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Billy Joe Saunders narrows list to two opponents next

Photo courtesy of Frank Warren
13
Sep

Middleweight titleholder Billy Joe Saunders has narrowed his search to two opponents for his next fight.

Promoter Frank Warren revealed on a conference call on Tuesday that Russia’s Artur Akavov (16-1, 7 knockouts) and Minnesota’s Rob Brant (21-0, 14 KOs) are the leading contenders to face Saunders next. The WBO titleholder is set to make his next appearance on the undercard of Tyson Fury’s heavyweight championship rematch with Wladimir Klitschko on Oct. 29 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England after being out of action since last December when he won the title against Andy Lee. Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) was supposed to fight in April but withdrew from the fight because of a hand injury.

“We’re looking at a couple of opponents at the moment,” Warren said at the outset of the call. “One is Artur Akavov from Russia, who is ranked No. 11 in the WBO. And the other one is Rob Brant, who is ranked No. 7 in the WBO. We’ll make our decision on the opponent in the next day or so, hopefully we can do it before I fly out to the states for the Liam Smith fight this weekend (against Canelo Alvarez on HBO PPV).”

Akavov is now living in Brooklyn, New York and has won 11 straight since dropping a decision to 3-1 Leg Liseev in Russia in just his sixth fight. He last fought at BB King’s in Manhattan, stopping Todd Manuel (11-10) in the sixth round on a Lou DiBella-promoted card. Brant rose to attention after recording a one-punch knockout against DeCarlo Perez in the fourth round on a Jan. 22 ShoBox card and then stopping Delray Raines in the first round in April.

“Bill has been out of the ring for over a year for various circumstances,” Warrren said on Tuesday. “It’s very unfortunate. It’s not been very ideal. He’s been on the cusp of big fights, having signed twice to fight (Chris) Eubank Jr., which never happened because as we all know that’s their MO as we’ve seen with Golovkin. We’re now trying to get a fight under his belt and hopefully he comes through on the 29th and then we’ll be looking to make a big fight for him in February.”

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