Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Khurtsidze expected to take step-aside money for Saunders


Middleweight contender Avtandil Khurtsidze, the mandatory to face titleholder Billy Joe Saunders, is expected to take step-aside money to allow Saunders to pursue “a major fight next,” a source told on Tuesday.

As a result, Khurtsidze would fight for an interim belt, the source said. “There’s a step-aside deal pending for Khurtsidze,” the source told RING. “He would be able to fight for an interim WBO title, allowing Billy Joe Saunders to fight a major fight next.”

The source declined to provide any more details but it’s no secret that Saunders and his promoter Frank Warren have expressed interest in fighting Japan’s Ryota Murata (12-0, 9 knockouts). Then there are the usual suspects, such as Saunders possibly waiting to face Canelo Alvarez after he meets Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on May 6 or even the winner of Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight championship with Danny Jacobs set for March 18 at Madison Square Garden.

Saunders has hinted he’s close to a deal for a big fight that would involve him traveling to his opponent’s home country, suggesting he may be talking about Golovkin in his native Kazakhstan, though at this point it’s just speculation. As for who Khurtsidze would face next, Murata is the WBO’s No. 2-rated middleweight while Tommy Langford is No. 3.

The WBO ordered for Khurtsidze (32-2-2, 21 KOs) and Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) to start negotiations on Jan. 26 for a title fight and said if a deal couldn’t be struck a purse bid would be ordered. A purse bid was scheduled to take place on Friday but was postponed. Khurtsidze, 37, has been the WBO’s No. 1 contender for nearly a year since he stopped Antoine Douglas in the 10th round last March.