By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Frank Warren is confident Billy Joe Saunders still will be allowed to defend his WBO middleweight title against Demetrius Andrade on October 20.
Warren, Saunders’ promoter, told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday that he expects the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission to approve Saunders’ license application at a hearing Monday in Boston. The Saunders-Andrade fight, scheduled for two weeks from Saturday night at TD Garden in Boston, is in jeopardy because Saunders tested positive for oxilofrine, a banned stimulant, in an exam monitored by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association on August 30.
“They’re having a hearing on Monday,” Warren said, “and unless people are telling us lies – Matchroom are the promoters, and they’re saying they want him to fight. I understand that’s the same message from Andrade. That’s what we’ve been told by Matchroom. Bill wants it, we want, so let’s get it on.”
Warren, who was in Manhattan to promote the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury heavyweight title fight, argued England’s Saunders should be licensed in Massachusetts because he remains licensed in the United Kingdom.
UK Anti-Doping, which subjects all boxers from the United Kingdom to testing 365 days per year, only tests for oxilofrine on fight nights. It is not a banned substance other than on fights nights in accordance with UKAD and World Anti-Doping Association regulations.
The 29-year-old Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) thus won’t be punished by UKAD or the British Boxing Board of Control.
“The test was conducted by VADA, which is the voluntary organization,” Warren said. “They’re not recognized by the British Boxing Board of Control. Also, their test is different than the UKAD, which is the United Kingdom Anti-Doping. It’s different from the American anti-doping, different from WADA. That’s all the Olympics.
“The test that Bill had, he would’ve been OK to take that in competition. It’s a nasal spray. That’s what he took. Now unfortunately, it’s come out on this VADA test. And they have different criteria. He’s licensed [in the UK]. He has not been suspended by any organization. He’s free to box anywhere in the world.”
Warren’s rationale notwithstanding, oxilofrine is on VADA’s list of banned substances. Testing positive for it could lead the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission to deny Saunders’ application for a license because he signed an agreement to adhere to VADA’s standards.
“He doesn’t have [a Massachusetts license], but he’s licensed in Great Britain,” Warren said. “There’s no reason why they shouldn’t license him. For WADA, he would’ve passed the test. It’s only VADA. They’re the only ones who said that as far as they’re concerned, he shouldn’t take this in competition. It’s all pretty much a storm in a tea cup. It’s unfortunate.
“No commission is stronger about drugs than in the UK. I mean, they’re very, very on it. You get caught, you’re banned and that’s it. We’ve seen it with a few fighters over the years. But as far as Bill’s concerned, he’s licensed. And if he’s licensed, the British Boxing Board of Control is affiliated to the WBO, etc., then there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to box.”
If Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) is denied a Massachusetts boxing license and is stripped of his title, Andrade likely would fight for the vacant championship October 20.
According to Eddie Hearn, Andrade’s promoter, the top-ranked Andrade then would meet Namibia’s Walter Kautondokwa (17-0, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBO 160-pound crown at TD Garden. Kautondokwa is the WBO’s No. 2 contender for its middleweight title, one position beneath Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), Saunders’ mandatory challenger.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.