Billy Joe Saunders’ mandatory title defense against Avtandil Khurtsidze is now officially set. The two will duke it out on July 8th in London’s Copper Box Arena. The first press conference took place earlier today and saw Saunders eschew the traditional mean-mugging in favor of a hug.
Saunders (24-0, 12 KO), who still looks a little chunky, has fought just once since edging Andy Lee in December of 2015, scraping past Artur Akavov last December. He had originally paid “Tazman” to step aside in favor of a summer clash with Gennady Golovkin, but the confirmation of Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez means it’s back to the mandatory.
Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 KO) put himself back on the map last year by destroying prospect Antoine Douglas on Showtime, then returned thirteen months later to thrash Tommy Langford for the interim WBO middleweight title. He’ll give up seven inches of height to Saunders, whose recent shaky performances make this a delightfully interesting matchup.
We’ll pass along word of the undercard if they manage to put a good one together.