Khurtsidze Arrested, Saunders Fight Cancelled
The title fight between Billy Joe Saunders and interim middleweight champion Avtandil Khurtsidze has been cancelled after Khurtsidze was arrested and indicted as part of an alleged Russian and and Georgian crime syndicate, ESPN reported on Thursday morning.
The charges brought against the group indicted in the 33-person roundup include racketeering, robbery and murder-for-hire.
After learning the news, promoter Frank Warren announced that the fight between Saunders and Khurtsidze would be tentatively postponed until a later date. Given the severity of the charges brought against Khurtsidze, there is doubt that the fight will take place at all pending future developments.
"We are currently planning to postpone the fight to a later date. However, due to the obvious seriousness of this matter, Queensberry Promotions are given no choice but to wait for more details to emerge before anything can be confirmed," Warren said in a statement.
Khurtsidze is of the Republic of Georgia but fights out of New York. According to the report, he is accused of conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each felony charge carries up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
"We have charged 33 members and associates of a Russian organized crime syndicate allegedly engaging a panoply of crimes around the country," acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement about the case.
Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 KOs) had won a vacant interim middleweight belt by knocking out Tommy Langford in the fifth round on April 22 in Leicester, England.