Saunders to fight Isufi for vacant WBO super-middleweight belt
Billy Joe Saunders and Shefat Isufi will go head to head for the vacant WBO super-middleweight title on April 13, it has been announced.
Saunders was crowned WBO king at middleweight in late 2015, completing three successful defences of his strap before vacating it in October last year, having failed to receive a licence to box in Boston against Demetrius Andrade.
The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission denied Saunders, who had returned an adverse finding in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association test two months earlier, a licence, leaving Andrade to overcome Walter Kautondokwa on points to claim the vacant title.
Saunders (27-0) did return to the ring in December after a year out, defeating Charles Adamu in Manchester, and has now set his sights on becoming a two-weight world champion as he prepares to take on Isufi, who has a 27-3-2 career record.
"It is a brilliant opening for me," said Saunders, who will meet Isufi at the SSE Arena, Wembley. "You've got these rumours that Andrade is going for shoulder surgery, as well as the financial side of it with the [purse] split – it all doesn't add up.
"Me winning this super-middleweight title will put me in a great position for unifications with the likes of [WBA super-middleweight champion] Callum Smith, while we've got Chris Eubank boxing James DeGale at the weekend [for the vacant IBO belt].
"There are a lot of big, big fights at this weight, but my real home of homes is middleweight, so I can move down at any time I want and be back as mandatory for my middleweight title and then become a three-time world champion.
"So I am really looking forward to it and Isufi comes as a really stiff test. He is very, very strong and you have to be really switched on and calculating with this sort of opponent.
"He is one of those who, with what he does, he does very, very well when the bell goes.
"He has boxed at light-heavyweight and cruiserweight so he is going to be a big, big lump and I need to make sure I am on it and stay away from those big bombs."