By Steve Kim
Last week, top middleweight contender Avtandil Khurtsidze was arrested for allegedly being part of a Russian crime syndicate in New York City.
On June 8, prosecutors from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York indicted Khurtsidze on charges of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to the indictment, Khurtsidze is alleged to have paid $17,800 for three cases of purportedly stolen cigarettes. Prosecutors also claim to have video footage which allegedly shows the boxer playing the role of an enforcer by striking someone for the group.
Khurtsidze was scheduled to face WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders on July 8th in London - but the arrest immediately canceled the fight and the WBO has since removed the boxer from his mandatory position and vacated his WBO interim-title. Because of the alleged video footage, Khutsidze is being held without bail.
Andre Rozier, who trains Khurtsidze, was shocked and completely caught off-guard by the arrest and the allegations.
"Let me put it to you in these terms - you remember seeing someone stand in the middle of a highway and an 18-wheeler hits them and disintegrates them into many pieces of human flesh? That's how I felt," Rozier said laughing to BoxingScene.com.
Did he have inkling of what his fighter was involved in?
"Not one," Rozier stated. "I don't know if any of this is true or not but I feel really bad for him and he's one of my favorite young fighters in the ring and in the gym and I would just hope that it's not true. He's innocent until proven guilty so we can only wait and see.
"But it looks like they're trying to mount a major, major accusation against him so we'll just have to take it one step at a time."
Steve Kim is the news editor for BoxingScene.com.