David Avanesyan - The Fighter’s Fighter
“I’m ready for anyone." - When a fighter says this familiar phrase it is often understood that they are simply repeating an age-old piece of boxing terminology, but when it is said by Armenian-Russian welterweight David Avanesyan, his matter-of-fact tone can only be translated as pure intent.
Boxing is awash with characters. From the titans of trash talk to the Prince Charming's, from the KO kings to the one-line kings, the history of the sport is rich with flash, brash, charismatic fighting men putting on shows of bravado and machismo to exhilarate crowds. But there is a less celebrated role that commands arguably the most respect of all: the “fighter's fighter” or the “model professional”, the brave and unassuming pro who turns up, produces the goods and goes home. Current WBA interim welterweight champion Avanesyan (22-1-1, 11 KOs) would appear to be one such boxer in that mould.
The chiselled 27-year-old’s victory in May over American great Shane Mosley (49-10-1, 41 KOs) should be the last knock on the door of regular WBA welterweight champ Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs), who beat Shawn Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) on points to retain his title in Brooklyn last month. The chance to face Thurman for his belt would be the next step on the Pyatigorsk, Russian-born scrapper’s journey to achieve his dream of becoming world champion, something that began when he walked into a gym with a wish to be ‘stronger’ than the other boys.
"From very early childhood I wanted to be strong, so I signed up to boxing classes, that's how my athletic career began," Avanesyan told Boxing Monthly.
His athletic career progressed to 100 amateur fights before ‘Ava’ turned over to the pro ranks in 2009, aged 20. After a winning debut, the raw Avanesyan lost his second outing to compatriot Andrey Klimov, who lost a bid for the vacant IBF super-featherweight strap to Puerto Rican Jose Pedraza last year.
Since then Avanesyan has been undefeated, with the only blemish on his paid slate being a draw with then-unbeaten Aslanbek Kozaev in 2013. His notable victories include a win over former 140lbs IBF title challenger and former Zab Judah foe Kaizer Mabuza, and a savage victory over well-travelled Irishman Dean Byrne. The latter fight was his first co-operation with his amiable English manager Neil Marsh.
"[David] joined me in February 2015 and our first fight was against Dean Byrne," Marsh said. Avanesyan's dismantling of Byrne was particularly brutal. Avanesyan won by sixth round TKO at Blackpool's Hilton Hotel, forcing Byrne to take three counts before his corner threw in the towel. A body shot ended the onslaught, the same shot put paid to Venezuelan Charlie Navarro, Avanesyan's opponent before the Mosley fight and against whom he won his interim belt.
"I'm very privileged to have David under my banner. He is 100% a model professional," says Marsh of his charge. "We say run five miles, he runs five miles; we say do strength training and he is there waiting to train strength training.
"I feel David is very proud of his family, and Russian and Armenian background, and a really nice man to work with. He has spent many weekends with me and my family so I've got a relationship with him - that goes beyond boxing. Together we have one goal.
"He just completely listens to everything we speak to him about. David is the hungriest fighter I've worked with and leaves his home and his family for several months at a time to concentrate on his dream of becoming world champion."
Since his move to England, Avanesyan has been trained in Newark, Nottingham, by local former two-time British title challenger Carl Greaves, a marriage that both see as vital to his development as a pugilist. He has also been a training and sparring partner of IBF 147lbs champion Kell Brook in Sheffield.
"Him and Kell learn off each other. They're very even spars and world class in every way," says Marsh, who also manages Lancashire welterweight Adam Little and Liverpool light-welter Robbie Davies Jnr.
"He has had his own way for many years, but we have added ours and he has just done it. Together we are now seeing the benefits."
For Avanesyan, the switch from Russia to the new surroundings in England has apparently not affected his progress in or outside of the ring.
"I'm trained by an English trainer and my manager is an Englishman. We have a good mutual understanding, we are really happy working together. I want to thank them for everything they do for me," Avanesyan says of his team.
“My style is like no other, I never try to imitate anyone, or copy someone's style of boxing. During a fight I can box on the front or back foot, at distance, use my footwork, and if need be I can go and exchange.”
Avanesyan’s straightforward nature has thus far led him to world-ranked contender status, but it is understood that more work is needed if he is to make the large leap from contender to champ. Marsh labelled Avanesyan’s victory over Mosley last month in Arizona his “proudest day ever in boxing." It was, of course, a surprise in that little was known about Avanesyan leading up to the fight. In contrast, Mosley has been one of the darling’s of US television over the last 20 years. Marsh's laconic summation was made based on the knowledge that the polite young man who joined up with him just over 18 months ago had theoretically put himself in first place to land a shot at the full WBA belt, but it isn’t yet as straightforward as Avanesyan’s candid character.
Both Marsh and Avanesyan were ringside at the Barclays Centre 10 days ago to see Thurman pip Porter in a back and forth battle in New York. Both predicted a Thurman win, Marsh believing that the Florida fighter was “a level above” Porter, and Avanesyan giving his preference to the dangerous, braided Thurman to defend his title. Marsh had travelled to negotiate Avanesyan’s challenge against the winner and attend the Boxing Writer’s Association of America dinner.
After the fight however, Thurman, who made the second defence of his title, hinted he would prefer a showdown with WBC champion Danny ‘Swift’ Garcia or a rematch with the vanquished Porter rather than a fight with mandatory challenger Avanesyan.
“I want Danny Garcia. I want more than one belt,” Thurman said in the post-fight presser.
“If I have to take this mandatory [against Avanesyan], then I have to take this mandatory. Sometimes a fighter doesn’t get what he wants, but in my heart, I want the opportunity to fight Danny Garcia. If you’re a daddy’s boy [Garcia], come see me, boy. Let’s go, Danny. Sign the contract, boy. Come on, man. Stop playing. Let’s do this. I want another belt, baby.”
It may not make much sense for Al Haymon, promoter of both Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman, to match the two fighters given that a loss for either will damage their popularity. But figures show that Garcia and Thurman were the two most watched fighters on US television outside of Mayweather and Pacquiao in 2015, and the added viewing incentive of it being a unification bout, it could make monetary sense for the two to be pitted against each other.
Shawn Porter chose to mark the day after the fight with a picture of him with Thurman on Twitter and the caption, “Morning after a great fight with a great guy. Look forward to doing it again,” along with the hashtag #ThurmanPorter2. The post was retweeted by Thurman.
With many mouthwatering options to choose from, the next steps for the big names in the welterweight division are as yet unknown. But while the immediate future is not clear, one thing is for certain: David Avanesyan will be ready for anyone.