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Billy Joe Saunders denied boxing license by Mass. for failed drug test

Billy Joe Saunders, Demetrius Andrade boxing photo

By Mike Smith: The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission denied World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders a license to fight on Tuesday for him having tested positive for a banned drug last August.

Saunders hasn’t been stripped by the WBO as of yet, but that’s expected to happen soon. The WBO will vote whether to strip Saunders after he gives a response to the sanctioning body about his positive test. They’re giving him 10 days, according to ESPN. If the WBO strips Saunders, then Andrade will be fighting for the vacant WBO title against the next highest contender on October 20.

Saunders’ previously scheduled October 20th opponent Demetrius Andrade can still fight on that date, possibly for the vacant WBO 160 lb title if the sanctioning body strips Billy Joe of his belt.

Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) tested positive for the dietary drug Oxilofrine on August 30 during a random test by VADA. The boxing public is confused though as to why Saunders would fail to get his license to fight by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission, since WADA and UKAD reportedly allow for the use of the substance out of competition. Saunders was being tested by VADa, and they don’t allow the use of the drug Oxilofrine.

Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs) can still fight on October 20 against the next available highest ranked contender for the WBO belt. If the WBO approves of the opponent for Andrade, then they’ll sanction the fight for the vacant middleweight title. Andrade, 30, could be facing #2 WBO Walter Kautondokwo (17-0, 16 KOs), who is from Namibia and has faced a lot of obscure opposition during his career.

WBO president Francisco Valcarcel Mulero said this in a news statement about Saunders’ failure to get a boxing license:

“It is unfortunate that a boxer as talented as Saunders is facing this controversy and will not be able to defend the title. The WBO will examine the situation with due diligence and proceed according to its ‘Rules & Regulations’ decide which is the proper course of action.”

As I mentioned, the drug test that Saunders tested positive for, Oxilofrine, isn’t a banned drug with the UKAD out of competition. However, Saunders reportedly had signed up to be tested by VADA, and they list oxilofrine as a banned substance. Since Saunders tested positive for the banned drug, it put him in in the position where he would be stripped of his WBO title by sanctioning body and the fight cancelled by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission.

This is bad news for Andrade, because he wanted to fight Saunders for his WBO title. Having to face a little known fighter potentially like Walter Kautondokwo on October 20 on DAZN won’t be as big a deal if he beats him. A win for Andrade over Saunders would have been a huge victory for him. Instead, Andrade may be looking at facing Kautondokwo for either the interim WBO middleweight title or the full belt depending on what the sanctioning body decisions.

Saunders is now out of luck now that he’s lost his WBO title. With his WBO middleweight title now gone, he loses out on getting fights against Gennady Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez, because the only leverage he had to get fights against either of those guys was his world title. There’s no upside for GGG and Canelo to fight Saunders now, since he’s tested dirty and it won’t give either of them a lot of credit from fans for them to face the British fighter now.

Saunders has been the WBO champion since 2015. He’s defended the belt three times successfully in beating lesser opposition in easy fights. The boxing public has criticized Saunders on social media for the weak opposition he’s defended his WBO title against for the last three years. Saunders wanted to fight the big names in GGG and Canelo, but the fights never got made unfortunately no matter how hard he tried. Saunders wasn’t helping himself increase his profile with him defending his WBO belt against easy marks like Willie Monroe, Artur Akavov and David Lemieux.

Andrade’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing USA has Kautondokwo ready to go as the replacement opponent for him to face. Hearn has had Kautondokwo on standby, according to ESPN.

“I felt like it was 50-50 that he’d be licensed,” Hearn said to “Billy had his case but unfortunately he failed a VADA which he signed up for, which the commission ruled on. Our focus is on Demetrius Andrade becoming middleweight champion of the world and mixing it with Canelo, Gennady Golovkin and Danny Jacobs,” Hearn said.

In hindsight, Saunders should have thought twice about signing up for VADA if he knew he was going to be using the banned drug Oxilofrine. Saunders might not have read VADA’s list of banned drugs before signing up with them. If he had known ahead of time, then maybe he could have turned down the VADA testing, and it wouldn’t have been a problem.

2008 Olympian Andrade won’t get the same credit beating the 33-year-old Kautondokwo than he would have in defeating Saunders, but oh well. Saunders can always come back and face Andrade after he wins the vacant WBO title. Andrade wants the WBO belt no matter what, because it’s a title that will help him get the bigger fights he craves against the aforementioned Canelo, GGG and Jacobs.

Hearn believes that his October 20 card at TD Garden in Boston, Mass. will be hurt now that Andrade won’t be fighting Saunders. However, Hearn might not realize that Saunders is not a big name in the U.S like he is in the UK. The only boxing fans that know who Saunders is in the U.S are the casual fans, and he’s generally not well thought of. The hardcore fans in the U.S fate Saunders well below Canelo and GGG. Many of them also rate Saunders before Jermall Charlo, Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Hearn had the bad luck of putting Andrade in with the wrong guy for the October 20 fight. Perhaps if Hearn had put together a deal for Andrade to fight someone else like Charlo, he wouldn’t have any problems right now.

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