Billy Joe Saunders To Defend WBO Middleweight Title In July

Billy Joe Saunders may not have gotten his fight with Gennady Golovkin, but he will still have to defend his WBO middleweight championship.

Saunders has an opponent for his next scheduled fight on July 8: interim titleholder Avtandil Khurtsidze. The fight will take place in the Copper Box Arena in London, according to Saunders' promoter Frank Warren.

"Khurtsidze showed against Tommy Langford that he presents a clear and present threat to anyone in the middleweight division," Warren told ESPN. "He charges forward like a bull and holds lethal power in both hands. I believe that a clever and slippery customer like Bill is far too stealthy to get himself cornered against Khurtsidze. He has one of the best chins in the middleweight business, and it will take something spectacular to beat him. This will be an intriguing fight."

The WBO champion said he expects to make Khurtsidze look silly when the two of them meet later this summer. 

"No disrespect to him, but I will show you what he is when I fight him," Saunders said. "All he is to me is a puffed-up Danny DeVito coming forward throwing wild punches. It takes more than just power if you want to get anywhere near me. He will never beat me, and I will make him look stupid on July 8th. He does possess knockout power, but I'm going to make sure I'm in the shape of my life and give him the toughest night he has ever had."

Khurtsidze won the interim WBO middleweight title against Tommy Langford on April 22, extending his win streak to 10 fights. 

This will be Saunders' second defense of his title since beating Andy Lee back in 2015. His first defense came against Artur Akavov, with Saunders retaining his belt via unanimous decision late last year.

Saunders had been hoping to fight Golovkin in a unification bout, as the two are the only remaining non-interim world champions at 160 pounds, but an ultimatum ushered in by Saunders' camp for Golovkin to sign the fight contract failed. Instead, Golovkin will face Canelo Alvarez in a mega fight on September 16

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