WBO middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders produced an admittedly underwhelming performance following a layoff of nearly one year as he squeaked past the unheralded Artur Akavov, who allowed Saunders to impose his jab-heavy mobility offense.
After seven rounds Akavov was leading 50-43 in overall connects but Saunders was able to catch up when he invested more power shots into his attack.
For Saunders, the jab comprised 70.6% of his output and 62.2% of his connects while for Akavov it made up 65.4% of his output and 45.7% of his connects. Scoring: 116-113, 116-112, 115-113.
Scotland - Billy Joe Saunders went through a successful first defense of his WBO middleweight title against Artur Akavov on Saturday night, with the British boxer starting slowly but finishing the 12-rounder a bit better.
The three judges called it 116-113, 116-112 and 115-113 in favor of Saunders (24-0) at the Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley.
With former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury at ringside supporting Saunders, the champion was determined to retain the title he won against Ireland's Andy Lee last December.
Akavov, previously beaten once in 17 fights but never stopped, looked impressive in the early stages.
Saunders started to move forward with more purpose, perhaps sensing the Russian was beginning to feel the effects of his earlier work, and took the eighth and ninth rounds.
Akavov came back at the start of the 10th but Saunders had gained control and soon had his man on the run, imposing himself in the final rounds to pull out the win.
Saunders admitted after the contest that his performance was poor.