Glynn Evans delivers the skinny on the much avoided sawn off Georgian spark plug who’s threatening to rub out unbeaten British middleweight boss Tommy Langford when they exchange leather for the WBO ‘interim’ title at Leicester Arena on April 22nd.
1) Avtandil was born on the 2nd May 1979 in Kutaisi (population 200,000), the third most populous city in Georgia. He will turn 38 ten days after fighting Langford.
2) Khurtsidze was first introduced to boxing, aged six, when a local coach visited his school. However, he quit the sport after just three months. At the age of 16, he took up kick boxing ‘to feel secure in the streets’ before returning to conventional pugilism shortly after.
3) Trained by Eldar Gabrichidz, he had just 10 amateur bouts, winning seven. He won the Georgian national title, aged 20, and fought internationally but opted to turn pro because he ‘wasn’t taken to the Olympics’.
4) After winning his pro debut by third round stoppage in Variani, Georgia, Khurtsidze relocated to Philadelphia, USA where he was coached by Augie Smeca and Popo Ocasio. He had his next nine fights in rings on the US Eastern seaboard, drawing twice (to Virginia’s Orazio Robinson and Mexico’s Carlos Antonio Escobar) and losing to Guyana born, Albany, New York based Tony ‘The Tiger’ Marshall in May 2005.
5) Khurtsidze strongly contests that seventh round stoppage defeat to the 2000 WBC Super-Welterweight challenger (lpts 12, Javier Castillejo). Having floored the 34 year old six footer early, the Georgian was clearly ahead on all cards after six rounds (60-54 twice and 59-55) However, Khurtsidze claims he was repeatedly hit low, prior to the stoppage. ‘It was not Tony who won the fight but the referee’ he claims. He returned to Georgia in disgust immediately after.
6) Following a 21 month break, he re-surfaced in Kiev under the Klitschko brothers ‘K2 East’ standard, predominantly as a spar hand for future WBO Super-Welter boss Zaurbek Baysangurov.
7) Between February 2007 and May 2010, ‘Avto’ won 15 straight (eight early) in the Ukraine, hoovering up the (now extinct) European Boxing Association and WBA Inter-Continental middleweight titles.
8) In July 2010, Khurtsidze consolidated his world ranking with several sanctioning bodies, when he travelled to Minsk, Belarus and became only the second fighter to halt local hardcase Siarhei Khamitski. (The first was a certain G. Golovkin!). Khamitski, who bailed out on his stool after six, is well known in the UK for his upset stoppage wins over Jamie Moore, Frank Buglioni and Adam Etches.
9) In the 12 years since his reverse to Marshall, the 5ft 4in spark plug has been beaten just once, a highly controversial 12 round decision to Cameroon-born Frenchman Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam for the WBA ‘interim’ title in Paris. After a wildly exciting Fight of the Year contender, two judges had Khurtsidze adrift by just one point (the third by six) and N’Dam’s home city fans loudly booed the verdict!
10) The following year, back in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the mini Tyson bulldozed over 2000 Polish Olympian Marius Cendrowski (just two pro losses in 25) to claim the lightly regarded IBO world title (presently in the custody of Gennady Golovkin). He retained with an explosive first round count out over Columbian banger Dionisio Miranda (18 stoppages in 21 wins)
11) However, shortly after adding the WBC Silver belt with a tight majority win over Ghana’s two weight Commonwealth king Ossie Duran, the Georgian’s flourishing career came to a standstill for two and a half years due to a contractual dispute with Kiev-based Elite Boxing Promotion.
12) Since the summer of 2014, Khurtsidze has been aligned to Lou DiBella’s promotional company. The well-connected New York foghorn previously enjoyed middleweight success at world level with Jermain Taylor and Sergio Martinez.
13) Under DiBella’s stewardship, Brooklyn-based Khurtsidze has stopped five straight, all in the US. His last three victims had highly credible combined stats of 56-2-3!
14) In November 2015, he was booked into a rematch with N’Dam N’Jikam for the WBA ‘interim’ title. However, the day he was due to fly to France coincided with the Paris bombings and the promotion was scrapped.
15) Instead, DiBella manoeuvred ‘Avto’ into a March 2016 WBO International gig with Virginia’s 19-0-1 and world rated Antoine Douglas in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At just two weeks notice, Khurtsidze inflicted a brutal beatdown, dropping the favourite in rounds three and seven before stopping him in round 10. The Georgian has been inactive in the 13 months since and his record presently rests at 32-2-2.
16) He is presently mandatory contender to WBO king Billy Joe Saunders but early this year accepted ‘step aside’ money to permit the unbeaten Hatfield southpaw to pursue his unification blockbuster with Gennady Golovkin.
17) At just 5ft 4in tall, Khurtsidze would be one of the 160lb division’s shortest world champions were he to be coronated. Known as ‘The Tornado’ for his whirlwind assaults, or the ‘Crack Burglar’ for his propensity for breaking through defensive walls, he is a disturbingly aggressive slugger with clever head movement and a high punch output. It is no surprise that his ring hero as a child was Mike Tyson!
18) He will enter his showdown with Langford with a notable edge in experience. He has had 16 more fights and fought 97 more pro rounds. Of his 11 scheduled 12 round championship fights, he has completed the full trip on six occasions (Tommy just twice). However he shall concede 10 years youth and eight inches in height to the Brummie six footer. (It should be noted that Khurtsidze’s two conquerors (Marshall and N’Dam N’Jikam) are both a similar stature to Tommy).
19) With 21 early wins on his 36 fight slate, the Georgian boasts more stoppages than Langford has had fights. Five first round routs suggest Avtandil is fast out of the traps but he has only one ’10 countout’ on his card, suggesting he erodes rather than explodes. He describes his style as: ‘Power boxing. I’m small but my heart is big.’
20) Away from boxing, he lists his hobby as horse riding.
21) Having previously starred in Georgia, the US, the Ukraine, Belarus and France, he’ll have no reservations about facing Langford in Leicester. Nevertheless, given prior bad experiences, Khurtsidze’s unlikely to risk leaving his destiny in the hands of the officials. He ominously warns: ‘I’m coming for a knockout. I’m coming to break bones!’
Tommy Langford v Avtandil Khurtsidze is live on BoxNation this Saturday.