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AVTANDIL KHURTSIDZE ARRESTED

Devastating news for Billy Joe Saunders has broken this afternoon. Avtandil Khurtsidze, his opponent, and challenger for his WBO world middleweight title, has been “arrested in New York indicted under the RICO act”. Rumours had been circulating on twitter, but in a statement released recently on Frank Warren’s website, the incident yesterday was confirmed and the fight has been called off.

Labelling his arrest “a misunderstanding” on his facebook page, Khurtsidze will be unable to travel and therefore the July 8th show will not feature his Saunders bout. RICO is the abbreviation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations act, an American federal law created to tackle the Mafia in 1970. Obviously the nature of Khurtsidze’s involvement with any criminal activities is not yet known, but it is a serious detainment, and unlikely to be resolved very quickly.

Saunders has known disappointment in his career before, having being unable for various reasons to fight as much as he’d like. The event at the Copper Box Arena has a great card, also on it is Anthony Yarde’s WBO European light heavyweight title shot against Richard Baranyi. Hellraiser’s Darryll Williams* has his English super middleweight title rematch on the BT sport bill with Jahmaine Smyle. Their first fight Frank Warren called a "barnstormer". Another Hellraiser man is also scheduled to appear, Asinia Byfield, defends his Southern Area super welterweight title against Sammy McNess.

Having worked as a matchmaker for many years, Mickey Helliet knows the pain of late event disappointments as being, “part of boxing”. Whether a replacement fight for Billy Joe will be found was not mentioned officially, but it is a outcome that Saunders seems keen on saying on twitter, "UK any takers"? Helliet is also confident something may well be in the works on that front, “Frank Warren’s got a very strong team and professional set up and I’m sure they’ll be working very hard to make sure they find a suitable replacement so we can all enjoy watching Billy Joe at work”.

*You can read an interview with Darryll about his move to the Hatton gym, here.

Posted: 8th Jun 2017

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