By Tris Dixon
ONE wonders if, at this rate, there will be any heavyweights left.
The list of drug cheats or those who have even posted positive tests is long, and it is growing longer.
This week, Luis Ortiz, the WBC announced, tested positive for a banned substance, torpedoing his anticipated showdown with Deontay Wilder.
Of course, Wilder has been here before. While preparing to face Alexander Povetkin, the Russian tested positive scuppering that match.
Povetkin, conversely, had then only recently boxed Mariusz Wach, who tested positive after that fight – having already tested positive in an earlier contest with Wladimir Klitschko in 2012.
Wach’s last big win of any significance came in March against Erkan Teper and, guess what? Yes, Teper had tested positive following his brutal stoppage of Liverpool’s David Price in July 2015.
Price, we know, had already lost twice to Tony Thompson, who tested positive after his second win over Price.
Thompson has not fought since a 2016 defeat to the aforementioned Ortiz who, Matchroom hope will be replaced by Dillian Whyte, who has served a ban for a doping violation he maintains he was innocent for.
And while Whyte is aiming for a heavyweight title shot and a rematch, down the line, with Anthony Joshua, British fight fans want Joshua to face Tyson Fury in a huge domestic showdown that can only be considered once out Fury has sorted out his own issues with WADA.
Whyte has also been going back and forth on social media with Australian Lucas Browne, who failed a VADA test at the back end of 2016 after an upset victory over Ruslan Chagaev.
Two fights before, Chagaev had faced Puerto Rican Fres Oquendo who the WBA had bizarrely announced as a co-challenger for their vacant regular title last year.
His prospective opponent, Shannon Briggs failed a drugs test (increased testosterone levels) – although no one has been able to confirm whether those who were going to match them for the belt ever had to take any kind of test themselves.
Of course, the heavyweight drug issue is not a new thing, even if it is becoming ridiculously commonplace.
Almost a decade ago, Briggs was paired with South African Frans Botha, who earlier in his career failed a drugs test in 1995 after a fight with Axel Schulz. He did so again in 2013 ahead of a match with New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams.
Williams is a compatriot of current WBO champion Joseph Parker, who recently defeated Hughie Fury, who only three fights ago defeated confessed drug cheat Larry Olubamiwo. Earlier in his career, Olubamiwo had faced Ali Adams, who in 2012 was banned for two years following a defeat to Olympian Audley Harrison (2008).
A year later, fellow Olympian Povetkin (2004) faced Andrzej Wawrzyk, who subsequently tested positive.
And although Wilder won bronze four years later (2008), his bid to follow in the footsteps of the better heavyweight champions is being thwarted by those who are not taking proper care or attention about what they are putting into their bodies.
It is easy enough, too. One can download a WADA app, for instance, and check any ingredient they may be uncertain over. Not knowing should not be an excuse any longer.
On the contrary, the number of positive tests in the heavyweight division alone has become startling, embarrassing to the point where stiffer penalties need to me meted out.
Wilder’s best opponent to date was Bermane Stiverne, and Wilder may have to fight him again as a mandatory challenger. Yes, the same Stiverne who tested positive against Povetkin, claiming he’d ingested something from an energy drink to help him combat fatigue after training.
Stiverne is the WBC’s No. 1. Ortiz is the No. 2. Whyte is the No. 3. All three have tested positive or been banned.
The time for forgiveness is over. Fighters need the education to know what they can and cannot take. When they are issued licences they should be made aware of consequences and repercussions. And the repercussions must get more severe than a slap on the wrist.
This is boxing. This is not only a test of speed or strength. Cheating to gain an edge can see an opponent wind up in hospital. Or worse.
Over the last 100 years and more, it has been down to the heavyweight champion of the world to clean out his division. Now it is down to drug testing agencies and governing bodies who are duty-bound to clear up this mess with harsh, meaningful penalties. No longer can naivety be an excuse. That ship has sailed. The world heavyweight champion needs to be the last man standing because no further challenges remain, not because there is no one who has not been tarnished left to fight.