Saunders Withdraws from Title Defense

Middleweight belt holder Billy Joe Saunders has pulled out of his upcoming title defense, ESPN reported on Thursday. His promoter Frank Warren did not publicly announce what injury Saunders sustained, but it is believed to be a hand injury that will keep him out of his Oct. 22 fight with Artur Akavov.

The fight was scheduled to take place at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales. The fight had first set to be on the undercard of the Oct. 22 Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko rematch in Manchester, but that fight was cancelled and Saunders vs. Akavov was moved to Cardiff.

The entire card will now be postponed as the hometown draw Liam Smith (15-0-1, 10 KOs) also suffered an injury while training. The card will be moved to Nov. 26 at the same location, ESPN reports.

"I apologize to the fans for any inconvenience this may cause," Warren said. "It is extremely frustrating as the event is already essentially sold out and we were all geared up for a cracking night of boxing on Oct. 22 in Cardiff. I am particularly gutted for Tommy Langford, who has sold around 2,000 tickets for his British middleweight title challenge against Sam Sheedy, but I’m sure his support will no doubt still be out in force on Nov. 26."

Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs) won the middleweight belt from Andy Lee last December and has yet to defend it. He lobbied for a fight with middleweight king Gennady Golovkin and then turned down a seven-figure payday when the fight was offered to him. Then, he pulled out of a fight with Ukraine’s Max Bursak in April citing an injury. Saunders was then offered a spot on the undercard of Canelo-Smith in September, against either Gabriel Rosado, Willie Monroe Jr. or Curtis Stevens, with a guaranteed fight against Canelo if he was victorious. He turned down all three opponents and instead chose to fight the relatively unknown Akavov.

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