Reigning defending WBO middleweight champion of the world Billy Joe Saunders will finally step back in to the ring in defence for his title on December 3rd. He faces the Russian contender and former European champion Artur ‘wolverine’ Akavov in Scotland.
Billy Joe Saunders has endured a frustrating time in 2016 with numerous potential fights falling through and it has been just as frustrating trying to get this fight on. Firstly the bout was postponed after Saunders injured himself, then there were problems with Akavov’s medical paperwork that meant this fight had to be pulled off the bigger Cardiff show featuring the British title fight betweeen Sheedy and Langford.
At 27 years old he is approaching the prime years of his career. He should really be the one headlining fights every time he steps out into the ring now. After this fight the fans want to see him have a crack at Golovkin or attempt to unify the division against names like WBA champion Daniel Jacobs.
For Billy Joe this fight against Akavov is about Shaking off the cobwebs and the ringrust which you would expect him to have. He is a very talented boxer but he’s not one for living the life 24/7. He is not the sort to keep himself in the best shape when he is out of training and therefore he will need this runout before heading into a big showdown with Golovkin or another leading contender early in 2017.
His last outing came a year ago when he impressively outboxed Andy Lee to claim the WBO strap. Despite the bout being a close affair, he deservedly took the decision after producing the better, more conclusive work. He knocked down Andy Lee twice in the third round on route to the majority decision.
In beating the likes of Eubank Jr and Andy Lee he has proven himself to be a world class operator but now the time has come for him to test himself to the limit. Is he the best middleweight in the world? Is there a true desire to be the undisputed middleweight champion of the world? Because as it stands, despite the fact there are three major middleweight champions, only Gennady Golovkin is universally considered to be the true middleweight champ. The Kazakh has really cast a shadow over all other 160lbs fighters including Billy Joe Saunders.
By beating Golovkin, Saunders would step out of Golovkins shadow, elevate himself to a whole new level and would arguably then become one of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport. When you look at his style, he has attributes which could pose Golovkin problems; good footwork and the ability throw combinations from varying angles.
Potentially he is a much trickier opponent for Golovkin to figure out than the men the Kazakh has faced so far. But he would have a hard time standing up to Golovkin’s power just like everyone else so it would take a virtuoso display. I believe he would pose a lot of problems in the first few rounds/ first half of the fight but in the same way Chris Eubank Jr started to catch up to him in the later rounds of there domestic grudge match back in 2014, Golovkin would come on strong looking for the knockout.
Saunders is being hunted by Gennady Golovkin who is intent on unifying the division by stripping the Englishman of his belt. I think a fans would like to see the hunted start changing mentality to become the hunter. British fight fans in particular would love to see a Brit be able to conquer Golovkin.
Saunders is a very good operator. You can see the quality fundamentals he has gained from his amateur pedigree. He has an excellent jab and good footwork. There seems to be a general consensus within the boxing community that he is not a puncher. However he has enough power to keep his opponents honest and respecting the fact that if they get careless he has enough at his disposal to drop them to the canvas.
At this level though you cannot afford to overlook anyone. His opponent Akavov known as ‘wolverine’ is also a southpaw. Often when two southpaw’s fight it can make for a scrappy affair. His record stands at 16W 1L with 7 wins coming via way of KO. That would suggest that he is not the biggest of punchers. Akavov carries his lead right hand very low and squares up his body a lot as he unloading his rght hand. This should be bread and butter for Saunders to capitalise on.
Realistically Saunders is a cut above and if he doesn’t deal with Akovov with ease then he doesn’t deserve to be a world champion and doesn’t deserve to secure the blockbuster multimillion pound fights that only just round the corner for him. I would fully expect him to secure a win here and extend his undefeated record to 24-0. He is too smart and has too much ringcraft for the Russian.