By Elliot Foster
Lagoon Leisure Centre, Paisley, Scotland - Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12KOs) was very rusty and sluggish in a lackluster twelve round unanimous decision victory over Artur Akavov (16-2, 7KOs) to retain the WBO middleweight championship. The scores were 116-113, 116-112 and 115-113.
Because of injuries and other types of delays, this was Saunders' first defense and first ring appearance since capturing the world title last December with a decision win over Andy Lee - in what was Saunders' career defining performance.
The pair were set to meet last weekend, at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on November 26, but issues with the challenger’s paperwork meant that the fight was forced back by seven days and it instead took place at the Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley, Scotland.
Akavov is the WBO’s European champion and provided Saunders, who had been out for the best part of 12 months since beating Andy Lee in Manchester to claim the crown, with a significant task.
The Russian was leading in the fight after halfway on my card, but the latter parts of the fight were bossed by Saunders, who is now 24-0 with 12 KOs.
There was some change in the corner of Saunders, who didn’t have long-time mentor Jimmy Tibbs by his side. Instead, Danny Vaughan, his friend Ben Davies and Johnney Roye were in the corner.
A meeting is reportedly scheduled upon Saunders’ return to London, England to discuss his future with the aforementioned Tibbs, who had cornered him for every professional fight before tonight.
Akavov faded as the fight continued as ‘Superb’ –– who struggled badly early on –– pulled away.
However, Saunders still had to work until the final bell when he was handed a unanimous decision by margins of 116-113, 116-112, 115-113 by the three ringside judges. Akavov, 30, slips to 16-2 in defeat.