David Avanesyan’s manager Neil Marsh is backing him to emerge from the shadows of boxing and make a name for himself by pulling off a shock knockout win against Terence Crawford on Saturday.
Avanesyan (29-3-1, 17 KOs) will climb through the ropes to face WBO world welterweight champion Crawford as a big underdog in front of the American’s home fans at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), 35, from Omaha, is ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and Avanesyan is only getting this opportunity because a much-anticipated fight against Crawford’s rival welterweight champion Errol Spence did not materialize.
But boxing’s loss is Avanesyan’s gain and Marsh, who has steered Avanesyan from obscurity to world title contention, believes the unheralded Armenian-Russian can produce the biggest shock in boxing in 2022.
“David can knockout anybody, I rate Crawford the best out the 147 pounds lot but on his day if David catches him, anything could happen,” Marsh told ESPN.
“We are under no illusions. It’s a hard task but we are going for one thing, the KO, and I’m confident David will empty everything it trying to win this fight.”
Avanesyan — No. 9 in ESPN’s welterweight rankings — has been training in Newark, near Nottingham, with coach Carl Greaves in England for the last seven years and is in good form after recovering from two setbacks at elite level. The 34-year-old father-of-two, who lives in Pyatigorsk in the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia when he is not in England preparing for fights, has registered six straight stoppage wins, including three in the first round, since a points defeat to Lamont Peterson and a stoppage loss to Egidijus Kavaliauskas in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“David has massively improved since those defeats, I think the results have shown that,” Marsh told ESPN.
“Not only that, his ring craft is much better now under Carl Greaves. Don’t forget — especially the Peterson fight — they had only been together less than two years so it’s took time to bring everything out.”
Ranked at No. 6 with the WBO, Avanesyan has been avoided by rivals in the UK according to Marsh and in 2019 he had three fights in Spain.
“It’s been terrible at times to get him fights,” Marsh told ESPN. “Forget what others say when they try to get their name around David because nobody has wanted a part of him. It’s been so frustrating, but we kept going.
“The Kerman Lejarraga fight in Spain was a team gamble we all thought we could win. At the time Kerman was blasting through people and held top five rankings in every governing body. We chased the fight as we knew we could beat him, but the prize was big and it got us right back up there. We were held to a rematch and then we had a routine fight in Barcelona in preparation for Josh Kelly, which was another great win for David.”
Avanesyan made his professional boxing debut in Sochi, the Russian city on the Black Sea coast in 2009. He had an unremarkable start to his career — he lost his second pro fight over six rounds on points — and fought exclusively in his home nation for the next five years before his career changed course.
In 2014, Avanesyan turned up on a card in Liverpool, England, and not many took much notice of his ten-round points win over Hungarian journeyman Laszlo Fazekas. Someone who did take an interest was Marsh, who signed Avanesyan in 2015 and has been working with him since.
“An agent offered him to me when I was doing a lot of promoting small hall shows,” Marsh told ESPN. “We did a camp with him and a bout with Dean Byrne [in June 2015] to see how he performed before committing, and he was outstanding to say the least. I was being very careful as it was big investment a foreign boxer who we believed had world level in him.”
Later in 2015, Avanesyan stopped Venezuela’s Charlie Navarro in nine rounds for the WBA interim title in Monaco later in 2015 to set up a fight against “Sugar” Shane Mosley in May 2016. Mosley, then 44, had been the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world during the early 2000s, but was a faded version of his former brilliant self by the time he met Avanesyan.
A unanimous points win over Mosley in Arizona was meant to earn Avanesyan a shot at the winner of WBA world champion Keith Thurman versus Shawn Porter. But that didn’t happen, and instead Avanesyan was elevated to full champion status and faced Peterson in a first defense. Peterson just about did enough in a close fight, winning scores of 116-112 (twice) and 115-113 in Cincinnati in February 2017.
Avanesyan, who sparred England’s Kell Brook when he was IBF world welterweight champion, suffered another setback a year later when he was stopped in six rounds by US-based Lithuanian Kavaliauskas. Crawford would stop Kavaliauskas in nine rounds two years later. Since then, Avanesyan has impressively rebuilt his career and insists he will shock the boxing world on Saturday.
“I know going in that I’m a huge underdog and no one is giving me a chance, but let me tell you, I’m going to surprise everyone watching,” Avanesyan said. “I’ve had enough time to prepare, so I’ll be ready for the southpaw. I need to stick to the game plan we have in place, and if adjustments need to be made during the fight, I will have to make them.
“The bad habits that plagued me early in my career, are now fixed. Today I’m a completely different fighter in the ring, and my last six fights have shown my growth when it comes to my power punching. I believe my aggressive style is going to give Crawford problems.”