The unbeaten Sunderland fighter and 2016 Olympian, 26, has previously held the Commonwealth and WBA International belts but now faces the toughest test of his fledgling professional career to date at The SSE Arena, Wembley.
A bronze medallist at the 2015 European Games in Baku, accomplished amateur talent Kelly is 10-0-1 in his 11 bouts since turning pro in 2017, with the only minor setback coming in the form of a majority draw against American veteran Ray Robinson on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York in 2019.
“Pretty Boy” has fought only once since that night at Madison Square Garden, dominating Winston Campos en route to a comfortable points win in Phoenix in December of the same year.
Kelly’s first bout for 14 months is a clear step up against Russian Avanesyan, who has held the European gold since defeating Kerman Lejarraga in 2019 and then successfully defending it in back-to-back first-round stoppages against the Spaniard and his compatriot Jose Del Rio.
The 32-year-old is an experienced campaigner who previously served as WBA interim welterweight champion after an eye-catching win over Shane Mosley in the last fight of “Sugar’s” illustrious career.
Avanesyan – whose overall career record stands at 26-3-1 – followed that career-best 2016 triumph by challenging Lamont Peterson for the WBA regular belt, though lost via decision.
On the undercard, welterweight prospect Florian Marku will hope to bounce back from his controversial draw against Jamie Stewart as he battles Rylan Charlton, while former British, Commonwealth and European super-lightweight champion Robbie Davies Jr fights Mexico’s Gabriel Valenzuela for the IBF Intercontinental super-lightweight belt.
Powerful heavyweight prospect Johnny Fisher makes his pro debut against Matt Gordon, while Jordan Gill meets former world super-bantamweight title challenger Cesar Juarez for the WBA International featherweight belt.
Avanesyan vs Kelly fight card/undercard in full
David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly (for European welterweight title)
Florian Marku vs Rylan Charlton (10-round welterweight fight)
Robbie Davies Jr vs Gabriel Valenzuela (for IBF Intercontinental super-lightweight title)
Johnny Fisher vs Matt Gordon (Six-round heavyweight fight)
Jordan Gill vs Cesar Juarez (for WBA International featherweight title)
Avanesyan vs Kelly date, start time, venue and ring walks
Avanesyan vs Kelly is scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 20, 2021 at The SSE Arena, Wembley.
As always, the timing of the ring walks for the main event depend on the length of those undercard bouts, though it is anticipated that the headline fight of the evening will not get under way until at least 10pm GMT.
How to watch Avanesyan vs Kelly
TV channel: The Avanesyan vs Kelly card is being broadcast live on Sky Sports, with coverage beginning on Sky Sports Arena at 7pm before Main Event picks up the show at 8:30pm.
Live stream: Sky Sports subscribers can also stream the event live online via SkyGo.
Avanesyan vs Kelly fight prediction
This is a really intriguing contest that has been a long time in the making – the pair were due to lock horns in 2018 before the Covid-19 pandemic then put paid to a potential clash in 2020.
The inevitable pre-fight fireworks – who can forget Adam Booth being offered a rose by Avanesyan’s camp last year – should hopefully be matched in the ring, where Kelly will be hoping to silence those growing critics of his style – a list that includes domestic rival Conor Benn – and move on to bigger and better things… potentially a bout with Vergil Ortiz Jr?
The hard-hitting Avanesyan, meanwhile, will know he must win on Saturday to have any chance of a return to world title contention.
Kelly has predicted a stoppage, though we think he will end up taking the European belt on points.
Avanesyan vs Kelly betting odds
Draw: Between 18/1 & 19/1
Kelly to win via decision: 13/8