By Keith Idec
Demetrius Andrade admits one of the reasons he agreed to fight Artur Akavov is to compare his performance versus Akavov to Billy Joe Saunders’ fight against the Russian contender.
Andrade wanted a higher-profile fight next after he became a two-division champion October 20. Various reasons prevented the WBO middleweight champion from fighting Canelo Alvarez, Jermall Charlo, Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs or Saunders in the foreseeable future, though.
Akavov at least gave Saunders a difficult fight when they met in December 2016 in London. Saunders, in his first fight in nearly a year, fended off Akavov’s challenge, narrowly won a unanimous decision and retained the WBO middleweight crown (116-112, 116-113, 115-113).
Saunders admitted after that fight that he was “embarrassed” by the way he boxed. Akavov (19-2, 8 KOs) is 3-0 since Saunders defeated him, but he hasn’t beaten a top middleweight in any of those three bouts.
The 33-year-old southpaw is ranked No. 8 among the WBO’s middleweight challengers for Andrade’s title. They’ll fight Friday night in a DAZN main event from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“He’s a guy that’s not gonna lay down,” Andrade told BoxingScene.com. “He’s a guy that’s gonna come through. His name ain’t Rocky Fielding. He’s a guy who’s gonna try his hardest to win, and that’s the type of fights that I want, guys who come to win, because it’s just gonna elevate and make my performance much better, and show the people the person I am inside and outside the ring.”
Andrade (26-0, 16 KOs), of Providence, Rhode Island, studied Saunders-Akavov while preparing for the first defense of his new title.
“I watched it,” Andrade said. “I ain’t no fool. I took a look at it to see what type of fight he brought. People wanna come up with this – when I read certain things, now that I’m fighting Artur, who fought Billy Joe Saunders, and the reason why we’re fighting him is because he fought Billy Joe Saunders. He’s one of the only guys that said, ‘Yes,’ that made sense as well, because Billy Joe fought him, went 12 rounds and it was difficult. And people will say [things] and Billy Joe will come up with his own excuse because the fight was more difficult than they thought it would be. ‘Oh, I wasn’t in shape. I wasn’t this. I wasn’t that.’
“Man, listen, you’re a professional and you haven’t done the professional thing, as far as getting in shape and clean. So, I don’t wanna hear that sh*t, when people wanna sit there and say things about when Billy Joe fought him. I’m taking the fight because I know this guy is gonna come forward, throw punches and try to win. And it’s gonna make me look good because I’m gonna try to do the same thing.”
Andrade defeated Namibia’s Walter Kautondokwa by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder October 20 at TD Garden in Boston to win the 160-pound championship the WBO stripped from Saunders earlier that month. England’s Saunders (27-0, 13 KOs) was supposed to make a mandatory defense of that title against Andrade, but he was denied a license by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission for failing a performance-enhancing drug test.
Kautondokwa (17-1, 16 KOs) replaced Saunders on less than two weeks’ notice once Saunders couldn’t obtain a Massachusetts boxing license. He was denied because he tested positive for a banned stimulant late in August in an exam administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.