Billy Joe Saunders' title defence off as opponent is arrested in New York
Billy Joe Saunders will not be fighting Avtandil Khurtsidze on July 8.
The WBO middleweight champion was scheduled to defend his title against the veteran Georgian this summer but the fight has officially been called off after Khurtsidze was arrested in New York.
Khurtsidze was one of 33 people arrested on charges relating to organised crime in New York City, with the official charge against the 38-year-old coming as "RICO Conspiracy."
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Today, we have charged 33 members and associates of a Russian organised crime syndicate allegedly engaging a panoply of crimes around the country. The indictments include charges against the alleged head of this national criminal enterprise, one of the first federal racketeering charges ever brought against a Russian ‘vor.’ The dizzying array of criminal schemes committed by this organised crime syndicate allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, the theft of cargo shipments containing over 10,000 pounds of chocolate, and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices. Thanks to the remarkable interagency partnership of FBI, CBP, and NYPD, we have charged and arrested 33 defendants allegedly involved in this criminal enterprise.”
A press conference aimed at promoting Saunders vs. Khurtsidze took place last month and the undefeated Brit had the room in stitches when he hugged his opponent to dispel the tension in the air.
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) May 16, 2017
But a statement from promoter Frank Warren on Thursday afternoon confirmed that the fight was off the card, which will still go ahead at the Copper Box Arena.
"Today, Queensberry Promotions were informed that Billy Joe Saunders’ mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze was yesterday arrested in New York indicted under the RICO Act," the statement read.
"As such, his contest with WBO World Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders scheduled for Saturday 8th July at the Copper Box Arena, cannot take place on that date as his promoter Lou DiBella has confirmed he will be unable to travel."
Saunders v Khurtsidze Statement https://t.co/JY5K0uJslR
— Frank Warren (@frankwarren_tv) June 8, 2017
The statement continued: "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."