“I THOUGHT I would have to win by knockout and when I caught him early in the first round, I knew that was my moment to go for the stoppage.” Russia’s European welterweight champion David Avanesyan went for the stoppage all right, scoring a stunning one-round victory of the Kerman Lejarraga inside the Bilbao Arena. In March this year, inside the same arena, Avanesyan had upset the Spanish puncher when he won in nine rounds.
By retaining his title in such fashion (winning in just two minutes 25 seconds), Avanesyan has pushed himself right back into the mix for a potential shot at a world title at welterweight.
The Russian had spent six long weeks at his training camp in the Nottinghamshire town of Newark under the watchful eye of his trainer Carl Greaves. He had a look of determination about him as he came out to silence the hostile crowd of 12,500 Spaniards at The Bilbao Arena.
Just past the midway point of the opening round, Avanesyan caught Lejarraga with a left hook that stunned the Spaniard and followed with a barrage of hurtful combinations, resulting in the hometown fighter visiting the canvas for the first time.
Lejarraga got up before the mandatory eight count but clearly his legs had gone. Avanesyan, sensing victory, went for the finish and landed another peach of a left hook which put the Spaniard on the canvas again. Referee Anssi Perajoki ruled correctly that Lejarraga was in no position to continue, despite the protests of the Spaniard’s management.
“It was a special night, the build-up, the flares before the fight and the hostile atmosphere,” reported Avanesyan’s manager, Neil Marsh. “You could almost describe Bilbao as being the ‘Istanbul of Boxing’. People forget that we have been together a long time though now. David was in the zone. There was no stress in the build-up to Saturday night. There were no pressures. We almost approached it like an eight-rounder.
“We knew what David had to do on the night, we thought he would win again with a late stoppage possibly between the seventh and 12th. But to finish it how he did was fantastic. David has got his hunger back. We would like a world title shot but it’s all about getting the right fight for him. I am confident that I can get David a good opponent but I need to let him take a breath.”
Avanesyan’s trainer Carl Greaves said, “I was feeling a bit apprehensive before the fight as Kerman’s promoter was saying all the right things. But then I thought about how David had looked phenomenal in training, he looked great in sparring. Winning the European title has added another 20 per cent to him boxing-wise. It made me feel a lot more confident.
“He turned up and did a real number on Kerman. By stopping him in the first by putting him down twice sends a real statement out to boxing worldwide. Neil [Marsh] has got a lot of contacts and he will decide what is the best route for David to go down. He won’t be short of options,” Greaves added.
British fight fans would like to see the Russian take on either Josh Kelly (Avanesyan’s mandatory challenger) or former world champion Amir Khan following Marsh’s revelation on Twitter that a deal had been agreed for Avanesyan to fight Khan in Saudi Arabia, before accusing Khan and his team of getting ‘cold feet’.
“The welterweight division is a tough division ability-wise,” Marsh explained. “But I don’t think Josh Kelly will take the mandatory and we weren’t surprised Amir’s team changed their mind about David. We would be confident in him fighting any of the top contenders as he’s a real ‘banana skin’ for any of them.”
Avanesyan added: “I will have one week rest and I will be back in training. I will wait to hear from my manager Neil Marsh and hopefully it will be a world title shot, I am open to fight anybody.”
The Verdict Lejarraga may live to regret taking this immediate rematch with Avanesyan.