Despite Artur Akavov’s best efforts, Billy Joe Saunders is still the WBO middleweight champion.

Saunders defeated Akavov via unanimous decision in Scotland in a fight that has been postponed once and even had a change in opponent months ago. The three judges had varying scores, but gave the win to Saunders, regardless (116-113, 116-112, 115-113). It is Saunders’ first fight of 2016 and defense of the title.

For the first half of the fight, Akavov had dominated a somewhat lax Saunders, but the champion fought back hard in the later stages of the bout to salvage the win.

Even though Saunders won the fight, many in the boxing world, and even Saunders to some extent, felt like the champion did not really win the fight.

“I stuck the place out with this performance,” Saunders said.

Saunders had been calling out fellow middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin various times throughout the year and Golovkin had been wanting to challenge him in Golovkin’s quest to unify every middleweight world championship.

The champion won his title nearly a year to this day, when he defeated Andy Lee via majority decision. Problems with securing a suitable opponent and injuries had prevented him fighting sooner. Saunders is undefeated in 24 wins as a professional boxer.

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