VERGIL ORTIZ JNR, Jaron Ennis and Conor Benn have all taken different routes, leaving David Avanesyan to defend his European welterweight title against a lesser-known foe on Saturday night.
BT Sport televise a Queensberry Promotions show from Wembley Arena, a venue with happy memories for the 33-year-old Avanesyan, who’s based in Newark and fights under the flag of his Armenian parents.
In his last two fights, Avanesyan, managed by Neil Marsh and trained by Carl Greaves, has stopped Josh Kelly (10-0-1) and Liam Taylor (23-1-1), in six and two rounds respectively, at the North London venue.
In November, the WBC ordered Avanesyan to meet Ortiz in a final eliminator for the belt held by Errol Spence Jnr.
Ortiz’ manager Rick Mirigan, showing little regard for the sanctioning body, said his fighter “won’t fight him next, if ever, period” and he instead agreed to take on Portsmouth’s Michael McKinson.
Ennis – the highly-regarded puncher – was ranked No. 3 by the WBC and there was talk of an Ennis-Avanesyan match. Ennis instead meets the far less dangerous Custio Clayton in an eliminator for a different belt.
Benn’s team have rejected Avanesyan too, stating the fight won’t do good business, and he will instead fight Chris van Heerden (not exactly a household name) on April 16. So with the best fighters in the division clearly swerving Avanesyan – largely because there are so many belts to aim at – Queensberry keep their new signing busy with a fifth defence of his European title, against Oskari Metz.
He’s a 30-year-old from Finland who’s won all 15 fights (five early). Metz is looking to become only the sixth male Finnish boxer to win European honours, after Risto Luukkonen (flyweight, 1959-1961), Olli Maki (super-lightweight, 1964-1965), Amin Asikianen (middleweight, 2006-2007), Robert Helenius (heavyweight, 2011-2012 and 2015-2016) and Edis Tatli (lightweight, 2015-2017 and 2017-2018).
Metz is managed by Pekka Mäki, son of the late Olli, and it would be a big upset if they went home to Helsinki with the belt.
Avanesyan has a win over a 44-year-old Shane Mosley (49-9-1), has twice stopped Kerman Lejarraga and mauled Adam Booth-trained Kelly, while the only notable name on the Metz record is Michal Syrowatka (22-3), outpointed over eight in Poland in July 2020.
Syrowatka is known to British fans for sharing a couple of hard fights with Liverpool’s classy Robbie Davies Jnr, who was managed at the time by Marsh. Those fights were at 140lbs and Syrowatka was 32 years old when he faced Metz up at 147lbs and lost every round.
The Pole was repeatedly wobbled by rights and though he had successes of his own with his right hand, Metz was a clear winner.
Metz looked well organised for a fighter who turned pro at 25 with only six Muay Thai kickboxing fights behind him.
In his last two, he has dropped a round to Hungary’s Oszkar Fiko (33-31-1) and had a close shave with former Italian champion Emanuele Cavallucci (12-3-1), winning a split over eight.
Cavallucci was a handful but Metz got to grips with him better in the last three rounds, though took a few clean head shots in the last.
There’s always the possibility Metz fights to the level of his opposition, but still, Avanesyan will ask questions of him he’s yet to answer.
Metz has yet to go beyond eight rounds and unless he has the punch to put Avanesyan on the back foot, the champion will make him work hard to keep him off.
Avanesyan is a strong fighter who doesn’t take many backward steps or give his opponents a breather. He has good timing and the punches he throws – often on the counter – are hard and accurate. He has stopped his last five.
There’s a reason Avanesyan is avoided. “There are easier routes,” said Greaves. Avanesyan is a fighter who’s been matched to lose – and still usually wins.
Only Lamont Peterson (34-3-1) and Egidijus Kavaliauskas (18-0) have beaten him in the past decade.
Marsh, who took on Avanesyan after he impressed when stopping Dean Byrne on a dinner show in Blackpool in June 2015, says Metz was chosen for this voluntary defence because it has the makings of a fan-friendly fight.
Avanesyan and Metz both look like fighters who do their best work at short and mid-range – and the champion looks the stronger of the two. Avanesyan can get the stoppage by the midway point.
Queensberry are building a fight between lightweight punchers Mark Chamberlain and Sam Noakes – and both are matched on Saturday night.
Noakes (8-0) meets 38-year-old Italian champion Vincenzo Finiello (15-4-2), while Portsmouth southpaw Chamberlain (9-0) is matched harder, against Jeff Ofori.
Ofori has acquitted himself well in good company, losing in seven to Ohara Davies (20-2) and narrowly on points to Archie Sharp (18-0) in a match made at 133lbs.
The North Londoner finished 10-rounders against Kieran Gething (9-2-1) and Sharp strongly, while Chamberlain who has only been past four once, is short of competitive rounds.
Ofori is possibly more effective at 130lbs and has a loss to left-hander Alfie Price on his 11-3-1 record.
Chamberlain is a more aggressive southpaw than Price (6-0). He has five wins inside a round.
The 2018 Elite lightweight champion has advantages of age (nine years), height (four inches) and activity on Saturday.
Chamberlain is the bigger puncher as well, but may have to go the full 10.
Noakes made the step up to 10 rounds last December and the 24-year-old from Maidstone broke down Walsall’s capable Shaun Cooper (11-2) in nine.
Noakes burst out of the blocks and after Cooper rode out the early storm, Noakes slowed the pace down before upping it again from the seventh.
The first southpaw Noakes has faced as a pro, Finiello has been the full 10 rounds three times in a pro career that started way back in 2010 after he won the Italian amateur title.
It took him four attempts to win the Italian lightweight title as a pro, finally landing the belt by boxing around rugged southpaw Luca Maccaroni (16-5-4) to win by three and two rounds (twice) in August, 2020.
Maccaroni was unable to pin down Finiello, but Noakes can close the gap quicker and maul him to a first stoppage defeat by the midway stage.
Ilford’s Hamzah Sheeraz (14-0) will be looking to emerge from the stink created by his controversial victory over Bradley Skeete in a super-welterweight bout in December.
Sheeraz, struggling to get to grips with the silky Skeete, eventually caught up with his rival in the eighth, only to clearly clump Skeete more than once when he was down. The fight was stopped in the ninth in Sheeraz’s favour but many observers felt the favourite should have been disqualified. Skeete has since retired in understandable disgust.
Sheeraz moves up to middleweight and takes on Harrow’s Jez Smith (13-4-1). Jez – brother of Mitchell Smith, who is plotting his return – is a good boxer but has lost every time he’s moved up a level. It’s a decent test for Sheeraz but, presuming he’s mentally unruffled by the Skeete bout, he should win this one in the second half.
Other bouts include run outs for other Queensberry prospects Dennis McCann (11-0) and Henry Turner (6-0).
The Verdict Avanesyan, perhaps too good for his own good, deserves better but the undercard has an inviting ‘trade’ feel that should appeal to the hardcore audience.