This past week former multi-time Light Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29) had an adverse result in one of his VADA drug tests, something that was first reported by Dan Rafael for Boxingscene. At the time it was unclear whether Kovalev's scheduled January 30th bout with fast rising Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев] could still be salvaged or whether it would have to be cancelled.
Now it's been confirmed that the bout won't be taking place at all, with Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter of the bout, releasing a statement regarding the cancelation of the event yesterday:
"The Kovalev vs. Melikuziev boxing event scheduled for Jan. 30 has been cancelled following a positive test for a banned substance on behalf of Sergey Kovalev through the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
Upon learning of Kovalev’s adverse finding, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) determined that they must cancel the event.
While we are crushed for “The Bully” (Melikuziev), we know that he will nevertheless have a tremendous year in 2021. We look forward to our next scheduled boxing event on Feb. 13.2"
Whilst this is disappointing news for Melikuziev, who misses out on a huge opportunity to face off with a former world champion, it is interesting to note that the statement seems to confirm that the February 13th show will still go ahead, despite the recent positive Covid19 test of Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) [Шавкатджон Рахимов], cancelling his bout against IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph "Jojo" Diaz (31-1, 15).
Fingers crossed we see Melikuziev out in the ring, against a solid opponent, in the very near future, especially given how he has been denied such a big fight with Kovalev's drug testing issue.
The last 24 hours or so have been torrid ones for DAZN.
Firstly there was reports of a positive drug test for former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29). That test will likely force a cancellation of a planned January 30th bout against fast rising Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев]. This was supposed to be DAZN's big bout to end a relatively action-free January.
Although not officially, yet, it's expected this bout, and the subsequent show, may be scrapped on very short notice due to Kovalev's test.
Soon after that it was reported that a scheduled February 13th bout, between IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph "Jojo" Diaz (31-1, 15) and Tajik challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) [Шавкатджон Рахимов] is now also off.
Keith Idec, reporting for Boxingscene, reported that the Rakhimov tested positive for Covid19 forcing him to be pulled from the show, and have his shot at the IBF title delayed.
At the moment it's unclear if Diaz will face a short notice opponent, with former Diaz foe Tevin Farmer (30-5-1-1, 6) throwing his name in to the hat for a rematch, or whether the focus will be on rescheduling the mandatory for Spring.
This bout has been a long saga, already fuelled by legal issues and a lengthy wait for Rakhimov. The unbeaten Russian based Tajik won an eliminator in September 2019, when he stopped Azinga Fuzile in south Africa, before accusations that he had used illegal substance, including smelling salts. There was a challenge to his position as the mandatory challenger due to the issues regarding the substances.
There was also further complicated by Diaz and Farmer having a rematch clause in their contract for their first bout, in 2019. A clause that Farmer's team tried to enforce.
Around 2 hours ago Dan Rafael broke the news that former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29) had a positive VADA drug test, ahead of his scheduled January 30th bout with unbeaten Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев].
Following this original post to social media Rafael followed up with part of that VADA letter which explained that Kovalev's "A" sample, taken on December 30th, has had an had and adverse finding "consistent with exogenous original of testosterone and metabolites". The letter also suggests that Kovalev has the right to request an analysis of the B sample.
Of course VADA also explain that they aren't responsible for sanctions, and that is down to the likes of CSAC, as well as the promoters of the event ant the ABC.
Following the news breaking Melikuziev took to social media himself to essentially request that the fight goes ahead anyway:
This is the latest twist in the bout, which recently got moved from Russia to the US due to a worsening Covid19 situation.
Sadly if the bout does end up being called off it would be a huge disappointment for Melikuziev and his career, with this bout expected to be a launch pad for him towards a world title fight. It would also be a hugely disappointing way for Kovalev's career to come to an end, and would continue a real downfall for the Russian who has been embroiled in a number of issues out of the ring in recent years. They have included accusations of racism, assaulting a woman, inappropriate drunken behaviour and illegally streaming a DAZN event on social media.
Dan Rafael's full article regarding the drug test can be read here:
Back in December it was announced that unbeaten Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев] would be facing former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29) in Russia at the end of January. Now however it's been confirmed that the venue for the bout has shifted from Russia to the US.
Originally the plan was for the contest to take place at the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow, however according to Sports.Uz the on going pandemic forced a change from Russia and now the bout will be held at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino Arena in Indio, California.
Despite the chance in venue the show is set to be shown early on in the US to help appeal to a European and Central Asian audience, with DAZN showing the bout. The will be good news for British fans, and although not perfect for a US audience it certainly isn't as bad as it would be for fans in Russia and Uzbekistan as the show being on at a "normal" time for a US show.
Interestingly Sports.uz also report that the contracted weight for this bout is 178lbs, which is 10lbs heavier than we saw Melikuziev fighting at last time out, when he stopped Alan Campa. Despite that he's seen as a clear favourite against the heavy hitting, but much faded, Kovalev.
One of the really great things about the current wave of Uzbek fighters is their willingness to test themselves early and look to leave a mark as quickly possible. They don't seem to want to wait around for years, toiling in the rankings whilst padding their records.
With that in mind it should come as no surprise to see unbeaten Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев] chasing big fights, and now he's landed a massive one for January 30th as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29), at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The bout will be Melikuziev's first professional bout outside of the US and will see Kovalev look to get some revenge over Uzbekistan for a 2008 loss in Moscow against Abbos Atoev, when he was knocked out inside a round by the incredible Uzbek amateur. The bout also comes some 14 months after he was stopped by Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Although a fantastic fighter in his prime we do wonder what Kovalev has left in the tank. He will be 38 in April, and has been stopped 3 times in his 39 fight professional career. He is, however, a massive step up in class compared to Melikuziev's previous opponents, and even with his prime gone he still has a good jab and very, very heavy hands. He's not the type of fighter that anyone can take liberties with, even someone as good as the "Bully".
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