Middleweight contender Avtandil Khurtsidze has had a long wait for another shot at a belt, but it’s here now.
Khurtsidze (32-2-2, 21 KOs) will face Tommy Langford (18-0, 6 KOs) for a vacant interim title Saturday at Leicester Arena in Leicester, England -- only about an hour’s drive from Langford’s hometown of Birmingham, England -- in a fight that has been a long time coming.
Khurtsidze, 37, is a brawler. A Brooklyn, New York-based native of the Republic of Georgia, he’s built like a tank with a good chin and a fan-friendly style. He made a name for himself in March 2016 when he was the underdog against hot prospect Antoine Douglas on Showtime’s “ShoBox” series.
But Khurtsidze dropped Douglas twice and relentlessly battered him until the one-sided massacre was finally stopped in the 10th round. The victory put Khurtsidze in position for a mandatory title shot against England’s Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs), but delays and politics kept Khurtsidze out of the ring while a deal was eventually made to allow Saunders to take another optional defense. One of the results was Khurtsidze and Langford, 27, meeting for the interim belt. Saunders will owe the winner a shot at the full belt.
"I am very excited to finally get this opportunity," said Khurtsidze, who arrived in England on Monday. “I've worked real hard these last few years to get another shot at a world title, and I will give my best on Saturday to achieve my dream. It will be an honor to add the first loss to Tommy Langford's record and to seize the interim WBO middleweight world title. After I defeat Langford, Saunders is next."
Khurtsidze has won nine fights in a row since losing a close decision to Hassan N’Dam in an interim world title fight in October 2010.
To prepare for the fight with Langford, Khurtsidze spent time in California’s Bay Area training with Daniel Jacobs as Jacobs trained for his March 18 fight with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin. Khurtsidze and Jacobs are both trained by Andre Rozier.
"My trainers Andre Rozier and Gary Stark always bring out the best in me, and getting to work with a world class fighter and champion like Danny Jacobs really helped to sharpen my technique ahead of this very important task in front of me,” Khurtsidze said. “On Saturday, I will be ready for anything Langford tries to do."
Lou DiBella, who promotes Khurtsidze, said he was pleased to be able to make a deal with Langford promoter Frank Warren for the fight so he could deliver his boxer a significant opportunity.
"This fight on Saturday is a hard-earned and well-deserved opportunity for Avtandil," DiBella said. “His victory over Antoine Douglas last year was remarkable and I know Khurtsidze will do his best to replicate that performance in England against Tommy Langford."