Conor Benn says Josh Kelly must question his desire after suddenly wilting to a sixth-round stoppage loss to David Avanesyan in their European title fight.
The Sunderland fighter suffered the first defeat of his professional career as Avanesyan floored him twice to force his trainer Adam Booth to throw in the towel at The SSE Arena in Wembley.
Benn had been lined up as a future opponent for Kelly, but admitted that he was not surprised by his British rival’s loss.
“Kelly looked sharp and accurate early, but Avanesyan got to him,” said Benn, who was part of the Sky Sports team.
“Kelly has all the skill. He is naturally gifted. Why does he always blow up after four or five rounds? I’m gutted for him.
“Kelly is good for four, five, six. But then he folds. That’s what happened.
“He will come back. But he has to sit down and question how much he wants it.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn insisted that Kelly can still reach the highest level, but acknowledged Avanesyan’s relentless aggression,
“Kelly had a wonderful camp, was in the shape of his life, but Avanesyan wouldn’t be denied,” said Hearn.
“He was too tough.
“We saw an elite welterweight against a really good prospect who can become world class.
“But he was outhustled, outfought.
“You could see Kelly unravel. Adam Booth did a great job throwing in the towel.”
The Russian had to wait for Kelly, with the bout being postponed on two occasions, and Hearn believes Avanesyan should earn a fight against one of the division’s biggest names.
“Avanesyan should get a world title shot,” said Hearn. “Shawn Porter, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Danny Garcia?”
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