Billy Joe Saunders successfully defended his WBO middleweight title in shaking off a year’s worth of ring rust against unknown quantity Artur Akavov.
Saunders produced an admittedly underwhelming performance following a layoff of nearly one year as he squeaked past the unheralded Akavov, who allowed Saunders to impose his jab-heavy mobility offense.
After seven rounds Akavov was leading 50-43 in overall connects but Saunders was able to catch up when he invested more power shots into his attack.
For Saunders, the jab comprised 70.6% of his output and 62.2% of his connects while for Akavov it made up 65.4% of his output and 45.7% of his connects.
Scoring: 116-113, 116-112, 115-113.
In other results from Scotland, Jack Catterall, Paul Butler, Stephen Ormond, Jono Carroll and Steven Lewis all scored victories in what was a forgettable night for headliner Saunders.
A possible unification against Gennady Golovkin, earmarked for the summer, will potentially be a tougher sell unless Saunders can come back stronger in the New Year.
Admitting his faults after the fight, the Briton said: “I’d like to say big thanks to all who watched me. Boxed shit, but been out one year and still got the win. That’s what matters and I’ll be bigger and better next year.”
Golovkin is close to announcing his return for March against WBA ‘regular’ champion Danny Jacobs before the Kazakh plans to push towards Saunders and arch-rival Canelo Alvarez in September.
Talks with Golden Boy are slow and steady, although everything will depend on Canelo’s willingness to take the fight without any weight stipulations.