WBO middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) is ready to make the first defense of his belt 10 months after he won the strap by defeating Andy Lee last year. Saunders will be taking on Russia's Artur Akavov (16-1, 7 KOs) on Oct. 22 in Cardiff, Wales, reports RingTV. Before agreeing to face Akovov, Saunders reportedly declined title defenses against Willie Monroe Jr., Gabe Rosado, and Curtis Stevens. And speaking about his upcoming fight, Saunders says:
"Nothing comes easy in boxing and I'm definitely not taking Akavov for granted," said Saunders of his opponent who is largely undistinguished. "He's a strong fighter and very dangerous and if I don't come in 100 percent then he could cause an upset in my first title defense. 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."
Akovov more or less acknowledges that he was selected for this fight because he's expected to be a rather easy scalp for Saunders, but he promises to make Saunders regret that decision.
"I know why they picked me as an opponent," said Akavov of Team Saunders. "Although I am very honored 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."
Akovov is mostly a mystery to me but he has won 11 straight fights since his sole professional loss in 2012. I don't recognize any names on his resume, and quite frankly none of them are rated highly. So this is clearly a big step up for Akovov who is ranked #12 by the WBO -- right in between Willie Monroe Jr. and Curtis Stevens who were supposedly unworthy of challenging Saunders.
What say you, fans?