Hatfield fighter Billy Joe Saunders to make maiden WBO world middleweight title defence against in-form Russian in October

PUBLISHED: 11:04 30 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:21 30 September 2016

WBO world boxing champion Billy Joe Saunders

WBO world boxing champion Billy Joe Saunders


Billy Joe Saunders says he will not take a victory over Russian Artur Akavov ‘for granted’ when he defends his WBO world middleweight title for the first time next month.

The undefeated Hatfield fighter will step into the ring with WBO European middleweight champion Akavov, who has won his last 11 bouts, at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on Saturday, October 22.

Saunders knows he is in for a risky first defence against a dangerous challenger but thinks 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, who won the belt from Irishman Andy Lee in Manchester last December.

“He’s a strong fighter and very dangerous and if I don’t come in 100 per cent then he could cause an upset.

“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.”

The Wolverine has vowed to snatch Saunders’ belt for his ‘family and country’.

“I know why they picked me as an opponent,” said Akavov of Team Saunders.

“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.

“I represent my family first and my country and that alone will not let me fail.”

Show promoter Frank Warren believes Akavov will be an awkward opponent for the 27-year-old.

Warren said: “This is Bill’s first fight in 10 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.”

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