Commentary: Decision to suspend Canelo Alvarez allows boxing to move forward and address pressing issues
The Nevada Athletic Commission’s six-month suspension of Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez for submitting two positive tests for a banned performance-enhancing substance allows boxing to move on, with an eye toward future mega fights and an opportunity to address some of the issues that have plagued the sport for decades.
Nevada stopped the sport’s most popular fighter from collecting a multimillion-dollar purse for his planned May 5 rematch against unbeaten, three-belt champion Gennady Golovkin, and commission Chairman Anthony Marnell III was quick to point out “these are the rules we have, and it doesn’t matter what your last name is, or what money is being earned. We’re not going to bend those rules, and I think the fight world appreciates that.”
Marnell III and commissioners Staci Alonso, Sandra D. Morgan, Dr. Robert McBeath and Christopher Ault voted unanimously to discipline Alvarez for his use of clenbuterol, banned for its effects in assisting stamina and endurance.
The suspension could have lasted one year, but Alvarez’s first-offender status and his cooperation with the Nevada investigation gained him a reduction of 50% that will allow him to return to action by Aug. 17.
The decision clears the way for a Mexican Independence Day weekend rematch with Golovkin one year after their draw at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
While Alvarez’s promoter, Golden Boy, put out a statement repeating the fighter’s contention that “the trace amounts of Clenbuterol … came from meat contamination,” in Mexico, Marnell countered, “My [regulations] are clear. I don’t really care if the dog ate your homework. I don’t care if you ate contaminated meat. I don’t care if you bought a bad supplement at the GNC. You’re responsible for what goes in your body. Period.”
Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 knockouts) moved forward Wednesday morning even before the suspension was issued by striking a deal to keep the Cinco de Mayo boxing tradition alive with a May 5 bout against Glendale’s Vanes Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs) at StubHub Center. HBO will televise the main event of a card that includes former four-division champion and No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and unified women’s welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus.
While the International Boxing Federation won’t sanction the fight because Golovkin owes a mandatory title defense to Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Golovkin can tie former champion Bernard Hopkins’ record of 20 consecutive middleweight title fights without a loss.
Martirosyan “is now the most important fight of my career,” Golovkin said in a prepared statement, and his promoter agrees.
“If he doesn’t win, then there’s no talk about a future fight with Canelo,” Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler said. “If Gennady’s not 100% focused, this could lead to being a dangerous fight.”
Loeffler also stopped short of saying a contract for Golovkin-Alvarez II is done. He said he would’ve liked to have seen the commission fine Alvarez a percentage of his future purse for the financial damages he inflicted on Golovkin.
So does that mean Loeffler wants more money for his fighter in a revised deal? And will he seek to expand the drug-testing window beyond three months now that Alvarez deserves extra scrutiny?
“We have to first make sure [Golovkin] wins May 5, and then we’ll sit down with Golden Boy and work out a fight for September,” Loeffler said. “It’s still the biggest fight in the sport of boxing, so it would be the fight that makes the most sense.”
Now, especially with its No. 1 attraction on suspension, boxing should take this opportunity to put in place common-sense practices that allow the sport to thrive.
Nevada’s enforcement is a start, and so is Golden Boy’s ability to strike a cross-promotion deal with sometime-rival promoter Top Rank for a May 12 lightweight title defense by champion Jorge Linares against fighter-of-the-year and two-division champion Vasyl Lomachenko at Madison Square Garden.
Topping that would be an agreement for unbeaten, three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua of England to fight unbeaten American Deontay Wilder, who wears the World Boxing Council strap, in the fall. Negotiations are in progress.
The summer already includes a June 9 doubleheader featuring a featherweight title unification at Staples Center between Southland rivals Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares and a Las Vegas showdown between No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Terence Crawford moving up in weight to meet welterweight champion Jeff Horn.
Of course, it’s boxing, so head-scratching decisions are bound to pop up.
That happened Wednesday when Dr. Margaret Goodman, head of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Assn. that secured Alvarez’s positive tests, was asked whether Alvarez was enrolled in the WBC’s clean boxing program, which demands year-round drug testing.
“I don’t have him enrolled at this time,” Goodman said.
Beyond the image-rebuilding step that seems necessary, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said it’s imperative for Alvarez to enroll in the year-round testing program immediately so he can maintain his ranking and fight for the WBC belt against Golovkin.
But the president, who was raised in boxing, cautioned wise words:
“My friend, anything can happen in this crazy sport,” Sulaiman said.
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