After a year out of the ring, the rust on Billy Joe Saunders definitely showed, but he managed to scrape out a decision win over unheralded challenger Artur Akavov today, retaining his WBO middleweight title.
Saunders (24-0, 12 KO) won on scores of 115-113, 116-113, and 116-112. He was able to separate in the later rounds, as Akavov (16-2, 7 KO) seemed to tire.
It’s not exactly the first defense that Saunders, 27, was hoping to have, but 2016 has been a frustrating year of complications for him. He was due to face Max Bursak in the spring, only for that fight to be called off. And this was the third fight date for the bout with Akavov, too.
Saunders has said that his target is three-body champion Gennady Golovkin, but there’s no way that the Billy Joe Saunders we saw in this fight would be able to beat GGG, and it would be entirely understandable if he wanted at least one more fight to find his groove again, and to get more active.