One of the final newly crowned titlists of 2019 has become the first drug testing casualty of the new year.
Alexander Besputin is currently in the hot seat after a post-fight drug test from his November 30 win over Radzhab Butaev showed an adverse finding of the banned substance Ligandrol, identified as LGD-4033. The fight-which streamed live on DAZN from Casino de Monte Carlo Salle Medecin in Monte Carlo, Monaco—came with the World Boxing Association (WBA) secondary welterweight title at stake, with Besputin claiming a 12-round decision in a furiously paced contest between unbeaten Russian contenders.
Drug testing administered by the Federation Monegasque de Boxe (Monaco Boxing Federation) returned a positive sample for Besputin. Representatives for both boxers were formally notified in a letter sent by the Monaco commission, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com.
Ligandrol is on a number of banned substance lists, including the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The supplement is classified as a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) used as “a pharmaceutical treatment for muscle wasting and weakness associated with aging” but is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Nor is it permitted for use in any capacity under WADA code which deems the product “prohibited under class S1.2 Other Anabolic Agents on the WADA Prohibited List. LGD-4033, and all SARMs, are prohibited at all times for all athletes, both in and out-of-competition.”
Russia’s Besputin (14-0, 9KOs) won by identical scores of 116-112 to claim the secondary title, although that status is now in jeopardy given current circumstances.
It also puts the positioning of the matchup in a different light.
The fight was originally targeted to take place on an October show in Philadelphia which was promoted by Top Rank—who guides the career of Besputin along with manager Egis Klimas—but defaulted to a purse bid hearing when the two camps were unable to come to terms on key items including random drug testing. Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn won the purse bid and thus the rights to the secondary title fight, which were part of his annual show in Monaco.
Butaev (12-1, 9KOs) is guided by manager Vadim Kornilov, who has long been an advocate for random drug testing and whose fighters regularly employ the services of Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency. Naturally, such testing was requested by Butaev but—according to the boxer himself—which was met with resistance.
“I am not surprised at all at hearing this news, and that's why I was never respectful of him as an athlete or as a person," claims Butaev, a former amateur standout from Russia now based out of Brooklyn, New York. “Ahead of the fight my team insisted on VADA testing while he and his team were denying it all along, and even after I agreed to pay for both sides, including his costs, he was very reluctant.
“After finally enrolling he attempted to ignore the requests from VADA for two weeks for his whereabouts to be tested. This is a disgrace and is disrespectful to the sport of boxing. All I have been wanting is a rematch since the final bell of the first fight. Now with a level playing field I'm even more confident in a victory!”
Representatives from the World Boxing Association have informed BoxingScene.com that the matter is being looked into and with the cooperation of Besputin’s team.
“The boxer has made a decision to open the B-Sample of his doping test.”
Efforts to reach Besputin’s team have gone unreturned as this goes to publish. However, in an interview with Russian publication TASS, the boxer is claiming the substance was unintentionally ingested through food consumption and that his legal team is working with the WBA and the Monaco commission to have the matter resolved.
“Lawyers are currently working on this issue,” said Besputin. “We are confident in ourselves and I have never consumed nothing from the list of the banned substances. I am puzzled myself.... where did it all come from and I am shocked, but my conscience is clean.”
Should the ruling stand and the title be vacated, Butaev would be first in line to challenge for the belt against the highest-rated available contender.
Yordenis Ugas is currently the mandatory challenger, and interestingly was ordered to begin negotiations with Besputin only to instead take an interim fight as his team claimed Besputin was injured. As this goes to publish, Ugas is due to face California’s Mike Dallas atop the February 1 edition of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1 live from Biloxi, Mississippi.
Vergil Ortiz Jr. (15-0, 15KOs)—BoxingScene.com’s 2019 Prospect of the Year—serves as the WBA “Gold” titlist and does not have a current fight scheduled following his 5th round stoppage of Brad Solomon last December. Former multi-division titlists Danny Garcia and Mikey Garcia (unrelated) are ranked just behind Ugas, and both with separate bouts scheduled—Danny due to face Ivan Redkach on atop a January 25th Showtime card in Brooklyn, New York, while Mikey faces fellow former titlist Jessie Vargas on February 29 live on DAZN from Frisco, Texas.
Venezuela prodigy Gabriel Maestre (2-0, 2KOs) is ranked number four despite just having turned pro last July. The 33-year old—who spent a lengthy stint in the World Series of Boxing—is coming off of a 4th round knockout of former title challenger Diego Chavez last December in Barranquilla, Colombia, where both of his pro bouts have taken place. Both have come with a WBA regional title at stake, with his team already taking an aggressive approach in challenging for a major title in 2020.
Of course, none of that will come into play until Besputin’s current matter is resolved.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox