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Saunders makes delayed middleweight title defence with Akavov clash in Glasgow

Lee Gormley | 3 December 2016

Billy Joe Saunders v Artur Akavov

  • WBO middleweight title fight
  • Saturday, December 3rd
  • Scheduled for: 22:30 GMT
  • Lagoon Leisure Centre, Glasgow
  • Live on BoxNation

Saunders v Akavov tips for fight night

Almost a year after dethroning Ireland’s Andy Lee to clinch the WBO middleweight crown, Billy Joe Saunders finally makes his delayed first title defence against Russian challenger Artur Akavov in Glasgow.

Undefeated Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) earned a majority decision at the Manchester Arena in December 2015 to become world champion, but he has since endured injury setbacks among other reasons which have forced him into a period of inactivity.

Both Canelo and Golovkin have been tipped as potential opponents for Saunders.

Both Canelo and Golovkin have been tipped as potential opponents for Saunders.

The 27-year-old was initially set to defend his strap against Max Bursak at the Copper Box in London before sustaining a hand injury, then reportedly rejected the opportunity to feature on the undercard of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez versus Liam Smith in Texas.

Promoters Golden Boy claimed that all of Gabriel Rosado, Curtis Stevens, and Willie Monroe Jr were proposed foes for the WBO titlist, though he will next face fellow southpaw Akavov (16-1, 7 KOs) on Scottish soil.

The reigning champion will enter the Lagoon Leisure Centre at 11/2 with Coral to successfully defend his strap with a knockout victory inside rounds 1-3, while Akavov takes to the ring as a massive 14/1 outsider.

Champion taking nothing for granted

Saunders had also been scheduled to collide with his Brooklyn-based Russian opponent last weekend in Cardiff, but this was put back due to issues with medical paperwork supplied by the challenger’s team.

Saunders outpointed Lee to win the WBO crown last year.

Saunders outpointed Lee to win the WBO crown last year.

Following so many delays and 11 months of being out of action, the Hatfield traveller will be keen to return with a strong showing against Akavov, who is somewhat of an unknown equity despite being ranked at number 10 by the WBO.

Also boasting career victories over Chris Eubank Jr, John Ryder and Nick Blackwell, the former British, Commonwealth and European titlist is 5/4 to outpoint his next foe in front of a Glaswegian crowd and hopes to move on to a potential meeting with division kingpin Gennady Golovkin in 2017.

“Nothing comes easy in boxing and I’m definitely not taking Akavov for granted,” stated Saunders, who will have absent world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in his corner. “He’s a strong fighter and very dangerous and if I don’t come in 100 per cent then he could cause an upset in my first title defence.

“I’m ready to fight him wherever…”

“I’m ready to fight [Golovkin] wherever, in England, in America or in a field. There’s nothing that can get in the way of stopping this. I’m not pricing myself out, I will fight any man born.

“He’s a good puncher, a good puncher and has a good chin. But he’s a man and he’s definitely beatable.”

Middleweight kingpin Golovkin will soon be looking for a new opponent again.

Middleweight kingpin Golovkin will soon be looking for a new opponent again.

Contesting ‘GGG’ next year would represent a mammoth step up in class from fighting Akavov, while a fresh feud with former foe Eubank Jr has increased speculation that they could meet again for a rematch.

Golovkin’s representatives stated that they previously made an offer in the region of £2.2m to Saunders to take on the Kazakh KO machine, but it was turned down for not being enough for such a high-profile bout.

The unbeaten southpaw will first have to overcome whatever threat is posed by 30-year-old Akavov, though, and he is 7/2 to halt the Russian inside rounds 4-6 or 11/4 for a later stoppage in 7-9.

Who is challenger Akavov?

With the situation surrounding Saunders’ maiden title defence, including a surprise venue and such a long delay, many have questioned the prowess of his challenger. But who is Akavov?

The southpaw boasts quite a solid amateur background and possesses enough power to end bouts early, with seven of his last eight outings having been ended inside the distance.

Coral's Saunders v Akavov tips for fight night look towards a promising price for a successful stoppage defence for the champion.

Coral’s Saunders v Akavov tips for fight night look towards a promising price for a successful stoppage defence for the champion.

His previous two were also held in New York after signing with promoter Lou Di Bella, following outings in his homeland and Estonia, and he is 25/1 to KO the champion.

Despite his previous experience, though, Akavov is yet to come up against anyone at the level of Saunders in his career, who holds smooth southpaw skills and advantageous footwork.

The reigning WBO champion will therefore look to secure a strong maiden title defence, ahead of supposed showdowns against the likes of Canelo or Golovkin, which have been outlined by promoter Frank Warren in recent weeks.

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