by Johnny Walker
Back in June of this year, cruiserweight champion Antonio Tarver, who besides boxing also worked as an analyst for the Showtime network’s boxing telecasts, tested postive for a banned substance after a less than scintillating performance in a draw against a seemingly unhinged opponent named Lateef Kayode.
On the Friday afternoon the test news broke, Tarver was preparing for his analyst’s role the following evening, when he would be part of the broadcast team for the Victor Ortiz vs Josesito Lopez bout. Or so he thought.
Within hours of the news that Tarver’s “A” drug test sample was positive for drostanolone, an anabolic steroid, he was unceremoniously dumped from his Showtime job, a job for which he had been receiving rave reviews.
Showtime issued the following statement:
“We were made aware of the California State Athletic Commission’s report regarding Antonio Tarver’s positive drug test following his last fight on June 2 this afternoon. Out of respect for the fighters competing on Saturday night, Antonio and the network have mutually agreed that he will not serve as color analyst for the June 23rd boxing telecast.”
Soon, Tarver became “he who shall not be named” at the network: he was not even mentioned by erstwhile colleagues Al Bernstein and Gus Johnson during the network’s coverage of the Ortiz vs Lopez bout, nor has he been referenced since.
Showtime was taking a stand, it seemed. No-one involved with the use of performance-enhancing drugs was going to be allowed anywhere near a Showtime boxing broadcast.
All that seems to have changed now, with the announcement that light welterweight Erik Morales, like Tarver another aging veteran fighter, tested dirty this week preceding Saturday’s rematch in Brooklyn between he and Danny Garcia, scheduled to be the main event of a Showtime broadcast.
At this point in time, it seems that even though Morales’ “A” test tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance, the fight will go ahead on Saturday night.
Of course, there are differences in the Morales situation that apologists for the fighter are already exploiting. Morales got caught via a test administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), whereas Tarver was caught cheating by the California State Athletic Commission’s testing.
And Tarver was functioning an an employee of Showtime in his capacity as an analyst, while Morales is under contract to Golden Boy Productions for his fight with Garcia (though nevertheless Morales would be appearing on Showtime’s airwaves).
All of that is fine and dandy. But still … who could blame Antonio Tarver if he is wondering where the leniency now seemingly being granted Morales was when he tested dirty?
And Tarver was a mere observer when he was yanked from his Showtime chair, not a participant in an often brutal combat sport.
So Tarver was removed from the Showtime airwaves “out of respect for the fighters competing on Saturday night,” but it’s cool to have Morales taking on Garcia when the evidence so far says he cheated? How does that show respect for either the sport of boxing or for Danny Garcia?
There is a little too much hypocrisy and expediency going on here on the part of everyone involved with the broadcast. We are told by Golden Boy’s mouthpiece Richard Schaefer that there will be no rush to judgement, that we should not “crucify” a legend like Erik Morales until we have the results of his “B” test sample — which we are told conveniently won’t be available until AFTER Saturday’s fight.
But Showtime was only too happy to “crucify” a past light heavyweight champion in Tarver on the basis of an “A” test alone. Tarver also lost a plum gig when he was dropped as the NBC boxing analyst for this summer’s Olympic games. He has paid heavily for his transgression.
It should go without saying, then, that Morales should also have to pay. Unless the “B” sample testing is expedited and proves him innocent, allowing Morales to fight on a Showtime broadcast Saturday night is the wrong thing to do.
Yes, the fight is part of the relaunch of boxing in Brooklyn at a brand spankin’ new arena. And not only that, it’s the main event.
If Morales fights while under this cloud, what kind of a message does that send to other cheaters out there?
Easy answer: the wrong message.