‘Enforcer’ ex-boxing champ jailed for 10 years

Former boxing champion Avtandil Khurtsidze has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for working as the “chief enforcer” for a criminal gang.

The 38-year-old Georgian was convicted in June in New York, of racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy, along with crime boss Razhden Shulaya, known as the “Thief-in-law”.

Prosecutors said Khurtsidze had “substantial influence” in the criminal underworld and that he and his associates, known as the Shulaya Enterprise, were responsible for crimes including extortion, wire fraud, illegal gambling and operating a brothel.

Many of the crime ring’s activities were based in New York but they also operated in other major US cities as well as abroad, a justice department statement said.

Officials say most of the gang’s members were born in the former Soviet Union, with strong ties to Georgia.

Khurtsidze was caught on film twice carrying out assaults, with prosecutors describing him as a “heavyweight enforcer” for the crime ring.

He was also accused of participating in a fraud scheme to predict casino slot machine algorithms, which involved kidnapping a software engineer in Las Vegas in 2014.

On top of his jail sentence, the boxer was given two further years supervision on release.

“Thanks to our dedicated law enforcement partners around the globe, Khurtsidze’s reign of extortion and violence has been halted,” US attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 KOs), who was based in New York, won a vacant interim middleweight world title in April 2017 when he beat England’s Tommy Langford. He was then supposed to fight middleweight title-holder Billy Joe Saunders in a mandatory bout on July 8 in London, but the fight was canceled and Khurtsidze was stripped of his interim belt after he was arrested and denied bail.

Following his conviction, his former promoter Lou DiBella criticised the boxer for squandering his career.

“He let many people down who believed in him, but no one more than himself. Just a waste, and it’s all on him for choosing the dark side,” Di Bella told ESPN.