Khurtsidze sets up Saunders title bout


Avtandil Khurtsidze delivered a chilling knockout of Tommy Langford in Leicester to clinch a shot at the WBO world middleweight title — and then clashed with champion Billy Joe Saunders in a press conference.

The Georgian (33-2-2-KO22) looked dangerous from the first bell; stalking the Devon fighter and hurting him in the first session before unleashing a trademark left hook to end the fight in the fifth.

After feeling Khurtsidze’s power and appearing shaky going back to his corner after the opener, Langford began to utilise his eight-inch height advantage by keeping the visitor on the end of his rangy jab and evading some increasingly wild counters.

At the age of 37, Khurtsidze’s pace was slowing by the fourth and as he continued to leap around searching for a show-ending hook, Langford seemed to be dictating range more comfortably and frustrating his opponent with his superior skill.

It all came to a shuddering halt at the start of the fifth, though, when Langford threw a one-two and was countered by a savage left that saw him stumble back to the ropes and then down to his right. Still visibly stunned when he returned to his feet, the referee was quick to wave off the fight.

Khurtsidze, who celebrated extravagantly in the ring after his victory was confirmed, then attended a fiery press conference at which a July 8 clash with Saunders (24-0-KO12) was announced.

Saunders, who won the vacant belt in December 2015 with a points decision over Andy Lee, has defended just once since: against Artur Akavov last December.


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