By Keith Idec
The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission voted Tuesday to deny Billy Joe Saunders’ application for a license to defend his WBO middleweight title against Demetrius Andrade on October 20 in Boston.
Licensing Saunders became an unusual issue late in September, when the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association informed representatives for Saunders and Andrade that Saunders tested positive for oxilofrine in an August 30 exam. Oxilofrine – a stimulant that can aid an athlete’s stamina, among other things – is on VADA’s list of banned substances.
England’s Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) and Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), of Providence, Rhode Island, signed agreements to adhere to VADA’s testing standards. Saunders and his handlers argued that he tested positive for oxilofrine because it’s present in a nasal spray Saunders used, but the Massachusetts commission still denied his license application.
If the WBO subsequently strips Saunders of its middleweight title, Andrade is expected to fight Namibia’s Walter Kautondokwa (17-0, 16 KOs) for that vacant 160-pound crown at TD Garden. Kautondokwa is ranked No. 2 among the WBO’s middleweight contenders, one spot after Andrade, the top-ranked challenger for Saunders’ title.
Andrade’s handlers didn’t push for the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission to deny Saunders’ application for a license because Andrade still wanted to fight Saunders. They didn’t petition the WBO to strip Saunders of its 160-pound championship, either.
Assuming it is made, DAZN will stream the Andrade-Kautondokwa fight in the United States.
Failing VADA’s test for oxilofrine is expected to cost Saunders’ side a package of $2.3 million for what was supposed to be a mandatory defense of his WBO title. Oxilofrine isn’t banned by United Kingdom Anti-Doping, except on the day of a fight, thus Saunders won’t be disciplined by the organization that subjects all British boxers to drug testing 365 days per year.
The 29-year-old Saunders should be free to fight in the United Kingdom, where most of his fights have taken place, as soon as promoter Frank Warren can arrange another fight for him.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.