Wednesday, January 10
Another week, another PED issue. Bloody atypical. A strange piece emerged on Wednesday that hailed the fact Artur Beterbiev had passed all his VADA tests and was therefore clear to defend his light-heavyweight titles against Callum Smith in Quebec, Canada on Saturday.
However, included in the story was the revelation that Beterbiev had returned an ‘atypical’ finding in a December test. Not an adverse one, but still a cause for, in Eddie Hearn’s words, ‘monumental concerns’. The test had flagged heightened levels of the naturally occurring Human Growth Hormone and 5D-androstanediol but Beterbiev then passed all further tests which meant no breach of contract and therefore no problem with the fight.
Meanwhile, in Leyton, the Week took a trip to Shane McGuigan’s gym to speak to a few fighters and watch Adam Azim spar 10 rounds. However, the most noteworthy revelation of the afternoon by some distance was the fact that Azim, the big-punching 21-year-old prodigy from Slough, has bought himself a pet goat for £150, which he paid in cash. Azim, who defends the European light-welterweight title against Enock Poulsen on February 3, called his new ruminant mammal Tootsie. “I saw a sign that said ‘goats for sale’,” Azim bleated. “So I pulled the car over and got one.” What a kid.
Thursday, January 11
BETER BELIEVE IT
Believe it or not, Beterbiev did not take kindly to the fall out from Wednesday’s revelation and took aim at Callum Smith on Thursday. “It has come to my attention,” he started, in reasonably terrifying fashion. “That Callum Smith intends to disseminate misleading information about my VADA testing for this fight. Let me be clear now, I am a clean athlete. I have never tested positive for a banned substance throughout my career. Any attempt to imply otherwise, through innuendo or suggestion is slanderous and libellous. This conduct is beyond acceptable trash talk. Callum is already searching for excuses, looking for a way out. See you Saturday.”
A few divisions down, Teofimo Lopez was busy talking up a potential fight with pound-for-pound great Terence Crawford by claiming the Nebraskan has only ever faced injured fighters during his time at welterweight. What a clash that would be.
The Week, meanwhile, was down at the brilliant St Pancras Boxing Club in north west London, to speak to Dan Azeez, ahead of his rearranged clash with Joshua Buatsi on February 3. No goats bought by Azeez, but he did recently purchase a pair of cats, he revealed.
Friday, January 12
On the subject of Crawford, on Friday, he took to Twitter to contact Errol Spence Jr. “I done heard it all now @ErrolSpenceJr,” he Tweeted. “It’s ok though because all in all I’m glad it’s over and done with. I wish you well my brotha.”
As the message suggests, it was reported on Friday that any chance of Crawford and Spence facing each other in a rematch is now over, with both men expected to head in different directions.
There was another parting of ways later on Friday, too, as the Professional Boxing Association also took to Twitter to declare that they have suspended the promoters’ licences of Misfits boxing. The Tweet read: “Due to the clear violations of the PBA’s rules and regulations, bringing boxing into disrepute and in the interest of boxer safety, Misfits Boxing Promoters’ licences have been suspended and disciplinary hearings will follow for such licence holders.” Bring boxing into disrepute? Misfits? Never. In another twist, Misfits then claimed they had actually handed their licence back earlier in the day.
Speaking of disrepute, Manchester legend Anthony Crolla took to Twitter to call out this very publication for accidentally labelling his brother William as his son. Please consider this your official apology, Anthony, or as I now like to call him, Big Poppa.
Saturday, January 13
OK so it turns out that annoying Artur Beterbiev midway through fight week is not the best gameplan for anyone wishing to derail this seemingly unstoppable train. The Russian, as is customary, pieced up Callum Smith, dropped him and stopped him inside seven rounds to go 20-0 with 20 KOs.
Immediately, attention turned toward the potential, long-awaited undisputed fight with the only other belt-carrying member of the light-heavyweight division Dmitrii Bivol. It has been reported that Bivol has already signed for a lucrative Beterbiev clash in Saudi, and this victory over Smith was the only remaining hurdle.
“Yes of course I want that fight,” Beterbiev said. I need another belt. It would mean a lot to me. We need this fight and that’s it. I respect him, but he’s not a ‘great fighter’. He holds one belt. I’m not great too. We’re gonna know who is the [great] fighter in this division.”
For Smith, however, the future is not so clear and, when asked what he will do next, the Liverpool man said: “I don’t know, I’ve had a good career, been a world champion, been top of the mountain. I’ve given a lot to boxing over the years. It’s hard to accept that I’m not the best in the world. I’ll have to sit and assess what the future holds.”
Sunday, January 14
It was officially confirmed on Sunday that Vasyl Lomachenko will travel to Perth to face George Kambosos on May 12, almost exactly a year on from his unanimous defeat to Devin Haney in Las Vegas. The pair will scrap for the vacant IBF title, a belt they have both owned in the past, in another fight that shows that Australian boxing is on a genuine high at the moment.
One man who also finished Sunday on a high was Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton, who made his Dancing on Ice debut and did not hurt himself or anyone else during his maiden performance on the rink. It was performed to the Rocky theme tune, which conjured up visions of what can only have been an incredibly short creative meeting beforehand.
Last month he was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, this month he is doing press ups on an ice rink near Hemel Hempstead. However, it was not all good news for the Hitman, as he and his partner Robin Johnstone (currently not ranked with any sanctioning bodies) ended up rock-bottom of the leaderboard after scoring a measly 12.5 (not sure what that is out of, but it’s not good). It means that Hatton will have to take part in the ‘skate off’ on next Sunday’s show and he might just get ‘knocked out’.
Monday, January 15
This might have been Blue Monday, but those involved in the latest money-spinning Saudi Arabian promotion would have been feeling anything but as they gathered at Here at Outernet for the official launch press conference for Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou, curiously titled ‘knockout chaos’.
The Week sat down with both men before the press conference kicked off, with Ngannou describing Joshua as a harder fight than Tyson Fury and Joshua reminding Ngannou that he breaks peoples eye sockets. All pretty standard fare really.
The undercard was also announced for the show, with yet more proof that Turki Al-Alshikh does not really do things by half. This time, Joseph Parker will face Zhilei Zhang as the chief support in a heavyweight fight that will excite some boxing fans far more than the main event.
Turki was present at the press conference, which he looked down upon from the mezzanine level. As is now customary, he spoke on the microphone, said ‘we will miss’ Oscar De La Hoya, who has criticised the number of big fights heading to Saudi, and then instructed Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren to make a five-fight card which will pit Matchroom fighters against their Queensberry counterparts. Hearn and Warren, sitting next to each other and beaming their heads off, shook on it instantly.
Tuesday, January 16
While the boxing world got giddy at the prospect of Beterbiev-Bivol and a Matchroom v Queensberry super show, the WBC slipped out the decision to clear Alycia Baumgardner of any intentional wrongdoing.
Baumgardner, who has vehemently protested her innocence from the outset, returned an adverse finding in a VADA test on July 12, just three days before her fight with Christina Linardatou. As such, the WBC ‘undertook an investigation of the specific circumstances, health concerns and legal precedent surrounding the finding’.
They have now declared that they found ‘Ms Baumgardner not guilty of intentional ingestion or consumption of a banned substance for performance enhancement purposes and confirmed her as reigning WBC super featherweight champion’.
The substance in question was mesterolone which is an androgen and anabolic steroid medication which is used mainly in the treatment of low testosterone. In other words, this is pretty heavy shit. Anyway, the point is, the WBC have placed her on ‘probation’ for one year since the date of the test. “If there is an adverse finding concerning any of Ms. Baumgardner’s samples or a whereabouts failure during her probationary period and for 6-months thereafter,” the statement continued. “The WBC shall immediately and without further inquiry take immediate action against Ms. Baumgardner.” I’m sure she’s quaking in her boots.