April 26, 2017
April 26, 2017
Billy Joe Saunders

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders must now turn his attention to mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsdize after a potential unification clash with Gennady Golovkin fell through.

All signs pointed toward a Golovkin-Saunders superfight in June after the unbeaten Kazakh outpointed Danny Jacobs last month.

Talks slowed, however, and this past weekend Khurtsidze stopped Tommy Langford to set up a mandatory shot at Saunders.

“The thing is with Bill, he’s probably the most frustrated fighter in boxing,” his promoter, Frank Warren, told Boxing News.

“This is a fella who walks around with a pen in his back pocket to sign a contract and everyone ducks him, even down to Golovkin. I’m a massive fan of Golovkin, but I genuinely believe they had second thoughts about fighting Bill.

“For us, it was a done deal. Golovkin’s people, us, Lou DiBella [Khurtsidze’s promoter] signed the step-aside to say the winner of Khurtsidze-Langford would step aside as mandatory for the WBO so that Bill could fight Golovkin.

“That’s not happening now at the moment, we’re hoping to resurrect it.”

A fight with Saunders would have provided WBA, WBC and IBF king Golovkin a chance to win all of the middleweight titles, something he is eager to achieve.

However, reports claim the 35-year-old has now shifted his focus to a potential September meeting with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez.

Canelo must first get past compatriot Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr on May 6, but a verbal agreement for him to fight Golovkin in what would be the biggest fight in boxing today is said to be in place.

For Saunders, that means turning his attention to hard-hitting Brooklyn-based Georgian Khurtsidze, who he dubbed a ‘pumped up Danny DeVito’ in reference to Avtandil’s 5′ 4” stature.

“The bottom line is Bill has to fight, he can’t sit around waiting for people and against Khurtsidze it’ll be a great fight, Bill won’t have to go looking for him and we’re billing the show as ‘Get Shorty,” Warren revealed.

“It’ll be July 8 at the Copper Box, that’s the date we’re planning on and we’re just waiting to hear back from DiBella to make sure his man is ready for that date, but from our end we’re all ready to go.”

Khurtsidze, one of the top middleweights in the world, has flown under the radar up until his pulverising win over Langford, which followed a 10-round demolition of unbeaten Antoine Douglas in March of last year.

Although disappointed for his man Langford, Warren is pleased that the British audiences have now seen just how dangerous the 37-year-old is.

“Out of bad comes good, Tommy’s got to regroup and come back, I just felt he just didn’t seem physically there, there wasn’t a physical presence from him on the night. He didn’t seem to settle himself down,” he said.

“If we’d have gone straight in with the mandatory [against Khurtsidze], people wouldn’t have known who he is. We paid him to step aside to make the Golovkin fight, which shows the type of fights Bill wants. If we went straight to Khurtsidze people would have asked ‘who the hell is that?’ so now they know who he is and it adds a bit of spice to it.”

Golovkin’s team could not be reached for comment.