<
>

Billy Joe Saunders' defense against Artur Akavov postponed until Dec. 3

Middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders' defense against Artur Akavov has been postponed for one week, promoter Frank Warren announced Wednesday.

England's Saunders and Akavov, of Russia, were scheduled to headline Warren's card on Saturday at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales. However, according to Warren, Akavov's medical paperwork was in Russian, resulting in a delay in getting it translated and forcing the fight to be postponed until Dec. 3.

Now the fight will headline Warren's already scheduled card at the Paisley Lagoon Centre in Paisley, Scotland, where up-and-coming junior welterweight Jack Catterall (16-0, 9 KOs) and former bantamweight world titleholder Paul Butler (22-1, 12 KOs) will also be in action.

"It's extremely frustrating for all parties and especially Billy, who has been itching to get back into the ring following a frustrating 2016," Warren said in a statement. "The medicals were sent late and mostly in Russian and once translated it then became apparent they were not complete.

"Ultimately, it would be too late to find a suitable replacement so postponing it was our only option. I feel for Billy Joe as he was ready to make the first defense of his world title and for all of the fans who wanted to watch him."

Alex Vaysfeld, who is part of Akavov's team, added, "This is no more than a translation problem and will be easily rectified upon Akavov's arrival in the U.K. and I'm glad Frank was able to postpone for just a week."

Saunders, 27, has not fought since winning a 160-pound world title last Dec. 19 by majority decision against Ireland's Andy Lee. Saunders has either pulled out of fights or had them canceled or postponed multiple times since.

"I was ready to put on a big performance and defend my title in style in Cardiff but unfortunately this latest issue was totally out of our control," Saunders said in the statement. "The fight is still on -- that's the main thing -- and I'll be fully prepared to defend my title in Scotland next week before moving on to a blockbuster fight in 2017."

Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) and Akavov (16-1, 7 KOs) were supposed to fight Oct. 22 the Motorpoint Arena, but the fight was postponed until Saturday because Saunders suffered a training injury. Before that the fight was scheduled for Oct. 29 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, on the undercard of the heavyweight championship rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko. However, when Fury-Klitschko II was canceled, Warren shifted Saunders-Akavov to the Oct. 22 card.

After he won the title, Saunders repeatedly called out unified world titleholder Gennady Golovkin and then turned down a career-high, seven-figure payday to face him when offered the fight. Saunders instead signed to defend against Ukraine's Max Bursak on April 30 in London, but pulled out, citing a left hand injury, and the fight was not rescheduled.

Then Saunders was offered a guaranteed fight with superstar Canelo Alvarez if he would first defeat Gabriel Rosado, Willie Monroe Jr. or Curtis Stevens -- his camp's choice -- in the co-feature of Alvarez's knockout victory against Liam Smith to win a junior middleweight world title on Sept. 17. Saunders rejected all of those second-tier opponents because the only opponent he wanted to face was the unknown Akavov, 30, but Golden Boy Promotions did not want him as the opponent on the card.

Saturday's card will be headlined by the original co-feature of lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan (31-0, 12 KOs) of England against Puerto Rico's Orlando Cruz (25-4-1, 13 KOs), boxing's first openly gay fighter.