Carl Greaves has never been afraid of hard work. As a boxer, he rose high enough to share a ring with Alex Arthur for a British title and he has taken that work ethic into his role as a trainer and small-hall promoter. Never did he expect a boxer as good as David Avanesyan to walk into his gym.

When leading British trainers are mentioned, Greaves’s name seldom gets a mention, but when Avanesyan signed a management deal with Neil Marsh, he felt Greaves might be the right man.

Avanesyan defends his European welterweight title against Josh Kelly at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday night. Already the Russian has taken Greaves to some big fights in America and Europe and a win over the highly-ranked Kelly will see him involved in a few more.

“I’ve had a trainer’s licence since 2000, when I was still fighting, but I have never been given a top, elite fighter,” Greaves said. “I have always been given average kids and tried to do my best with them or brought them through myself. I have brought kids through from the bottom to British titles, like Sam Bowen. I have always been around and trained fighters, but David is in that elite category.

“Neil wanted to get him involved with an English trainer, so he took him around a few gyms and then he took him to me. He had already had one fight with him in Blackpool against Dean Byrne and he looked fantastic, I never had a clue he was thinking about bringing him to me as a trainer. 

“We gelled brilliantly from the start. We had a couple of sessions and then he wanted to be my trainer. My first fight with him was with Charlie Navarro for the WBA interim title. I was chucked in pretty deep, but he had a great win. The next one was Sugar Shane Mosley. 

“It has been a fantastic journey. We’ve had eight fights together, six wins and defeats to Lamont Peterson and {Egidijus] Kavaliauskas.”

Fight camps in Newark, Nottinghamshire, where Greaves has his gym, are different to others.

“When he first came over, he couldn’t speak a word of English, so Neil got him and English teacher,” Greaves said. “He was staying at a hotel, eating there three times a day and staying there for six or seven weeks before a fight but the cost was getting extortionate. Funnily enough he got quite friendly with his Russian teacher and her family, so now he stays there for his camps. They have the same culture and it works out really well, he really enjoys it and it makes my life much easier.

“We don’t do many sessions with everybody else at the gym, we do a lot of one-on-ones and then we bring in people for sparring. We have done a few fitness sessions with the other lads and over the years he has mixed in and some of my lads have done a couple of rounds in and out, but David is one of these lads than after a few rounds, he starts beating you up, he is that physically strong and wears you down. 

“Everybody gets on great with him, he is a great lad to have around the gym, a lot of the lads respect him and look up to him.”

Avanesyan was supposed to face Kelly in December 2018, when Kelly pulled out at late notice amid much bad feeling. There have been tales of clashes between the camps within the bubble this week, but Greaves says it has not got to the Russian.

“David hasn’t taken anything personally because he isn’t that kind of kid,” Greaves said. “It’s personal with Neil, he took it [the late cancellation] badly.”

But while Greaves does not believe that Kelly is the best boxer Avanesyan has faced, he knows his man is in for a tricky night.

“He’s been fast-tracked, he has never boxed anyone without a winning record, so you have to give him credit,” Greaves said.

“But I think this is one or two fights too early for him. I really believe David has got his number. Stylewise it is interesting. Josh could outbox David for 12 rounds or David could grind him down. 

“The Ray Robinson fight was a good one for Kelly, he will have learnt a lot. But he didn’t look good in the Winston Campos fight. If he is going on to do great things he should be stopping guys like that like Josh Taylor did.

“I don’t think he can sustain attacks and box at a high tempo and David is all wrong for him.”

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.