For most trainers, the thought of giving one of their fighters freedom for months on end is nightmarish. The idea of that fighter then returning to the gym a month out from a world-title fight with one of the most dangerous operators on the planet therefore probably doesn’t bear thinking about.

Carl Greaves hadn’t seen David Avanesyan, 30-4-1 (18 KOs), since the former WBA welterweight champion recorded a routine win in Birmingham last December but, in June, the Armenian flew into England to finalize preparations for his fight with the IBF welterweight champion, Jaron Ennis, 31-0 (28 KOs).

There was no panic. The odd couple quickly recovered their old routine. 

They have been working together for years, and experience has taught Greaves that he can trust Avanesyan to stay in shape, but if the trainer had any slight worries about whether the fire would still be burning as intensely inside the 35-year-old, those worries were quickly allayed. 

“Absolutely nothing fazes him,” Greaves told BoxingScene. “We sat and watched a few of Ennis’ fights together the other day. At the end of it I said, ‘What do you think?’

“‘I kill him. I have to win this fight.’ That’s the sort of mentality he has. Nothing bothers him.”

Avanesyan has been patiently waiting for a big fight since being stopped by Terence Crawford in December 2022.

He put his heart into the six rounds he shared with the multi-weight world champion and having fallen short at the highest level after a long, hard career it would have been understandable had his motivation waned while he waited by the phone. Instead that wasn’t the case.

Avanesyan was due to begin preparations for a shot at the European title that was once his when news broke that Cody Crowley had been ruled out of his mandatory challenge for Ennis’ IBF title after failing a pre-fight eye examination. He leapt at the chance to replace him and got straight on a flight to England.

“He’s had four weeks’ notice really,” Greaves said. “The fight was mentioned five weeks out. He got to me with four-and-a-half weeks to go. We took a couple of days to get adjusted and we’ve really had probably three and a half weeks of training because the last week will be winding down. We’ve crammed such a lot in. I think he’s had 60 or 70 rounds of good sparring which has been great really considering we’ve had to squeeze it in.

“He’s in fantastic shape. The first session we had, I thought I’d get him on the body belt for 12 rounds. My body-belt work isn’t standard – I rough them up and make it more realistic. It’s intense. At the end I was was absolutely shattered and he was fresh as a daisy.

“He doesn’t get any proper sparring or pad work in Russia. That’s my job when he comes here. He always gets here in good shape though. I had David here for three weeks, but it feels like double that because he’s got in so much good work. When he comes, we’re not having to do all the grueling stuff because he’s done that at home. He’s done his hill work; his strength; his weights and his heavy bag work. When he gets here, it’s sparring and sharpening up.”

Greaves is under no illusions that Saturday’s fight is supposed to be a showcase for Ennis. The expectation those outside of their tight team is that Avanesyan will be ushered on, play his part and then quietly exit stage left as Ennis takes his bows. Avanesyan is comfortable with that, but he certainly isn’t planning on going quietly. 

It is eight years since he made his name by travelling to America and beating Shane Mosley. After disappointing defeats by Lamont Peterson and Egjdijus Kavaliauskis, he went into the lion’s den and salvaged his career by knocking out the dangerous and unbeaten Kerman Lejarraga in Bilbao. He then walked down the heavily hyped Josh Kelly, stopping him in six bloody rounds. Avanesyan, ultimately, has been in this position before.

Ennis has been out of the ring for a year and won’t have an easy time getting his 5ft 10ins frame down to 147lbs. The 27-year-old hasn’t boxed in front of his hometown fans in Philadelphia for over five years and returns home with the backing of a major promotional outfit in Matchroom and a reputation as one of the most talented fighters in the world. 

“Boots” has been pursuing mainstream attention, but it brings with it a weight of expectation. Shakur Stevenson may be comfortable going through the motions in front of an expectant home crowd but having waited so long for such strong backing, Ennis can’t afford to coast. Fans will turn up at the Wells Fargo Centre expecting to see him put on a show. 

If Ennis is tight at the weight, if he overlooks Avanesyan, if he fights in a more reckless manner than normal in a bid to impress, Greaves knows that his fighter will be ready to take advantage. 

“I’m under no illusions – it’s a tough task,” he said. “Outside of Crawford it’s probably the toughest task I’ve ever had. Ennis is unorthodox. He switches; he’s sharp; he’s a spiteful puncher. One thing I will say is that the longer this fight goes, the more chance David’s got because David’s got that grit and will to win. He’ll get stronger as it goes on. If he’s still in there halfway through the fight, you’ve got a chance because he’ll break your heart. He’s relentless.

“It’s a very tough job and we’re underdogs but if anyone can do it, David can. He’s the one who’s got the grit and will to win. He’s still a hungry fighter. He’s still determined. He’s not had it easy, and he wants to keep bettering his life. We have it easy here. He’s got a different type of mentality and that’s what separates him.”