Despite some concerns to the contrary, heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and unbeaten former champion Tyson Fury are not only enrolled in drug testing,the Voluntary Anti-Doping Assn. screening has been underway for about three weeks.
Wilder (40-0, 39 knockouts), the World Boxing Council champion from Alabama, has had three bouts scrapped because opponents tested positive banned substances. He’s advocated for the type of stringent testing that VADA does for the WBC, which exceeds the scrutiny of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
After defeating three-belt champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) acknowledged using cocaine during a hiatus in which he lost all three belts and also revealed he is bipolar.
VADA has tested Wilder and Fury three times apiece, according to officials connected to the Dec. 1 Showtime pay-per-view bout at Staples Center. Premier Boxing Champions, which is handling the fight, has invested $20,000 into the testing program.
“This shows PBC wants the best testing you can get,” said Andy Foster, executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission.
TV FIGHT: The upset loss by Japan’s WBA secondary middleweight champion Ryoto Murata this month combined with the IBF title victory by Daniel Jacobs on Saturday leaves former champion Gennady Golovkin with little option but to strike a deal with streaming service DAZN.
Jacobs, after defeating Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday, said as much bluntly. Two-belt middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez recently signed a deal with DAZN that opens with a Dec. 15 fight in New York.
With Golovkin’s move looming, Top Rank President Todd duBoef, who orchestrated a seven-year deal for his fighter stable with ESPN, sought to emphasize why he believes his alliance is better for the sport.
“We wanted to take boxing to the broadest, most mainstream platform, and that strategy directly opposes what DAZN is doing by taking it to the smallest available platform,” DuBoef said.
While DAZN executive and former ESPN head John Skipper has pointed to his service’s $9.99 monthly subscription price as a bargain compared with pay-per-view cards that have reached $100, DuBoef points to the minimal number of pay-per-views offered this year and asks how fighters lesser known than Alvarez can build their name on a platform viewers might struggle to find.
This month, Top Rank’s unbeaten welterweight champion Terence Crawford drew 2.8 million viewers on ESPN in a one-sided matchup against Jose Benavidez Jr.
“I’ve already been on a smaller platform [on HBO], and you can see for yourself how all the major sports franchises realize that a broadly distributed existence attributes to wonderful ratings and exposure,” DuBoef said.
PRIME POSITION: He’s 26 years old. He’s from Mexico. And he’s within reach of some of the sport’s top talent.
Miguel Berchelt (34-1, 30 knockouts), nearly two years removed from his upset stoppage of two-time fight-of-the-year participant Francisco Vargas in Indio, returns to action Saturday in El Paso, meeting countryman and mandatory challenger Miguel “Mickey” Roman in a World Boxing Council super-featherweight title bout on an ESPN-Plus card that begins at 6:15 p.m. Pacific time.
Berchelt, who is from Cancun, said by proving he’s the best 130-pound fighter, he’ll set his sights on the lightweight division that counts two-belt wearer Mikey Garcia and fellow Top Rank-promoted Vasiliy Lomachenko as champions.
“They’re big champions and I respect them, but I’m a great champion too, and I have the power to knock them out,” Berchelt told the Los Angeles Times recently.
The opportunity to follow the middleweight-title victory by Alvarez and further attract the sport’s most fervent fan base is on Berchelt’s mind.
“There’s room for me too,” he said.
Arum says Top Rank has an “ongoing position” with Berchelt, who’s tied to Mexico-based promoter Fernando Beltran. Arum said Berchelt has the potential to be “a major, major player” thanks to his knockout power and impassioned style.
“Down the road, it could be a big, great fight against Lomachenko,” Arum said. “And I could see a unification coming against [WBO super-featherweight champion Masayuki] Ito, a tremendous fighter himself who we co-promote.
“A crowd-friendly fighter like Berchelt can be everything we want a fighter to be.”
UP-TRADE FOR UFC: Although welterweight Ben Askren isn’t interested in fighting his wrestling friend Tyron Woodley for the UFC’s 170-pound belt, landing Askren from the One Championship MMA organization in the unprecedented trade for former long-reigning flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was a shrewd move by UFC leadership.
Johnson, despite his greatness in the octagon, seemed uninterested in improving his drawing power, balking at a super-fight with bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw and wondering why his matches wouldn’t sell when he didn’t actively work to promote interest in the mostly one-sided fights that came before his August title loss to new champion Henry Cejudo.
In exchange, the UFC receives the talkative, gifted Askren, who has spoken of fighting lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov, top welterweight contender Colby Covington and others once he becomes a better-known commodity, which should happen rapidly.
The UFC has yet to announce when Askren will debut.
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