It has been months in the making but on Saturday Kelly and Avanesyan go head-to-head. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse predicts an upset...
"This is shaping up to be the most intriguing bout of the year so far and Matchroom deserves credit for bringing us two well-matched fighters."
Prospect finally gets his shot
It has been months in the making but on Saturday at Wembley Arena Sunderland's Josh Kelly finally gets his shot. Eddie Hearn for Matchroom Sports promotes the rearranged card that sees unbeaten Kelly challenge experienced Russian David Avanesyan for his European welterweight title.
Saturday's fight represents a massive step up in class for Pretty Boy but if he is to prove as good as many pundits say he is, Kelly will win. The betting available at Betfair has this one marked down as a near 50/50 contest meaning there's plenty of value on offer to bettors willing to work for it.
Pretty Boy untouched in 11
Challenger Kelly gets his shot at a first major honour with his professional record showing 10 wins and a draw from 11 contests. Of his victories, the Sunderland native has scored six knockouts but hasn't won inside the distance since 2018 when dealing with Argentina's Walter Fabian Castillo in a round at the Manchester Arena.
Since that early KO, Kelly has beaten Pole Przemyslaw Runowski on points over 10 rounds, sending the previously unbeaten fighter to the canvas three times on route to a wide points margin. A surprise draw with American Ray Robinson at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr followed. Josh suffered a cut above each eye in a bloody 10 rounds.
The 26-year-old made a quickfire return to winning ways when beating Wiston Campos on the scorecards in a bout from Phoenix. Kelly had Campos on the deck in the final round and there were no surprises when he was awarded the bout by nine rounds on two scorecards and seven on the other. Kelly is 1.715/7 to win on the Exchange with a points verdict [2/62].
Ava is a former world title challenger
Avanesyan is the Russian born welterweight fighting out of Nottinghamshire. He made his professional debut in 2009 with a four-round points win in Sochi but didn't appear in a British ring until 2014. He kicked things off in style, scoring on the scorecards over 10 rounds at the Titanic Hotel, Liverpool. The 32-year-old has carved out a record showing 26 wins against three defeats and one draw.
Ranked number one in Russia and eight on a world list topped by Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford, he sits ahead of Kell Brook who is currently 10th. Ava's two most recent defeats were inflicted by Lamont Peterson when contesting the WBA world title in 2017 and then Egidijus Kavaliauskas in American three years ago.
Since being stopped in six by Mean Machine, Avanesyan has won his three comeback bouts, all comfortably inside the distance. Each of his last two wins has come by first-round knockout meaning he heads into this title defence with confidence. The Betfair Exchange betting has Avanesyan priced at 2.568/5 to win. Another KO/TKO is 3.39/4 with a points verdict 5.79/2.
Experience key to victory
This is shaping up to be the most intriguing bout of the year so far and Matchroom deserves credit for bringing us two well-matched fighters. We've got the promise and skill of Kelly against the experience and fitness of Avanesyan with a European title belt up for grabs. This has all the ingredients of a classic.
Neither would go back much in defeat but both men know there's everything to play for. A win on Saturday would catapult them towards the big names in the division. Avanesyan is 12 places higher in the world rankings than Kelly and that's no fluke. He is much the more experienced fighter but there's plenty left in the tank at 32. He looks worth backing.