First the NBA season came to a screeching halt. Then the NCAA conference basketball tournaments and the MLB Spring Training games.
Now, Top Rank has announced that their events will proceed without fans in the Hulu Theater.
They released the following announcement today via email:
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, and to ensure the health and safety of boxing fans and the fight participants, Top Rank announced today that the March 14 and March 17 events at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden will proceed without spectators. The only individuals granted access to the events will be essential production and support staff, in addition to fighters and necessary team members, and credentialed media. Both events will still be shown live on their respective platforms.
As for future events, Top Rank is consulting with its venue partners and will make a determination in due course.
Full refunds for tickets purchased for the March 14 and March 17 events will be available at the point of purchase.
In addition to Top Rank limiting fans from their events, it has also been announced that the Golden Gloves has been cancelled. Numerous local shows have also been cancelled.
By: Jesse Donathan
It’s time to re-evaluate the conventional paradigm of what constitutes cheating and a level field of play in combat sports. According to an October 7, 2019 ESPN.com article titled, “Tyrone Spong fails drug test, fight vs. Oleksandr Usyk called off,” you can count the undefeated professional boxer and kickboxing legend Tyrone Spong among the long list of performance enhancing drug (PED) users in combat sports. It’s a list that includes Jon Jones, Brock Lesnar and more recently heavyweight Dillian Whyte. With so many high-profile athletes testing positive for prohibited substances, its increasingly clear their use is more common than one might initially think.
According to ESPN.com Senior Writer Dan Rafael, “Heavyweight Tyrone Spong tested positive for a banned substance, leaving 2018 fighter of the year and former undisputed cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk in search of a new opponent.” The report goes on to state, “Now Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is on the hunt for a new opponent after Spong tested positive for the banned substance clomiphene.”
Clomiphene is an anti-estrogen drug commonly used by athletes as an accompanying medication to anabolic steroid use, in this context its general purpose is to combat the metabolization of exogenous testosterone into estrogen. Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, which is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the human body that is responsible for any number of physiological traits most often associated with men.
As reported in an August 2, 2019 payitforwardfertility.org article titled, “How Does Clomid Help Bodybuilders,” Dr. Mirta Marsh weighed in on the use of clomid, also known as clomiphene, recommending that, “You should ideally not use clomid when you are also taking steroids. Complete your steroid therapy first, and then begin using clomiphene.” Also known as post cycle therapy (PCT), this methodology of training is common throughout the bodybuilding and combat sports communities.
According to the report, “When steroid substances are used by men, their natural production of male hormones is reduced. The longer they depend on steroids and heavier the dose the more it affects their hormonal balance. The level of testosterone keeps getting lower and the level of female hormones (estradiol, progesterone, and prolactin) keeps increasing. This results in the growth of female breasts in men, also known as gynecomastia, and it even causes fluid retention in their bodies.”
The addition of clomiphene to one’s performance enhancing drug use regimen is used to combat these negative side effects associated with PED use; it is also the mechanism anabolic steroid users look too as a means of jump starting their bodies own natural testosterone production after it has shut down from exogenous synthetic testosterone use. While clomiphene is used legitimately as fertility treatment in men, it is this same medical necessity and value that is most often cited as an excuse by athletes who return adverse findings for its use.
Though according to a May 11, 2010 New York Times article titled, “Common Thread in Failed Drug Tests Raises New Questions,” author Michael Schmidt writes, “Because these drugs are used to restart the bodies’ production of testosterone after the use of steroids, the sports might be catching the players only at the tail end of their steroid use, when they have already benefited.” Which could mean athletes testing positive for clomiphene who are not using it for legitimate medical necessity may be successfully evading detection for anabolic steroid use while only flagging for their post cycle therapies.
While it may be easy, even convenient, to call fighters like Jon Jones, Brock Lesnar, Tyrone Spong and others cheaters, according to MMA pioneer Renzo Gracie, “Everybody is taking (steroids). The difference is that Anderson (Silva) probably lost control of when the substance would be out of his body,” writes BJJEE.com in their March 12, 2015 article titled, “Renzo Gracie: ‘Everybody is Taking Steroids. Fighters Who Don’t Use, Can’t Compete in this Sport.” Thoughts which were echoed by UFC superstar Nick Diaz in MMAWeekly.com’s September 14, 2015 YouTube video interview titled, “Nick Diaz Declares All Fighters Are on Steroids.”
“That’s another thing I’ll tell you right now,” Diaz told MMAWeekly.com. “I know all the fighters and they are all on steroids. All you mother****er’s are on steroids.”
With recent high-profile positive tests from professional boxers Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, Dillian Whyte and now Tyrone Spong, perhaps Gracie and Diaz are correct in their estimations of exactly how prevalent performance enhancing drug use is in combat sports? If these two highly respected athletes are to be believed, that would mean the conventional cheating paradigm espoused by the vast majority of pundits and fans alike is based off little more than a naïve perception of how combat sports actually work.
And that perception only justifies the continued existence of the commissions, organizations and associations alike who have managed to turn the issue of performance enhancing drug use in combat sports into a for profit enterprise operated under the guise of fighter safety. If nearly every top level, high profile combat sports athlete is using performance enhancing drugs, perhaps its time to re-evaluate what constitutes cheating and competing on a level playing field in combat sports?
By Jake Donovan
Oscar Valdez’ long awaited ring return will now take place a little later—and a lot farther from home—than expected.
The unbeaten featherweight titlist was slated for a January 12 homecoming in Tucson, Arizona—as previously reported by BoxingInsider.com—but those plans along with the entire show have been scrapped altogether.
Valdez’ scheduled opponent, Spain’s Andoni Gago was unable to secure a travel visa in time to make the trip to the United States. An inability to secure an approved opponent within the Top 15 featherweight rankings for the World Boxing Organization (WBO)—whose title Valdez has held since July ’16—prompted the Top Rank brass to cancel the entire event.
The show would have launched the 2019 season of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN. That honor will now shift to the January 18 bill in Verona, New York, topped by heavyweight Bryant Jennings in a dangerous crossroads bout versus unbeaten Oscar Rivas, which will actually stream on ESPN+.
As for Valdez, he will still remain a part of the first show of 2019 on ESPN’s flagship network. His ring return is pushed back by three weeks, as he will land on the undercard of a February 2 show in Frisco, Texas. His bout will come in supporting capacity to the light heavyweight title fight rematch between Eleider Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev.
The show comes on Super Bowl weekend, which will leave Valdez (24-0, 19KOs) inactive for 46 weeks by the time he enters the ring for the 5th defense of his featherweight strap. The extended break largely stems from his recovering from a broken jaw suffered in a gutsy 12-round win over Scott Quigg this past March in Carson, California.
It also gave the unbeaten boxer—who turns 28 later this month—time to reassess his career and the direction in which he wishes to take it. Such self-evaluation led to his moving on from longtime trainer Manuel Robles as he is now training with Eddy Reynoso, best known for his work with reigning World middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The shift in location will mark Valdez’ seventh career bout in Texas. His previous six appearances have all ended in knockout, his last coming in a 3rd round stoppage of journeyman Jose Ramirez in April ’15. He’s since been steadily rotated between Las Vegas, Southern California and Tucson, the latter representing his second childhood home, having split his youth between Arizona and Nogales, Mexico.
Valdez still has family and plenty of fans in Tucson, drawing a favorable turnout for his Sept. ’17 decision win over Genesis Servania. Early indications suggested an even greater reception awaiting his next trip home, but that adventure will have to come another day.
Silence of the Fury
By: Ron Scarfone
The rematch of Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury has been cancelled due to Fury’s medical condition. According to Fury’s promoter Mick Hennessy, Fury was “declared medically unfit to fight.” At the time Hennessy made this statement, he did not disclose the medical concern. However, it was later revealed that the issue was Fury’s mental health. Fury defeated Klitschko on November 28, 2015 and won world heavyweight titles from the WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO. Klitschko had been a world champion for many years and the loss to Fury was Klitschko’s first since 2004. In spite of the historic win by Fury, he has not been as celebrated as he anticipated. Fury had the height, reach, and age advantages against Klitschko. Fury won by unanimous decision, but his reign as a world champion may be coming to an end without a title defense. The IBF title was stripped from Fury about two weeks after he defeated Klitschko because he signed a contract to fight Klitschko in a rematch instead of facing Vyacheslav Glazkov who was the IBF’s mandatory challenger for its world heavyweight title. As a result, Glazkov fought Charles Martin for the vacant IBF title. Martin defeated Glazkov by TKO and won the vacant IBF title. Martin’s first title defense was against Anthony Joshua. Joshua won by KO against Martin. Joshua is still the IBF heavyweight champion. Joshua and Fury are both from the United Kingdom. Klitschko is from Ukraine.
Fury was originally scheduled to fight Klitschko in July, but the fight was postponed due to Fury having an ankle injury. The fight was then rescheduled for October 29, but it is now cancelled in light of the recent news about Fury’s mental condition. It has been reported that Fury has suffered from depression. Klitschko made a statement on video in response to Fury pulling out of the rematch again: “As you already know, October 29th revenge against Fury is cancelled due to whatever issue this time Fury has. Screw it. I will move forward and I will keep you posted when and against whom my next fight is going to be staged. I will rely on information from the sanctioning bodies how they will move on with the titles that currently Fury has. I will keep you posted.” He probably does not need to. We will surely know if and when one or more of the sanctioning bodies chooses to strip Fury of the title(s). The WBA and WBO may strip Fury of their titles if he is inactive for more than one year which will be in a couple of months because he last fought in November 2015. If Fury is stripped, then the WBA and WBO titles would become vacant. Fury is receiving no sympathy from Klitschko or WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder of the United States. Wilder stated on Twitter that it is sad to see a champion unfit to perform due to no self discipline. Wilder seems to think that Fury is not in the proper physical condition due to lack of training. However, Klitschko is definitely in shape and Fury would have likely lost if he was not at his best physically and mentally for the rematch.
History probably would have repeated itself if the Klitschko vs. Fury rematch occurred. In February 1978, Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali by split decision and won the WBC and WBA world heavyweight titles. Ali was an aging champion who was not fully prepared for Spinks who was younger and in his prime. Spinks also trained harder than Ali. Ali was much more motivated in his training for the rematch which was seven months later in September 1978. Spinks did not seem to be as physically prepared as he was in their first fight. Ali won the rematch by unanimous decision which was the last win of his pro career. Spinks beat a legend in Ali, but his glory was short lived. It is probable that the same thing would have happened to Fury if he did not pull out of the rematch. Fame can be fleeting and there are other challengers besides Klitschko who are very capable of defeating Fury if they had a shot at his titles. Fury may have no titles left by December if the sanctioning bodies strip him after a year of inactivity. If the WBA and WBO strip Fury of their titles, it is likely that the IBO will too because they want to continue collecting sanctioning fees and it is unclear when Fury will return to the ring. Fury may never return and could retire. He has talked about retiring before, so this would not be unexpected.
In 1994, Lennox Lewis agreed to fight Riddick Bowe the following year. Nevertheless, Lewis first had to defeat Oliver McCall in a mandatory defense of his WBC heavyweight title. Lewis may have been focused on his future opponent Bowe rather than on McCall. McCall won by TKO and Lewis had his first pro defeat. The rematch happened about three years later in 1997. It was one of the most bizarre fights in boxing history. In the third round, McCall was being pummeled by Lewis. After the third round, McCall did not return to his corner. In round four, McCall had his arms down and he was not defending himself. McCall walked around the ring. Lewis was so perplexed at McCall’s behavior that Lewis was not throwing punches even though he could have. Referee Mills Lane intervened and paused the fight to see if McCall was okay. He then allowed the fight to continue, but McCall was still acting strange. After the fourth round, McCall again walked around and did not return to his corner. In round five, Lewis was doing all the punching and McCall was content to just try to defend himself occasionally. After McCall walked away from Lewis, Mills Lane had seen enough. This time, Lewis defeated McCall by TKO after Lane stopped the fight. McCall then cried. It was obvious that someone in that mental condition should not have been permitted to fight, but the fight could not have been cancelled unless it was known that there was a problem. McCall was able to recover and fought for many more years until 2014.
People will question if Fury can overcome his mental condition and if he will continue to fight. Some people live with depression all their lives and it can be a chronic disease that never goes away completely. There are people who have dysthymia which is a mild depression, but it can still have an adverse effect on people’s lives. The sanctioning bodies will probably wait before making any decision on Fury’s status as world champion. Any impulsive decision now against Fury would seem insensitive considering the circumstances. However, eventually the show must go on.
Klitschko deserves a title shot soon, but it is not going to be easy for Klitschko to win against the other world champions. Joshua and Wilder are undefeated and in their primes. Even though Fury is the WBA “super” heavyweight champion, Luis Ortiz who is originally from Cuba is the interim WBA heavyweight champion. Ortiz is 37 years old, but he is an undefeated southpaw with knockout power. Klitschko could fight WBC Silver heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin of Russia, but this is considered to be a minor title and Klitschko may only want belts of the highest level. Klitschko defeated Povetkin by unanimous decision in 2013.
Critics of Klitschko have waited for the day that he would be dethroned. The vanquisher of the 40-year-old Klitschko also has his critics. Fury may not get a rematch against Klitschko if he comes back. Klitschko may be retired by then. Klitschko may lose to one of the other world champions. Perhaps the fans will get what they want and we will see all the world titles unified. A tournament involving WBC champ Wilder, IBF champ Joshua, interim WBA champ Ortiz, and former champ Klitschko would create a lot of interest. If this were to happen, the WBO and IBO would probably want to be involved as well. In a couple of months, the sanctioning bodies would be within their right to strip Fury due to inactivity. The WBA would probably want their “super” world title that Fury has to be involved in a unification tournament too. Will the WBA elevate Ortiz from interim to “super” champion? Will any of the sanctioning bodies allow Fury to remain a world champion when he has more than a year of inactivity at the end of November? It will be interesting to see what happens. Fury has publicly stated that he is motivated to box solely for the money and that he hates training. When a world champion shares views like that with the world, he is going to have critics. For now though, the usually talkative Fury is silent. We know based on what he said in the past that his fury, his passion for boxing, is also silent.