Billy Joe Saunders' WBO middleweight title defence has been cancelled after Avtandil Khurtsidze was arrested and charged in relation to United States RICO legislation and a connection to a Russian crime syndicate.
The pair where scheduled to fight on July 8 which has now been called off after the 38-year-old Georgian was arrested in New York on Wednesday in connection with RICO conspiracy and the conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Both crimes carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.
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What is the RICO conspiracy?
Well, according to the Daily Mail, RICO (The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) is a US law specifically targeting racketeering.
Racketeering charges normally relate to illegal business activities and money extortion and is commonly associated with the organised crime world.
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Racketeering charges also commonly involve the following: robbery, bribery, extortion, arson, gambling, kidnapping, dealing in obscene matter, dealing in manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or prohibited chemical, and murder.
Saunders vs Khurtsidze was scheduled to take place at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday, July 8. Instead, if he is convicted, the Georgian faces a lengthy prison term with the maximum sentence for racketeering being around 20 years.
So, if Khurtsidze is sentenced, we won’t be seeing him in the boxing ring any time soon or perhaps at all.
It’s harsh on Billy Joe: the British fighter has not had a bout in over a year after middle-weight Gennady Golovkin opted for a lucrative fight with Canelo Alvarez in September.
Frank Warren, the Briton’s fight promoter, released a statement on Thursday, which stated: “Queensberry Promotions were informed that Billy Joe Saunders’ mandatory challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze was yesterday (Wednesday) arrested in New York indicted under the RICO Act.
“As such, his contest with WBO World Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders scheduled for Saturday 8th July at the Copper Box Arena, cannot take place on that date as his promoter Lou Di Bella has confirmed he will be unable to travel.
“We are currently planning to postpone the fight to a later date.
“However, due to the obvious seriousness of this matter, Queensberry Promotions are given no choice but to wait for more details to emerge before anything can be confirmed.”
The US state department released a statement about the case surrounding Khurtsidze and 32 other defendants who have been charged in line with RICO legislation and wire fraud.
The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of £200,000.
Khurtsidze, took to Facebook on Thursday to tell his fans that: “Friends, as you know, I went to America yesterday to prepare for the July 8 fight. Immediately after arriving in New York, there was a very serious misunderstanding.
“I hope that in the near future everything will be cleared up and I will continue to prepare for the fight against Saunders. Thank you every time I feel your support.”
Avtandil Khurtsidze, what were you thinking!
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