In Diriyah later today we'll see the latest Matchroom card, headlined by a Heavyweight title rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua. The bout is one of the biggest of the year. It's on a bumper Sky Box Office PPV, it's on DAZN in the US WOWOW in Japan and various other broadcasters around the globe. It is one of boxing's biggest spectaculars of the year and likely to be the most profitable fight of the year, with a massive site fee to go with all the broadcasting rights.
Whilst the show has multiple issues with it, some of which have been gone over by better writers than I including the human rights issues with Saudi Arabia, and we have previously stated our case on the increase in pricing in the UK, the one that is perhaps the most irritating right now, and follows on from what I wrote in last weeks Hot Take, is the number of fighters on the show with failed drugs tests to their names.
We're not going to go in depth on the various complications of drug testing or the ineffectiveness of the Clean Boxing Program and he VADA tests, both of which are better than nothing but neither is close to good enough for the sport, and both should only be seen as the bare minimum expected of fighters. My guess is that the future of drug testing will be 365 day a year round testing, not a random test here and there, but daily tests, measuring not just for the chemicals we know can be taken, but also for elevated levels and changes. This will be the gold standard in the future, and although still not impossible to beat, will really make it significantly tougher.
Instead of blaming the testing agencies, which are not yet fully fit for purpose, and are in some cases quite toothless when it comes to the suspensions they can hand out, we are going to focus on promoters, and how the buck really does stop with them. Contrary to what some might think. At the end of the day the promoters, essentially, decide who gets to be on their shows, who fights, what they get paid and where the fights take place. If the promoters refuse to play ball with those who get caught with illicit substances in their system then the fighters will have to either self fund shows, or get out of the sport.
Hearn himself seems to actually agree with the point I've made above, with their not being enough testing. He himself has pointed out that "The testing is too sporadic in the US. There is simply not enough of it carried out." The truth is that it's not the US that that's a problem in, but a global problem. The entire sport needs to see a massive increase in testing for world class fighters.
Hearrn himself has stated also stated "Anthony (Joshua) insists on VADA testing for himself and his opponents from 14 weeks out from a fight and the cost comes out of the promotional budget." For a fighter fighting twice a year, as Joshua has this year, it means he and his opponent, in this case Andy Ruiz for both fights, spend just over half of the year in some form of testing program. Given we still don't really understand how good long term effects of drugs are, this simply isn't good enough. It's better than nothing, sure, but still isn't good enough. It's been suggested in research that benefit from testosterone can give benefits an athlete's entire career, and taking that outside of the 14 week window could give significant long term benefits. There's then the slippery slope with Testostrone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and the Therapuetic Ues Exceptions (TUE's).
Staying with Hearn's own words in regards to the WBC, and their Clean Boxing Program, “I’ve got guys who have signed with me and signed up to WBC testing, they’ve never been tested". There appears to be no point to the WBC's CBP until they actually give you a regular series of random test when you move into their rankings. In our eyes the program simply isn't good enough, or fit for purpose. As we've seen in the past, they sometimes allow people to just fight anyway, or give them such insignificant punishments that they are meaningless. Luis Nery failed a test but was allowed to keep the title he won, so what was the point in the CBP there?
So with WBC not testing enough and the drug testing bodies not yet catching up to the level of testing needed, we need someone to stand up for the sport. Why not have it be the man who said “Something is going to happen, someone is going to die, someone is going to get hurt for life, someone is going to get paralysed by a drugs cheat, what happens then? Is that murder?"
At the end of the day a promoter putting 4 fighters, that's 40% of the fighters on the poster above, on a show who have failed a drugs test suggests that he's okay with drugs cheats in boxing. In fact it suggests he's happy to pay them, potentially rewarding them, for taking substances that are banned. With the card having Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte, Mariusz Wach and Eric Molina it seems very much like someone getting "hurt for life" is a price Mr Hearn is happy with.
Of course it's boxing, this is one show among many that Mr Hearn will put on this year, and these are but a handful of his fighters. But lets not overlook that he has other fighters who have failed drug tests, with a variety of excuses, among his stable. Including Billy Joe Saunders, Hughie Fury, Kid Galahad. He has also signed for Joshua to fight Jarrell Miller, who had failed a drugs test. It seems that whilst drugs cheats are bad, they aren't that bad...
I am, for the sake of this article, putting all fighters that fail drug tests under the same banner. The reality is that they aren't the same. What Miller did, by essentially being a human cocktail of drugs, is much worse than testing positive for a chemical in a nasal spray or on a skin cream. One is deliberately cheating the other, perhaps ignorantly breaking the rules, but at the end of the day the athlete needs to take responsibility for their body, what's in it and what they take. Going back to the long term benefits for something like testosterone, whilst not everything will give such stark long term improvements things that help prolong the amount of training, speeding up recovery time are also helping an athlete get an unfair advantage. The advantage of something in a cold medicine being able to aid training, is still giving an advantage to an athlete.
Whilst the argument is that promoters aren't the police of boxing might be true, they are the ones with the power to truly punish fighters who fail tests. They are they ones who can blackball fighters, refuse to work with them, and make it clear the sport is going to a zero tolerance model. The problem is no promoter wants to take the risk of letting one of the fighters make money for someone else, so maybe a collective promotional code of conduct needs to be brought in, and signed up to by promoters, to alleviate the fear that is Hearn doesn't use Dillian Whyte, neither will Bob Arum, Lou DiBella, Oscar De La Hoya or Frank Warren. Rather than freezing a fighter out independently, you freeze them out as a collective, you finally all get on the same page on something and move forward with a clear vision of a drug free sport. If a fighter breaches the agreement it would allow the others to freeze them out of any joint promotional work.
Looking back over the murder quote above, it does leave the question, if a known drugs cheat does kill someone in the ring will the promoter be an accomplice to murder?
At the end of the day being a professional sports person is not a right, it's an honour. As sports fans we have become accustomed to people doing bad, then, eventually, being welcomed back to the sport. The reality however is that boxing, and MMA and other combat sports, aren't the same as cycling. This is a sport where advantages you have can have untold medical affects on other competitors. In cycling and tennis cheating is punished because you are cheating the sport. In combat sports it needs to be punished more severely as fighter is risking someone else's health.
Note - For those suggesting day by day testing is unworkable for costs, it's worth noting that in 2018 the University of Waterloo sent out a press releases stating they were close to developing a test that would cost a fraction of current tests, work incredibly quickly, and work as a flagging system before a more in depth confirmatory test was done. This would allow day by day testing, and where a test is flag a full test would then be needed. This is certainly a workable model in boxing, and whilst it might still be some time away from hitting the market, so to speak, it seems the future is almost here.
This time last week we were all sharing our disappointment and frustrations at Mexican fighter Luis Nery (30-0, 24), and how he had missed weight, again, forcing the cancellation of his highly anticipated bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12). The bout, supposed world title eliminator, was one of the best match ups for the weekend, but again unprofessionalism reared it's head in Nery's career, something that has come up time and time again.
Heading into his August 2017 bout with Shinsuke Yamanaka, Nery was touted as one of the new stars of Mexican boxing. The 22 year old hard hitting southpaw was exciting, powerful and a full of confidence. He had a rather arrogant and yet charming personality, a real charisma and oozed that rare quality that makes him a must watch fighter. His win over Yamanaka in that bout, dethroning a long reigning world champion widely regarded as the #1 in the division should have been the performance that kicked off a huge career as a Mexican boxing icon. Instead it revealed something we didn't know about Nery. He was unprofessional ass hole.
A pre-fight drug test, taken almost a month before the fight, revealed he had taken Zilpaterol, which was similar to Clenbuterol, and would have helped him make weight. The WBC, at the time, were doing a song and dance routine about their WBC Clean Boxing Program. It was a chance for the WBC to shine, and show they were serious about drug cheats, something we now know they aren't. Instead of stripping Nery and slapping him with a lengthy ban they essentially told him off with words.
They excused his actions, they ordered a rematch with Yamanaka and ordered him to have a nutritionist. They let him keep the title, and pretty did nothing other than say "fight the guy you cheated against again"... A rematched happened only a few months later and once again Nery won under a shroud of controversy, coming in well over the limit. Yamanaka and Teiken should have told Nery to fuck off. Go back to Mexico and with your tail tucked between your legs. Instead they went on with the fight, with Yamanaka desperate to recover the title that had been taken from him, a title the WBC should have handed back when Nery's positive test came back.
For missing weight he was given an indefinite ban by the JBC, who pushed the WBC to give a real punishment. Sources in Japan reported that the JBC were close to completely cutting ties with the WBC over the situation if they didn't punish Nery in some way, cutting off a major market for the WBC.
In the end the WBC essentially suspended Nery for 6 month. A pointless ban in today's boxing environment where world class fighters fight every 6 months or so. That ban was backed dated to the day of the weigh in, and came with the caveat that he had to pay for a nutritionist for those 6 months.
Since then Nery has been unable to keep his weight under control.
He originally failed to make weigh for his 2019 clash with Juan Carlos Payano, needing to lose 0.5lbs after originally missing weight. He managed it, but it was another example of his unprofessional behaviour, the behaviour that had seen him banned in Japan.
Just over a week ago he came in at 119lbs for the bout with Rodriguez. Typically a fighter who misses weight by 1lbs will try again, after going and sweating off some excess water weight. Nery said fuck that and refused.
Thankfully Rodriguez did the right thing and said no to the fight. He said no to Nery. He said no to someone who had been able to get away with being an unprofessional. He, Rodriguez, made it clear that he is not willing to fight someone who needs an unfair advantage to face him. It was about time that someone said no to Nery and it leaves so many questions about Nery and his career going forward.
It's clear the Mexican can no longer make Bantamweight on a consistent basis. He might be able to make it, but at what cost?
In Japan Daigo Higa was unable was unable to make Flyweight to defend his WBC title against Cristofer Rosales. The JBC put their foot down, even though Higa was a rising star, and gave him an indefinite suspension and refused to let him fight at Flyweight again. The WBA did something similar when Guillermo Jones had failed a test for Furosemide, a diuretic, and then missed the Cruiserweight limit, refusing to back him for any fights at Cruiserweight.
It's now time the WBC do the right thing. If Nery wants to fight again he can. But first he should be punished, this isn't a one off act but a trend of behaviour over the last few yeas, a repeated trend of treating the sport with contempt. After being punished, with what needs to be a lengthy global ban, the fighter shouldn't be given any more opportunities at Bantamweight, and that's partly for his own health.
Whilst we would like to see boxing taking a real stance on cheats, both drugs and weight cheats, the sport it's self seems to accept both as part of it's make up. It's now time boxing comes clean, says "fuck Luis Nery, fuck cheats" and finally puts it's foot down. No more sweeping things under the carpet, no more looking at the drug testing bodies to do the job that the sport needs to do. It's now time boxing, it's promoters and it's fans make a statement. We need to stop tuning in to see cheats. If we don't do that then we need to protest during fights.
Fans attending future bouts of fighters like Jarrell Miller, if Miller fights on the under-card of a bigger show, should vocally express how bullshit should be treated in the sport and boo throughout the fight. Support the show by all means, but not the particular fighter. Similar with Nery, when he returns to the ring....likely in 3 months time in another WBC world title eliminator, fans should boo the fight, if not boycott it all together.
We need to make it clear that we don't want cheats in our sport any more!
Recently Sky Sports in the UK announced the price of their PPV for the upcoming rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua, with the higher than typical price tag of £24.95. Whilst it appears to be a clear money grab by Sky Sports and promoter Eddie Hearn it did make us think about value in boxing, and how, by shopping around, you can get real value to follow the sport.
We have been long term users of iSakura, a service that provides Japanese TV streaming to a wider audience. Not only does the service offer live streaming but also allows a 14 day catch up window, making it a great service to use to watch things you might have missed due to typical every day life events, for example your job.
When we saw the price of the Joshua Vs Ruiz fight we went to have a look to see what Japanese service it was on, whether it was DAZN in Japan or WOWOW, and whether or not it was live. As it turned out it was being shown live on WOWOW, which is available through Isakura pro.
For just over £24, at the current conversion of £ to $, you can get 1 month of isakura TV pro. As long as the £ to $ exchange rate doesn't change too much come December 1st it's a no brainer as to where to put your money. Rather than giving it to the greedy, self serving people at Sky you can give it to the wonderful people at isakura and get a lot, lot more than just the 1 off Ruiz Vs Joshua bout.
If you ordered 1 month of isakura TV pro on December 1st you'd get get access to live coverage of:
December 7th show from Korakuen Hall (Noynay Vs Ogawa, Sueyoshi vs Saka)
December 8th show from Saudi Arabia (Ruiz Vs Joshua II)
December 15th show from New York (Crawford Vs Kavaliauskas)
December 22nd show from Korakuen Hall (All Japan Rookie of the Year)
December 23rd show (Murata Vs Butler, Yaegashi Vs Mthalane)
December 31st show (Ioka Vs Cintron, Tanaka VsTuolehazi)
As well as tape delay coverage of:
West Japan Rookie of the Year Final bouts (you'd have to use the catch up service and go to November 26th for this)
December 12th Diamond Glove
Whilst the international shows will only feature the main events, for many that is all they are interested in, and although the commentary is in Japanese for most of us boxing commentary is terrible, so not understanding it doesn't take anything away from the experience. Also as many know Japanese commentary is wonderful excitable, and can add to quality of a fight.
If you are a fight fan this December treat yourself, give iSakura a shot with the 96 channel version here http://www.isakuraiptv.com/recharge and make it clear the greedy men behind the over priced PPV that you are sick of what they are doing. You sick of them over charging and under-delivering and want to watch more of the sport. With some much content coming from Japan through iSakura in December this is worth considering even if you do plan paying for Sky Box Office, and really quality streams of Japanese channels are hard to come by, especially for G+ who will have the Rookie of the Year.
The service is available for android, windows, ios and can be put on to certain TV sticks, including an Amazon fire, allowing you to watch on TV, phone or computer, making it a very versatile service for fans at home or on the go.
(Please note - Asianboxing.info is not affiliated with isakura, the link is not an affiliate link and we receive no financial incentive, this is purely to try and help fans realise what they can get for the price of the Box Office PPV through the isakura service)
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces