Three Punch Combo: Clenbuterol Diaries, a Prospect to Watch and More

THREE PUNCH COMBO: Last week the mega fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin was officially cancelled due to Alvarez testing positive for the steroid clenbuterol in pre-fight drug testing. The bout was formally called off by those involved in the promotion in anticipation of a forthcoming suspension of Alvarez by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Alvarez and his camp claimed he tested positive for clenbuterol by eating tainted meat in Mexico. Clenbuterol, although banned, is commonly used as a food additive for livestock in Mexico and Alvarez is not the first boxer, or athlete for that matter, to claim to have tested positive for clenbuterol by ingesting tainted meat. In 2011, five Mexican soccer players were suspended for testing positive for clenbuterol but the case was later dropped by the World Anti-Doping Agency citing the widespread use of clenbuterol in Mexican beef. That same year, over 100 soccer players participating in the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico also tested positive for clenbuterol and were also absolved. In 2012, Erik Morales claimed that eating meat in Mexico caused a positive drug test prior to his rematch with Danny Garcia at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

In 2016, Francisco Vargas tested positive for clenbuterol six weeks before his big fight with Orlando Salido. Vargas, like the others, blamed tainted meat. The California State Athletic Commission allowed Vargas, with additional stringent testing, to go thru with the bout as scheduled.

Before Vargas tested positive in 2016, we had well publicized cases of athletes claiming they tested positive for clenbuterol by eating meat in Mexico. Warnings about eating meat in Mexico were abundant. So the question becomes why was Vargas allowed to fight in 2016 with a drug test similar to that which sidelined Canelo?

Public perception can weigh a lot in the thinking of decision-makers. In 2015, Vargas was involved in an epic fight with Takashi Miura. It was hands down the fight of the year and Vargas became beloved by boxing fans for the incredible heart and determination he showed in defeating Miura. Vargas was also seen as a blue collar guy who had to work hard for everything he accomplished in the ring. And his fight with Salido was seen as a can’t-miss barnburner that would likely result in a fight of the year candidate.

When Vargas tested positive for clenbuterol, it was a disappointment but he just seemed so believable. The public and media bought the story. It was an accident, why should he be punished? Fans and media really did not want this fight to fall apart because someone unknowingly ate tainted meat. Public perception was on the side of Vargas and thus if the California State Athletic Commission pulled the plug on the fight they would have been seen as the bad guys. So the commission let the fight happen as everyone wanted.

Public perception when Canelo tested positive for clenbuterol was much different. Canelo has never been in a war like Vargas and has been seen for years as a diva. Though he never tested positive in the past, many fans seemed suspicious. Thus when a positive test happened, many fans were quick to think their suspicions were in fact accurate. How could this be an accident? It is not believable, they thought, since the story about clenbuterol has been known for years. Thus, the Nevada State Athletic Commission may have felt compelled to address the matter much differently than how California handled the similar case of Francisco Vargas just two years prior.

About The Upcoming WBC Welterweight Tournament

I will admit that I absolutely love boxing tournaments. We have another one that is flying deep under the radar that will be starting on Friday April 27th. It is an eight man single elimination tournament in the welterweight division. Run by Evander Holyfield’s The Real Deal Boxing in conjunction with the WBC, the tournament will have some unique features, some new and some old concepts that are being brought back.

One of the unique features pertains to how the bouts will be judged. Traditionally, there are three judges seated ringside that score a contest. For this tournament, a fourth ringside judge will be added and a fifth judge will score bouts viewing a television monitor with no audio commentary.

For years I have advocated doing something to change the current judging system in boxing and am very interested to see how this system works. I really like the idea of having a judge watch the contest on a television monitor with no sound. Unlike being ringside where views can be obstructed, a judge can get a more complete look at the bout watching a television monitor. Personally, I think there should be three ringside judges and two who view a monitor with no audio for all fights where that technology is available (in essence all televised bouts). This gives more perspective to the contest, potentially reducing the number of bad decisions we see in this sport. I give the WBC and Real Deal Boxing credit for implementing a change in the judges as this was something that has been long overdue.

One somewhat old concept being brought back in this tournament is that of open scoring. This debate seems to come up every so often in boxing.  Where open scoring has been implemented, it usually gets shelved quickly. But the WBC has been quite persistent in recent years in bringing it back and here we go again. Their argument is that open scoring allows the fighters to know exactly where they stand in a contest and what they need to do for the remainder of the bout. But open scoring takes away drama and can lead to dull fights. When a fighter knows he is well ahead, he can go into a prolonged “prevent defense.” While I love experimenting with new ideas, this old idea has failed on several occasions and is best left on the shelf.

Prospect To Watch – Nordine Oubaali

This past week, Ringstar Sports live streamed their show from France which was headlined by 2016 Olympic Super Heavyweight gold medalist Tony Yoka who moved to 4-0 with his third knockout. Yoka is a solid prospect but the prospect that stole the show for me was Nordine Oubaali (14-0, 11 KO’s). A 31-year-old bantamweight, Oubaali, a southpaw, knocked out veteran Luis Melendez (47-12-1, 34 KO’s) in two rounds, but it was the way that he did it that stood out.

Oubaali has extensive amateur experience having represented his native France at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In the 2012 Olympics, he defeated future champion Rau’shee Warren before dropping a close decision in the quarterfinals to standout amateur and current rising prospect Michael Conlan. The amateur background shows as a pro as Oubaali is fundamentally sound employing a high tight guard with excellent head movement making him an elusive target inside the ring.

Besides being technically sound, what jumped out to me was his quick and seemingly effortless footwork and his hand speed. His footwork, which allowed him to set up angles to land precision punches, was extremely impressive. His hand speed is well above average and he often landed four or five sharp punches before Melendez could react. He has heavy handed power in both fists and showed a sneaky quick and powerful right hook. It takes a lot to get me excited about a prospect but there just seemed to be something potentially special about Nordine Oubaali. Keep an eye on him; he is worth monitoring.

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