Billy Joe Saunders finally set to defend boxing world title

PUBLISHED: 15:15 30 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:20 30 November 2016

Saunders v Akavov

Saunders v Akavov

Archant

Almost a year on from winning the WBO world middleweight title and following one cancelled and three postponed fights in 2016, Hatfield boxer Billy Joe Saunders will finally defend his crown for the first time on Saturday.

The 27-year-old Welwyn Garden City-born fighter has had a frustrating extended period out of the ring, but will take centre stage at the Paisley Lagoon Centre in Glasgow as he faces American-based Russian Artur Akavov, nicknamed Wolverine.

Unbeaten Saunders, who defeated Irishman Andy Lee to claim the WBO strap in Manchester last December, said: “Nothing comes easy in boxing and I’m definitely not taking Akavov for granted.

“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 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.”

Saunders, who has won all 23 of his professional fights, was supposed to take on the Ukraine’s Max Bursak at the Copper Box Arena back in April, but the Herts man suffered a hand injury which resulted in that bout being shelved.

Saunders and Akavov were then matched and originally set to meet in Manchester in October, however that show, which was also to feature Tyson Fury, was cancelled.

The clash was moved to Cardiff only for the entire October 22 bill to be rescheduled for November 26, but then problems with the translation of Akavov’s medical records saw it shifted to this weekend in Scotland.

Now ahead their eventual meeting Akavov, who has won 16 and lost one of his 17 professional fights to date, promises he will prove a match for the champion.

“I know why they picked me as an opponent,” he said.

“Although I am very honoured and proud to fight for the WBO World Championship, at the same time, I promise to prove that the Saunders camp were gravely mistaken with whatever they were expecting of me in the ring.”

The 30-year-old added: “I represent my family first and my country and that alone will not let me fail.”

The weigh in for the world title fight will take place on Friday from 1pm at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Glasgow.

Should Saunders successfully defend his crown he is expected to have a super-fight with one of the big names in his division in 2017.

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