The bout between Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin has been called off, six days before the fight was scheduled to take place.
The WBC announced Sunday that the heavyweight title match, set to take place in Moscow on May 21, has been postponed following news that a sample given by Povetkin had tested positive for meldonium, a performance-enhancing drug that improves stamina.
“The World Boxing Council is diligently addressing the positive test result from the Clean Boxing Program for mandatory heavyweight challenger Alexander Povetkin. Keeping the priority of safety and also the principle of justice, the WBC will continue the investigation into the case. Consequently, the event scheduled for May 21 in Moscow is hereby officially postponed.
“The WBC will be releasing more information in the coming days regarding the final ruling on the matter.”
The results of Povetkin’s A sample was revealed on Friday. The sample, collected by VADA on April 27, tested positive for the substance, which increases bloodflow; something the 36-year-old fighter desperately needed for the upcoming event. Povetkin can ask for a test of his B sample, but has not requested a test at this time.
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) won the title in January 2015 with a lopsided decision over Bermane Stiverne, and defended the title with knockouts over Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas and Vyacheslav Glazov. The Povetkin match was set to be the one of the most distressing contest of Wilder’s career.
Wilder’s promoter, Lou DiBella, showed concerned for his client after being briefed on the reports.
“Based upon Povetkin’s positive test for meldonium, and with the health and safety of Deontay Wilder the paramount consideration, this fight could not take place next Saturday,” said DiBella. “As a result of Povetkin’s use of a banned substance and breach of contract, Deontay Wilder was deprived of an opportunity to defend his title as he had prepared to — on an even playing field.
“He and his team have suffered significant damages as a result. Any talk of rescheduling by [promoter] Mr. [Andrey] Ryabinsky at this point is unfounded and premature. Team Wilder will await further communications from the WBC and will weigh all our options given what has transpired.”
Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list in January, and since, has resulted in positive detections from 170 athletes, over 40 of them based in Russia. The drug carries more oxygen to an athlete’s muscle tissue, and helps to keep an endurance test fresh.
“I have no doubt it’s a powerful performance-enhancing drug,” BALCO founder and SNAC CEO Victor Conte stated in press releases. “It’s a stamina benefit. You don’t get tired, you just keep rocking. You’d be like the Energizer Bunny during sparring.”
Wilder previously accused Povetkin of using performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with USA Today’s Bob Velin.
“I think he’s juicing. He’s looking too big,” Wilder told Velin last May. “I have people that have trained him and know him, and being from a different country, they have different techniques that they use.
“He’s on some kind of steroids. But you know, that’s just my opinion. It’s not going to affect me when it’s time to fight and I’m looking forward [to fighting Povetkin]. That’s how I feel.”
Wilder was in Sheffield, England, training for the upcoming fight, when the news broke. The 30-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is a heavy puncher and tough knockout, and placed in the top 10 in many heavyweight rankings.
Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs) earned the title shot with a first-round knockout of Mike Perez last year. The Olympic gold medalist once held the WBA title, but the 36-year-old lost it to Wladimir Klitschko in a 2013 decision loss, when he was knocked down four times.
Showtime is likely to grab a cruiserweight title unification fight between Denis Lebedev and Victor Ramirez as the card’s main event, now that the bout has been called off.
Povetkin could face a lengthy suspension pending an investigation into the results, and will likely drop to the back of the line in any upcoming rankings.
Kristen Ashly is a senior editor and contributor for Nuts & Bolts Sports. Follow Kristen on Twitter for how banned substances effects sports.