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Avtandil Khurtsidze, Tommy Langford to fight for interim middleweight world title

Avtandil Khurtsidze and Tommy Langford will square off for a vacant interim middleweight world title on April 22 at Leicester Arena in Leicester, England, promoter Frank Warren announced Tuesday.

The deal, in the works for the past few weeks, will free full titleholder Billy Joe Saunders from having to next make a mandatory defense against Khurtsidze. That will allow England's Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) to finalize a proposed fight for all four major belts with unified titleholder Gennady Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) for June 10 in Golovkin's native Kazakhstan -- as long as Golovkin retains his three belts against Daniel Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) in their mandatory bout March 18 (HBO PPV) at Madison Square Garden in New York -- according to a source with knowledge of the deal being worked on.

Khurtsidze (32-2-2, 21 KOs), 37, a native of the country of Georgia who is based in New York, has been out of action since his dominating 10th-round knockout victory against then-undefeated up-and-comer Antoine Douglas in March 2016. He has been idle while the mandatory situation played out.

Now Khurtsidze, an aggressive stalker, has a fight and is excited.

"I am looking forward to April 22 and beating Langford in front of all of his fans," Khurtsidze said. "I know he'll be looking to run from me all night and to steal a decision, but I'm coming for the knockout. I am coming to crack bones that night."

Said Lou DiBella, Khurtsidze's promoter: "Avtandil Khurtsidze is one of the most exciting fighters in the world and has gone overlooked by the boxing establishment for too long. That will change after he beats Tommy Langford and is able to hoist a championship. Don't let age fool you. Khurtsidze is fresh, he is hungry, and his story has just begun to be written. I want to thank my friend Frank Warren and his staff for making this deal so easy and for the WBO for recognizing Khurtsidze's considerable talent."

Langford (18-0, 6 KOs), 27, of England, was originally scheduled to defend his British middleweight title against Craig Cunningham on the April 22 card, but when the deal for the interim title bout came along, Cunningham was dropped so Langford could face Khurtsidze.

"This is massive for me," Langford said. "It's a huge fight and a huge opportunity to propel my name to the top of the sport. It's a proper fight for a proper belt, and I'm chuffed that Frank keeps on delivering these opportunities for me.

"This is a tough fight, but it's very winnable. I've got the style to beat him, and if I perform to the best of my ability on the night, I'll become an interim world champion. He's like a little Mike Tyson in the way he fights. He tries to bully his opponents up close and is very relentless, but he can be outboxed."

Khurtsidze has won nine fights in a row since a close decision loss to Hassan N'Dam in an interim world title fight in October 2010.

"He's been outboxed before, and that's how I'm going to beat him," Langford said. "I need to stick to my boxing and make sure I'm as fit as I can be. If I come through this, it'll put me on another level."

Warren said he believes it will be the toughest fight of Langford's career but that he is capable of winning.

"Khurtsidze will be the toughest opponent of Tommy's career, but I know he has the tools to beat him," Warren said. "He's the local hero and will have thousands of his fanatical fans pushing him on to victory. Tommy has a brilliant trainer in Tom Chaney, who I'm sure will come up with a winning game plan. If Tommy comes through this, there will be some huge nights for him down the line."