By Rick Reeno
Hall of Fame promoter Don King is furious over the cancellation of last Friday's cruiserweight title fight between his boxer Guillermo Jones and WBA champion Denis Lebedev, which was scheduled to take place at the Dynamo Palace of Sports in Krylatskoye, Moscow, Russia.
The fighters first met last May, also in Russia, and saw Jones give Lebedev a beating before a knockout victory in the eleventh. A few weeks after the match was over, it was revealed that Jones tested positive for a banned weight cutting agent, furosemide.
RUSADA, the Russian arm of WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency], said Jones' 'A' sample tested positive for the drug. King, who had his own sample from the post-fight exam, had it tested in America and he says the sample came up negative for all banned substances, including furosemide. Because of the controversial situation, the WBA returned the world title back to Lebedev and ordered an immediate rematch with Jones. The official result of the first meeting was not reversed.
In the rematch, the doping tests were carried out by the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses (LAD).
About two hours before the fighters were scheduled to hit the ring for their rematch, information began to circulate that Jones once again tested positive for furosemide.
After hearing arguments from both sides, World Boxing Association Vice President Gilberto J. Mendoza was willing to allow the fight to go forward, but only if the parties agreed to "exonerate the WBA from any responsibility."
About 20 minutes before the fight, Russian promoter Andrey Ryabinsky announced that he was pulling his boxer from the match.
According to King, this time around he was not provided with a sample of Jones' test, as he planned to once again submit it to an outside testing agency in the United States. More importantly, the WBA was not present for Jones' urine test last Wednesday, because their officials had not yet arrived to Russia. King claims, per the WBA's own rules, it was mandatory for an official from the WBA to present during the pre-fight testing process. The WBA did not have the authority to cancel the fight, but they had the option of withdrawing their sanction of the fight.
"I protested it from the beginning. It was wrong because you don't have the authority to do this. The WBA was not in Russia yet. They were not there. It was unauthorized," King told BoxingScene.com. "They were supposed to give me a sample like they did before, which they did not do."
"The WBA held a hearing [before the fight]. The WBA at the hearing [said] it was unauthorized, unofficial and it couldn't be used. And [they said] that the fight could go forward."
"When [WBA] got [to Russia] they said the test they had taken was wrong, they didn't follow the rules of the WBA. The WBA had the supreme right to do this without anybody interfering. They said what they did was wrong and that the fight would go [on]. And they were going to take a test after the fight. And if anything was wrong they would go to the 'B' sample. There was never any 'B' sample with the test that they took [last Wednesday]. There was only one sample."
King said the entire team was shook up, after someone entered their dressing room and allegedly informed him of the possibility that Jones would be arrested. King and the entire team left the country later that night.
"[Ryabinsky] cancelled the fight 15 minutes before the guys were going to [head to the ring]. [Jones] was ready to fight in the dressing. Someone came in and said there would be an investigation and then someone else came in and said Guillemro Jones would be arrested. I have 16 people there that I'm responsible for and my job was to get out," King said.
"In the middle of the night, we had to find ways and the means to escape from there. And I felt relieved because 16 people would have had to go through an undo situation that would have been horrible."
King also made it clear that he took offense to a statement made by Lebedev in the ring, which took place after the fight was officially canceled. Lebedev made a statement where he told the live crowd that "Americans" couldn't fight honestly. Local reporters believe the Russian boxer meant to say "Panamanians."
“They were caught cheating the first time around. They tried to sneak in and repeat this trick but it wasn’t to happen again. “We’ve proven we had knowledge of the game, and we wouldn’t be cheated. We can defend our rights. I will try to do my best to please you again as soon as I can but this time in the optional defense of the WBA title. Once again, thank you and please excuse us for this letdown. I haven’t fought for about a year, but as you see Americans just cannot fight honestly," Lebedev said.
King is only going by the statements that were printed in numerous Russian newspapers and says the statement is offensive either way
"Whether he said Panamanians or meant that. What he said was Americans. I'm not a mind reader. How do I know what he meant. I only know what came out [and that] was Americans, that all Americans were cheaters. Whatever his intentions were, I have nothing to do with that and don't know nothing about that. You would have to ask him," King said.
"All we want is fair play and not be slandering America and not to have the character assassinated of this fighter without due process. That's all we're doing."
Playing devil's advocate, BoxingScene asked King to explain Ryabinsky's motivation to cancel the fight. Based on reports in Russia, the wealthy promoter lost quite a bit of money when the main event was canceled.
"They never had any intention to fight," King said.
"[The cancelation] wasn't done by an injury. It wasn't done by a public demand. Both fighters were physically ready, willing and available. It was [Ryabinsky's ] sole decision, him, by himself. He unilaterally and arbitrarily made that decision by himself. So what he lost or didn't lose, he took it in his own hands. He could have let the fight go on. He is one that categorically stopped that fight. He decided in his own mind that he would become the judge, the jury and the prosecutor."