Billy Joe Saunders fight cancelled after opponent Avtandil Khurtsize is arrested in New York City
PUBLISHED: 15:32 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:32 08 June 2017
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Billy Joe Saunders’ second world title defence has been cancelled – after his opponent was arrested in New York City.
The Hatfield WBO world middleweight champion was due to fight Avtandil Khurtsidze at London’s Copper Box on July 8.
However, the Georgian was arrested under the RICO (Racketeer and Corrupt Organizations) Act.
He is one of 33 arrested for racketeering, extortion, robbery, murder-for-hire conspiracy, fraud, narcotics, and firearms offences.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Today, we have charged 33 members and associates of a Russian organized crime syndicate allegedly engaging a panoply of crimes around the country. The indictments include charges against the alleged head of this national criminal enterprise.”
Saunders’ promoter Frank Warren also released a statement.
It said: “Today, Queensberry Promotions were informed that Billy Joe Saunders’ mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze was yesterday arrested in New York, indicted under the RICO Act.
“As such, his contest with WBO World Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders scheduled for Saturday 8th July at the Copper Box Arena, cannot take place on that date as his promoter Lou DiBella has confirmed he will be unable to travel.
“We are currently planning to postpone the fight to a later date.
“However, due to the obvious seriousness of this matter, Queensberry Promotions are given no choice but to wait for more details to emerge before anything can be confirmed.”
The show itself will still go ahead but with a new headline act and details will follow in due course.
Saunders’ reign has been dogged by problems ever since he defeated Andy Lee to win the strap in December 2015 meaning he has only had one fight since, a victory over Artur Akavov in December.