagine why Hearn “can’t wait” to find out whether Kelly can deal with Avanesyan, because if he can’t, then he’ll likely NEVER be a money maker for his Matchroom stable.

If Kelly can beat Avanesyan, then Hearn can use him to set-up a world title shot against the likes of IBF/WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence, WBA champ Manny Pacquiao or WBO belt holder Terence Crawford. Kelly obviously would have no shot at beating any of those guys, but he’d be useful with the money he brings in for those fights.

There would be money to be made for Hearn and Matchroom with Kelly challenging for a world title. But if Kelly gets blasted out by Avanesyan in March, then the only real use for him would be stick him in with the incredibly raw Conor Benn, and see which of the two flawed fighters emerge victorious. In other words, Kelly will be destined to be a domestic level fighter at 147.

Avanesyan is DANGEROUS – Hearn

“I also believe David Avanesyan is f— dangerous, and right now, David Avanesyan believes he can walk through walls,” said Hearn. “I saw him dismantle Jose del Rio in are Barcelona show. Don’t get me wrong. Del Rio is not Josh Kelly by any means, but he’s very durable.

“He doubled him over with body shots, and he’s going to be a right handful,” said Hearn. “Avanesyan has signed, Josh Jelly has signed, and now we’re going to see if Josh Kelly can win that fight, he goes to fantastic levels, star levels in the UK, and around the world.

“Avanesyan is now ranked heavily with the governing bodies,” said Hearn. “So this is a massive fight for Josh Kelly, and a massive fight for [trainer] Adam Booth. Like I said, he wanted to move quickly, he’s moved quickly, and he [Kelly] deserves all the credit in the world as well for this fight. I remember when he pulled out of the Avanesyan fight before. He was sick on the day of the fight, and he got loads of stick, ” said Hearn.

With the way that Kelly is getting hit so much in his fights, the timing for him to be fighting Avanesyan is bad. Kelly’s last opponent Campos was nailing him at will with shots in their fight on December 20th, and there were a few moments where it looked like he was going to get stopped. Campos had Kelly pinned against the ropes, and was hitting him with everything but the kitchen sink.

You’d better believe that Avanesyan is dangerous for Kelly, because this guy is punching incredibly hard now, and he’s found power that never possessed before. The way that Avanesyan recently destroyed Del Rio and Lejarraga, Kelly has a lot to worry about.

Avanesyan vs. Kelly likely for end of March

“All absolute rubbish, because he wanted to fight,: said Hearn about Kelly wanting the Avanesyan fight. “He went through 10 weeks of camp and then on the day of the fight after making weight, he turns around and goes, ‘I can’t fight,’ because he was ill. He got loads of stick, but he’s come back. I said to Josh Kelly in the hotel after that last fight in Phoenix, 2 weeks ago or 10 days ago, ‘You are the underdog in this fight [with Avanesyan].’ I looked in this fight, and he was excited.

“So let’s see. The end of March it looks like,” Hearn said when asked when the Avanesyan vs. Kelly fight will take place. “It’s just what kind of show we’re doing at the O2 at the end of March. It all depends on a lot of things. Usyk-Chisora, but who knows? There’s a lot of things can happen. But that fight [Avanesyan vs. Kelly] will take place at the end of March. There will be VADA testing in place, which will start in the next couple of days. 12 weeks,” said Hearn.

It’s good that Kelly wants the fight with Avanesyan in March, but he still needs to make it through training camp to get to the contest. Kelly pulled out of the Avanesyan last time the two were scheduled to fight, and a lot of boxing fans believe he got cold feet. Now it’s even worse, because Avanesyan has improved immensely, and he’s much further advanced than Kelly.

It won’t be a bad thing if Kelly loses to Avanesyan, because it’ll give him a chance to improve from the defeat. But the fact that Kelly isn’t learning from his fights, suggests that a defeat won’t help him in any way shape or form.

Hughie’s loss to Povetkin wasn’t a negative – Hearn

“Hughie Fury, an up and down year,” said Hearn. “Some people will look at this and say, ‘A down year,’ because he lost to Povetkin, and then he had to pull out again on fight night [for match against Pavel Sour]. That was a gutter for him because of the work he put in.

I don’t look at the Povetkin fight, although it was a loss on paper, was anything that had a negative affect on his career,” said Hearn on Hughie. “He signed with us, and was supposed to have a tick over fight. The Povetkin fight presented itself, and he said, ‘I’m up for that.’

“Him [Fury] and Peter had a go, and I felt he could have won that fight if he’d stepped on the gas a little bit more in the middle rounds,” Hearn said on the Hughie vs. Povetkin fight. “He come out, and was due to have a comeback fight in Monaco.

“On Wednesday, he couldn’t do the workout because he didn’t feel great,” said Hearn in talking about Hughie. “He did some antibiotics. Thursday he hit the pads, but wasn’t really firing. Saturday morning, just felt like s—. Hit the pads and didn’t feel like nothing at all.

“In the heavyweight division, you can’t go in with any kind of opposition not feeling great, and not firing on all cylinders,” said Hearn about Hughie being too sick to fight Pavel. “He will be back at the end of February or early March against the same kind of fight, and then in the summer, ready to go,” said Hearn.

Heavyweight Hughie Fury (23-3, 13 KOs) is in the same boat at Josh Kelly in the fact that he’s NOT improving. Hearn is kidding himself if he truly believes Hughie could have beaten Povetkin. Hughie was over-matched against Povetkin.

Hearn talks heavyweight David Allen

“Dave Allen, what a rollercoaster it is dealing with Dave Allen,” said Hearn. “Firstly, you look back at the Lucas Browne fight. When was that? March? It was a headline, “Dave Allen. at the O2.’ What the f— was I doing? But it worked, it sold, and the viewing figures were great. He won by a 3rd round knockout. From there, we made the David Price fight.

“I probably expected him to beat David Price, because he’s going to hang tough in the fight and take it late, and I thought, ‘Can Price do the rounds?’ He [Allen] boxed s— in that fight,” said Hearn about Allen. “David Price boxed really well, but I felt like Dave really let himself down in that fight, because he never lets himself down…After that fight, it was worrying scenes in the ring. I kind of thought, ‘maybe that’s it.’

Heavyweight David Allen (17-5-2, 14 KOs) will be fighting next month on February 8 against an opponent still to be determined at the Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, UK. Hearn wants to put Allen, 27, in a winnable confidence booster level fight, as he’s coming off of a disappointing 10th round stoppage loss to David Price on July 20th.

Going into that fight, Hearn believed Allen capable of beating the 36-year-old Price (25-7, 20 KOs), but he was completely over-matched. The 6’8” Price had too much size, power, skill and experience for Allen. What gave Hearn the belief that Allen could compete with Price was his wins over Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne and Nick Webb. Unfortunately, those guys aren’t in the same talent class as Price, and Hearn didn’t recognize that.

Dubois would be worst fight for Allen

“I know what I paid Dave Allen, and no one would have expected him to make this kind of money out of boxing,” said Hearn.  “But no amount of money is worth your health, and I’m talking about your physical health inside the ring, and your mental health outside of the ring. So when we were talking about the Dubois offer. I kind of felt bad that it came in, because I felt like people should have known better than to make him that offer.

“That was the worst fight for Dave Allen, and people,” said Hearn. “Boxing is a brutal sport outside the ring, and people were offering you good money. But you know you shouldn’t be putting him in this fight, you know? Again, he’s now anyone’s obligation other than the people that represent him. I don’t represent Dave Allen, but I class him as a mate and I care about him.

Hearn feels obligated towards Allen

“I feel like I have an obligation to make sure that he’s safe,” Hearn continued about Allen. “And I have an obligation to make sure he gets paid as well as possible, but we all have an obligation for the people around him. That’s why when the Dubois offer came in, I spoke to Darren Barker, and said, ‘If you want to take the money, I understand, but this isn’t really the right time to take a fight like this.’ And everybody agreed, and now it’s about coming back,” said Hearn.

It would have been crazy for Allen to take on Daniel Dubois, as this would have been a terrible massacre.

If Allen is going to ramp up for a good payday, he’s going to need to beat the guys that Hearn puts him in with, and not have another setback.

If Allen is going to ramp up for a good payday, he’s going to need to beat the guys that Hearn puts him in with, and not have another setback.

Dave Allen to fight on February 28 at Sheffield Arena

“That time after the Price fight, what Dave used to sometimes do was have a fight, and something would go wrong,” said Hearn. “It was like, ‘The only thing I feel like I can focus on is put me in another fight.’ But all your doing is masking the underlying problems that might be there in your life or the issues you’re dealing with my just continuing to fight.

“I feel like this period where he’s gone from July 20th until now, has put him in a good position,” said Hearn. “I think he’s in a better place. He’s got his mates in his younger stable that he’s working with up there, the amateur boys, which I think is great. I think he’s got his houses in order, and he wants to fight again, and I will support him again. February 28th, he will return to the Sheffield Arena.

The underlying problem that Allen has is he’s not good enough for him to beat the guys that Hearn wants to put him in with. After all, Allen is a domestic level fighter, not an upper tier fighter. It doesn’t matter how many soft tune-up fights Hearn puts Allen in with, he’s not going to be able to cut it at the elite level. As we saw in Allen’s loss to Price, he can’t even hang with some 2nd tier guys.

Hearn wants Allen to take a tune-up 

“It will NOT be a tough fight,” said Hearn about Allen’s next fight. “They’re all dangerous in that division, but I want him to have six or eight rounds to look good, and just enjoy himself. He wants to win a British title. He’s going to struggle to beat Daniel Dubois, who is a very good fighter. I was gutted that Dave never beat Lenroy Thomas for the Commonwealth title, because I would have loved him to retire as Commonwealth heavyweight champion.

“If I can get Dave Allen a British heavyweight title, which I believe he can win, then I’ll be very happy. But the most important thing for me is Dave is happy, and right now everyone acknowledges that six or eight round fight is next to see where we’re at, and to see what you’ve been working on to try and gear yourself up for bigger fights in 2020,” said Hearn on Allen.

It’s hopeless for Hearn to be talking about Allen winning the British heavyweight title right now while Dubois holds the strap. Once Dubois vacates the belt, then possibly it might be a good idea for Allen to go after it. But if Allen has to beat the likes of Nate Gorman to capture the strap, then Hearn is kidding himself.

Allen would do well against guys like Tom Little and Sam Sexton, but not anyone talent and power. Kash Ali or Kamil Sokolowski would be a good opponent for Allen to fight in Februay. Sokolowski might have too much power though for Allen.


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