Warren: Saunders must fight to earn unification


Billy Joe Saunders is expected to return to action in September whether it is against Avtandil Khurtsidze or not, according to promoter Frank Warren.

The Briton’s second defence of his WBO world middleweight title against Khurtsidze was cancelled last week after it was revealed the Georgian had been arrested in New York, where he is based, on violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

The future of Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 KOs), 38, has yet to be clarified but Saunders’ promoter Warren says he will definitely box again in September after fighting just once since winning the belt in Dec 2015.

“We’re upset with what has happened but Billy will fight now in September,” Warren told ESPN.

“He has got to have a fight that week of the Golovkin-Canelo fight, but not on the same bill.

“Billy has to fight his mandatory which is Khurtsidze, but I can’t see how it’s going to be him.”

WBC, IBF and WBA world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) meet in a clash to decide the division’s No. 1 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sep 16 and Warren hopes to match Saunders against the winner of the much-anticipated fight.

“That’s what Billy wants to do, to face the winner of that fight,” Warren told ESPN.

“If the winner of that fight wants all four belts, he will have to fight Billy. Billy has just been unlucky with injuries and now this. It will happen for him he just has to keep the WBO belt.”

Warren also ruled out Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) facing American Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs), who took Golovkin to points and gave the champion such a difficult time in March.

“It’s highly unlikely it will be Jacobs,” Warren told ESPN.

The other leading contenders in the WBO middleweight rankings are: Canadian David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs), Japan’s Ryota Murata (12-1, 9 KOs) and American Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs).

Due to injuries and postponements, 27-year-old Saunders has been limited to just a disappointing points win over Artur Akavov last December since becoming WBO champion on points against Irishman Andy Lee in Dec 2015.


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