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Billy Joe Saunders-Shefat Isufi set for vacant WBO 168-pound title on April 13

Billy Joe Saunders. Photo by Vincent Ethier/ Eye of the Tiger Management
Fighters Network

Billy Joe Saunders and Shefat Isufi will contest the vacant WBO super middleweight title at the SSE Arena in London on April 13. Although there was no official statement, the belt has reportedly been relinquished by unbeaten Mexican Gilberto Ramirez.

Saunders, who is currently rated No. 3 by The Ring at 160 pounds, was scheduled to defend his WBO middleweight title against Demetrius Andrade in October, but that bout was cancelled when the Massachusetts commission refused to licence the Englishman to fight in Boston after an adverse finding in a VADA test.

The talented southpaw would have been clear to defend under the rules of the British Boxing Board of Control, as well as the UKAD and WADA agencies that govern doping protocol. However, Saunders elected to vacate the belt and Andrade picked it up by outpointing Walter Kautondokwa.

With all of that behind him, the 29-year-old Saunders is now looking forward to a new challenge.

“It is a brilliant opening for me,” said Saunders of his shot at a second world title, before explaining his reasoning for passing up his mandatory status at middleweight. “You’ve got these rumours that Andrade is going for shoulder surgery, as well as the financial side of it with the split – it all doesn’t add up.

“Me winning this super middleweight title will put me in a great position for unifications with the likes of Callum Smith, while we’ve got Chris Eubank boxing James DeGale at the weekend.

“There are a lot of big, big fights at this weight, but my real home of home is middleweight, so I can move down at any time I want and be back as mandatory for my middleweight title and then become a three-time world champion.”

“I am really looking forward to it and Isufi comes as a really stiff test. He is very, very strong and you have to be really switched on and calculating with this sort of opponent. What he does, he does very, very well when the bell goes.”

Isufi, who hails from Munich, Germany, is rated No. 1 by the WBO. His record is 27-3-2 (20 KOs).

The bout will be broadcast on BT Sport in the U.K.

Information courtesy of a press release issued by Frank Warren PR.


Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing


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