Billy Joe Saunders vs Artur Akavov
BY KID HERSH
From the Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley, Scotland, Billy Joe Saunders (23-0, 12KO's) is back in the ring on BoxNation after almost an entire year layoff. He is defending his WBO middleweight title against unknown Artur Akavov (16-1, 7KO's).
In the first round Saunders looked like he had ring rust to shake off - and he was literally shaking his gloves from time to time to get going. Despite the initial slow start he did get his hands moving by the end of the first round and was looking far too quick for Akavov. The second round was still a fairly slow one but Akavov got his offense going more and was pressing the action. Akavov, ever the unknown, had good head movement going that was confusing Saunders as he tried to get a look at the enigma in front of him and to judge range but just couldn't get anything working yet. It was more of the same in the third round, with Akavov even landing a beauty of a left hand a little over midway through the round. He doesn't have amazing power to go with the pretty shot but it further shows the story of the interesting fight unfolding where the unknown is ahead of the champion. It was another close round in the fourth and then early in the fifth round Akavov landed another beauty of a left hand - the second best punch of the fight and second won by Akavov. The rounds were very difficult to score due to Saunders not looking sharp, not being effective, but Akavov lacking the skills and power to dominate the rounds. I thought Akavov was edging them thus far though. Saunders finally woke up a bit in the seventh round, using his speed and sense of distance to score from the outside on Akavov. It was just a glimmer of hope for Saunders though as he did not continue it consistently throughout the round. After a slow start to the eighth round Saunders came alive again and the coming rounds got into this same rhythm of Akavov starting them quick and Saunders finishing off the rounds. They edged this direction more and more as evidenced in the tenth round when Akavov started hot and pushed Saunders back for thirty seconds but then it was the champion who finished the remainder of the round strong. In the championship rounds Saunders was able to close the show but Akavov was really trying his best to make it a debatable decision fight. Saunders would get the unanimous decision but it was a surprisingly close fight that he looked terrible in throughout. He even said in the post fight that he had a terrible performance due to inactivity, claiming that nothing could have made him look better because he just had to get back in the ring. I see his point, but still a fight like this is hard to get out of the fans minds and honestly in my opinion it shows a ceiling for the champ.