By: Sean Crose
“I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity,” WBO middleweight champ Demetrius Andrade claims. “Fighting at Madison Square Garden, where so many great fighters have fought is a true honor, and something I have dreamt about my entire life.” Andrade, who won the title last October in Boston against a game, yet vastly outgunned, Walter Kautondokwa, will indeed be fighting in Madison Square Garden as he engages in his first title defense on January 18th. The 26-0 Rhode Island native will be facing the 19-2 Artur Akavov in his first title defense, which will be aired live through the DAZN streaming service.
Matchroom Boxing which is promoting the bout, claims “‘Boo Boo’ (as Andrade is known) now wants to become an active champ as he targets unification battles in 2019.” This statement is an interesting one, as middleweight kingpin Canelo Alvarez himself now fights on the DAZN streaming service. First, though, Andrade must get past Akavov, who in 2016 gave Billy Joe Saunders (who was set to face Andrade last October before he tested positive for a banned substance) all he could handle before dropping a decision to the Englishman.
“People might not know much about Akavov,” says Andrade, “but this is a guy who went overseas and gave Billy Joe Saunders absolute hell. Most people thought that he should have won the fight.” Andrade, whose activity level was questionable before hooking up with Matchroom honcho Eddie Hearn and DAZN, makes it clear that he’s now eager to challenge himself regularly. “This is an optional defense,” he says, “so I could have fought anyone I wanted, but we chose to fight a guy that we know is going to bring it all night long and a guy who in many people’s eyes beat Saunders.”
“After the fight with Saunders,” says Akavov, “I was hoping for a rematch because that fight left a lot of unanswered questions…I believe that Andrade is a better fighter than Saunders and this is my chance to answer those questions. I understand the weight of the responsibility that is on my shoulders and will give it 100 per cent.” Former lightweight champ and Vasyl Lomachenko foil Jorge Linares will appear on January’s card, as will Amanada Serano, who will be gunning for the WBO world super flyweight title. Chris Algieri, the former junior welterweight titlist, Manny Pacquiao opponent, and nutritionist of note, will be appearing on the card, as well, as part of his comeback to regain prominence.