WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders is refusing to overlook upcoming challenger Artur Akavov as a big fight with divisional king Gennady Golovkin looms large for 2017.
Saunders, 27, knows he is in for a risky first title defence against a dangerous and live challenger, but says being World Champion means he has the skills and determination to overcome any challenge.
“Nothing comes easy in boxing and I’m definitely not taking Akavov for granted,” said Saunders.
“He’s a strong fighter and very dangerous and if I don’t come in 100 percent then he could cause an upset in my first title defence. I’m going to make sure I’m in the shape of my life and give Akavov the toughest night he’s ever had, he’s never been stopped before so this is going to be a first for him!”
Promoter Frank Warren said of Saunders’ return: “This is Bill’s first fight in ten months, the Russian is a tough guy who is capable of making things awkward.
“Hopefully, Bill will shake off the ring rust with a successful defence to set up a super fight for early New Year. This is now shaping up to be an absolute cracker of a show with five title fights for boxing fans!”
US-based Akavov has just one loss from 17 bouts as a pro but has no real names on his record and Saunders will represent his toughest test by far.
A southpaw, the 28 year-old moved across the Atlantic in 2015 and scored victories over Freddy Lopez and Todd Manuel to gain his shot at Saunders.