Josh Kelly’s Stadium of Light dream in tatters after defeat against David Avanesyan
Josh Kelly’s dream to fight at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light was left in tatters after he suffered defeat for the first time in his professional career against David Avanesyan on Saturday night.
The 26-year-old was stopped in the sixth round of his clash with the Russian Avanesyan for the European welterweight title after trainer Adam Booth threw in the towel.
Kelly, a Sunderland fan, walked to the ring at Wembley Arena in London donning red and white robes and was accompanied by a recording of Black Cats supporters chanting.
The 2016 Rio Olympian started the fight well and shook his opponent with a sharp left hook in round two, but Avanesyan cut Kelly's eye and started to ramp up the pressure.
A close third round was followed by some superb work by Kelly in the fourth.
The Ryhope-born puncher slipped a cluster of shots, had time to look at the referee and managed to pepper Avanesyan back.
But Avanesyan, who once defeated hall of fame fighter and three-weight world champion Shane Mosely, would not stop relentlessly walking Kelly down.
After a close fifth round, the pressure finally broke as Kelly was given a standing eight count, having touched down with both hands.
Seconds later and the fight was over as the combinations to the body and head from Avanesyan continued.
Following criticism from Booth directed at Josh Warrington’s corner for leaving the featherweight in too long against Maurico Lara last week, Kelly’s team spared their bloodied man from further punishment and threw in the towel.
As the Matchroom boxer fighting on home soil and with potential future opponent Conor Benn watching on, the narrative post-fight was set-up for a Kelly win.
Indeed, in the build-up to the clash, which had to be rearranged several times due to various circumstances, Kelly had repeatedly stated his desire to fight at the Stadium of Light in a big domestic clash against Benn.
Avanesyan, however, hadn’t read the script and is now set to enter the mix for a welterweight world title shot in a stacked division including Manny Pacquiao, Erroll Spence Jr, Terrance Crawford, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.
"Sometimes you come across a guy that will not be denied, that's too strong, that has the will beyond others and tonight that was David Avanesyan,” promoter Eddie Hearn said after the fight.
"Josh Kelly was in the shape of his life but this man [Avanesyan] wouldn't be denied. He was too tough and he deserves his success.
"We saw a world-class welterweight against a really good prospect who I believe could be a world-class fighter but he was out-hustled, out-fought and as good as the start was you could see him unravelling.
"Josh Kelly took the step up and should be applauded for that. He fought a world-class fighter but he's a young man and can come again."
Avanesyan's British trainer Carl Greaves told Sky Sports: "I knew exactly how it was going to go - I've spent over five years with David, he finds a way every time. I was so confident in this fight."