The Failure of Boxing to Properly Address its Drugs Problem


Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

For the first three rounds of his world title fight on September 22nd 2018, Alexander Povetkin looked as if he was about to shock the world. The undefeated WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, appeared to be on the back foot with Povetkin seriously hurting him in the second round. Despite this, Joshua would ultimately stage a comeback, brutally knocking out the Russian seven rounds in.

In the context of Povetkin’s career, there is a clear argument for the title fight to have never taken place. He had failed drugs tests on two separate occasions and questions were raised over his avoidance of anti-doping agencies in the build-up to the Joshua fight. Povetkin’s first failed test was in Spring 2016, when he tested positive for the substance Meldonium. This drug is primarily used in Eastern Europe as a medicine to treat ischaemia, the restriction of the blood supply to tissues in the body, leading to disruption to cellular metabolism. Meldonium was placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) banned list of substances to enhance performance in January 2016. Povetkin’s second failed drugs test was in November of the same year, when he tested positive for dimethylamylamine (DMAA). Unlike Meldonium, this substance, nowadays marketed as a dietary supplement rather than its original use as a treatment for blocked noses, has long been outlawed by governing sports authorities.

Credit: Justine Vinuya.
Credit: Justine Vinuya.

On March 3rd 2017, Povetkin was given a lifetime ban and fined $250,000 by the World Boxing Council for failing the aforementioned drug tests. However, he was allowed to return in December of the same year and was back fighting at the highest level of boxing within 18 months of receiving the harshest suspension applicable. This case makes a mockery of the sport itself and taints legitimate athletes. The heavyweight division might be throwing away its chance to relive the glory days of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Many more deserving contenders could have taken the fight to Anthony Joshua, the most obvious two being Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Let us delve into the world of heavyweight contenders to consider who else could have taken his place in the fight last year.

Boxing pic
Credit: Pixabay, via Pexels [CC0 Public Domain]
The first would have been Jarell “Big Baby” Miller with an undefeated record of 22 wins, 19 of which have come by knockout (KO), Miller has steadily built a solid boxing résumé, being best known for his devastating left hook. Miller commenced his professional boxing career in 2009 and has never been marred by failed drugs tests. Interestingly, Miller also boasts a similarly impressive record – 22 wins and 2 losses – in the sport of Kickboxing which he fought in professionally from 2006-2014.

Another highly praised and undefeated contender comes in the form of Adam Kownacki. The Polish-American, who like Miller grew up in the New York suburb of Brooklyn, boasts an impressive 18 professional wins, 14 of which have come by way of knockout. With his most recent fight, a unanimous decision victory over former heavyweight champion Charles Martin, Kownacki was available and ready to fight on September 22nd.

With athletes such as Kowanacki and Miller having been available and ready to fight, it’s time for promoters such as Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren to take some initiative and not book those marred by doping misdemeanours and help restore the image of heavyweight boxing to its glorious past.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published in our Race and Racism magazine. Since the magazine’s distribution, it has been confirmed that Anthony Joshua and Jarell “Big Baby” Miller will face off on 1st June 2019. 


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