Middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders is taking the path of least resistance.
Saunders, offered a career-high payday in the low seven figures to face Gennady Golovkin in a title unification fight on April 23, turned it down and instead will defend against Max Bursak. Saunders and Bursak will meet on April 30 at the Copper Box Arena in London, promoter Frank Warren announced Monday at a news conference in London.
Unable to secure a deal with Saunders, Golovkin's team made a deal for him to fight mandatory challenger Dominic Wade instead. Days later, Saunders called Golovkin out to unify titles with him even though he had just rejected the lucrative, high-profile fight. Weeks later, Saunders' bout against Bursak, who is 3-3 in his past six fights, was announced.
"Nothing comes easy in boxing, and I'm definitely not taking Bursak for granted," Saunders said.
"He's a good, good fighter and very dangerous, and if I don't come in 100 percent, then he could cause an upset in my first title defense. I've worked long and hard to get where I am, and look at the massive fights ahead of me against the likes of Golovkin.
"So, no, I'm going to make sure I'm in perfect shape and give Bursak the toughest night he's ever had. He's never been stopped before, so that's something I'm looking at doing."
Saunders (23-0, 12 KOs), 26, of England, claimed the 160-pound belt on Dec. 19 in Manchester, England, as he knocked down Ireland's Andy Lee twice in the third round and won a tactical majority decision.
Bursak (32-4-1, 15 KOs), 31, of Ukraine, the former European middleweight champion, has never beaten a top contender but has faced experienced opponents, including in a decision loss for an interim world title against Hassan N'Dam in 2012.
Bursak, who has also lost decisions to former world title challengers Martin Murray and Jarrod Fletcher, said he was thankful for the opportunity Saunders is giving him.
"Thank you to Billy Joe Saunders for giving me a shot at the world title. Unfortunately for Saunders, this is going to be his first and last defense of the title because I will be taking the title off him when I face him on April 30," Bursak said. "I am telling Saunders to be prepared and train hard because he will be in for the fight of his life and I will be looking for the knockout."
Warren also announced a pair of undercard bouts.
England's Ovill McKenzie (25-12-1, 13 KOs), 36, who in his last outing traveled to Argentina and fought to a draw with Victor Emilio Ramirez in a cruiserweight world title bout in October, will face Dmytro Kucher (23-1-1, 17 KOs) for the vacant European cruiserweight title. Kucher, 31, of Ukraine, is also coming off a draw, in October, for the vacant European title against Bilal Laggoune.
British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh (20-1-1, 9 KOs), 29, will make his second defense of the title against 22-year-old James Tennyson (16-1, 13 KOs), who has won eight fights in a row.