By Terence Dooley
David Avanesyan’s manager Neil Marsh was left fuming following the late fallout of a clash between his man and highly touted prospect Josh Kelly at the eleventh hour in Sheffield last Saturday.
The two were due to meet at the Sheffield Arena, with Kelly’s WBA International welterweight strap on the line, on the undercard of Kell Brook’s victory over Michael Zerafa on Sky Sports, however Kelly was withdrawn with his team claiming he had suffered an illness overnight.
Marsh, though, has come out and slammed Adam Booth, Kelly’s trainer and manager, following disagreements during the week, which he believed led to the cancellation of the bout.
He told BoxingScene: “I have plenty of respect for Adam Booth as a trainer, but none whatsoever for him as a man. All through the build-up we sensed nervousness from their side and the night before the weigh-in, I received a call that they wanted to adjust the fight from 12 rounds to 10, stipulating that is always should have been 10 rounds and that is the rules.
“They underestimated my experience with the WBA, who I have worked with as both a manager and promoter at all levels, so I got in contact with their European chief. I confirmed with them that it was a 12 round fight for a title, which was the contract submitted and the fight that they approved.
“I met with Adam Booth, I called him out and asked him why he wanted to cheat David out of two rounds? He replied it was always a 10 round fight, which again I called him out on and replied that he didn’t want the fight. He first threatened to lose the title to make it a 10 round non-title fight and then threatened to pull out of the fight there and then, unless it was changed to 10 rounds. In short, they bottled it!
“The next morning I saw Adam Booth leaving the hotel with some of his things and then later on in the rules meeting he barely inspected the gloves, basically picking the first ones he opened and throwing them in the box he didn’t open pair two and why would you not look at the options to give your fighter the best gloves to suit. I knew something was really off because this is strange behaviour. I knew even more that something was wrong."
Marsh told me he has no issue with how the incident was handled by Eddie Hearn and Matchroom boxing, adding that Avanesyan, a former WBA world champion with a record of 23-3-1, 11 wins coming early, still received some pay despite the fight not going ahead.
He also now has serious doubts about Kelly’s heart. The Sunderland man has impressed since turning over from the amateurs, where he represented Team GB at Rio 2016, racing to an 8-0 record, six wins coming inside the distance.
Marsh is adamant that despite the fallout, there is still an agreement in place for the fight to take place, hopefully early in 2019 and that Avanesyan will release all his frustrations on Kelly, following his late withdrawal. However, he added that he doesn’t know if Booth or Kelly will step up and take this fight now.
He added: “I’d like to thank Eddie Hearn for the opportunity he gave David. He payed the expenses for David’s training camp and gave him a few extra quid for Christmas with his family, for which we are very grateful. Everyone is talking about Josh Kelly’s new child, well David is in exactly the same boat and left his child for weeks to train for this fight.
“I wouldn’t advise one of my fighters to fight if they were legitimately ill, but the night before I saw Kelly in the hotel bar with all his mates laughing and joking. David was relaxed all week, in tremendous condition and ice cool at the weigh-in, so I don’t know whether that was when they finally decided.
“Booth treated me like I was stupid, probably because he doesn’t know me and I’ve never criticised people in public before. Business should be done behind closed doors, but you need to stand up for yourself and your fighter and your team
“All fighters are warriors, but Josh Kelly has made me rethink that about him. It’s an insult to marquee fighters like Amir Khan and Kell Brook when Booth spouts off that he thinks Kelly beats them now. The way Booth has treated our team is nothing short of disgusting.
“Eddie Hearn has assured me that the fight will still happen and Josh Kelly better be ready for it. David will take out all his frustrations and pain of this withdrawal on him. He’s one of the most level headed people I’ve ever met, so when I saw him I was surprised, as I’ve never seen him as angry. I’m gutted for him and his trainer Carl Greaves, who is also highly respected. Boxing can be a really tough sport at times.”