Ring Ratings Update: an overdue announcement and overdue updates
THE RING rankings have not been updated since the boxing events of the weekend of April 13-15, and you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out the major announcement made the following week that caused the hold up.
On April 18, the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) handed Canelo Alvarez a six-month suspension for testing positive for the banned substance clenbuterol, an infraction that ultimately canceled his May 5 rematch with Gennady Golovkin that was to take place in Las Vegas.
The assumption – by fans and the RING Ratings Panel – was that Alvarez would be stripped of the RING middleweight title that he’s held since winning it from Miguel Cotto in November 2015 and also dropped from magazine’s rankings, per the publication’s six-year-old policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), which states:
THE RING will remove from its ratings any rated boxer – including a champion – if such boxer at some point undergoes drug testing and that boxer tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
That hasn’t happened in the case of Alvarez, and it isn’t going to happen.
Before I continue, I want to state two things:
First, that the Ratings Panel, which had voted to hold off on making a decision on Alvarez until the NAC completed its investigation and made an official ruling on April 18, was nearly unanimous in advising the Editorial Board (which includes managing editor Brian Harty, associate editor Tom Gray and Yours Truly) to strip the Mexican star of our 160-pound title and drop him from the rankings. The Editorial Board agreed with the Ratings Panel’s vote.
Second, and I’m speaking only for myself, the decision to strip Alvarez of the title does not mean I believe that the two-division champ is a “cheater” or was knowingly taking clenbuterol or other PEDs in order to gain an advantage against Golovkin. It was solely about following our rules, which I also admit are vague and have led to some sketchy past decisions.
PED positives are not always a simple matter of right and wrong, as evidenced by the recent cases involving claims of contamination (as we had with Lucas Browne, Francisco Vargas, Luis Nery and Alvarez) and the complicated examples of heavyweight standouts Alexander Povetkin, Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury. I can’t say that there was consistency in the handling of each case in regard to our PED policy.
Sometimes we allowed an investigation – conducted by the athletic commission with jurisdiction or the appropriate sanctioning organization – to take place and the subsequent ruling of those governing bodies decided how THE RING would deal with the fighter who tested positive. We sided with the commission in the Vargas case, and with the sanctioning organizations in the cases of Browne, Povetkin and Ortiz. We sided with neither in Fury’s case, and did nothing. (He was ultimately stripped for inactivity.) We went against the commission and sanctioning body in the case of Nery, who was stripped of the RING title.
Our policy is far from perfect, especially with the rapidly evolving understanding of PEDs and banned-substance testing, as well as the continually changing rules and regulations established by world anti-doping authorities, such as WADA, and the various commissions.
THE RING’s policy was challenged by the magazine’s newly appointed publisher, Stefan Friedman, who provided the Editorial Board with the following reasons why it was “wrong” to strip Alvarez:
1) The tests that came back positive were conducted February 17 and February 20. No one who I spoke with (trainers, doctors and others) said that the ingestion of Clenbuterol at that time would have any impact whatsoever on Canelo’s abilities for his planned May 5 fight.
2) The levels of Clenbuterol in Canelo’s system were “consistent” with meat contamination, according to Dr. Daniel Eichner, director of the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory and one of the most respected professionals in his field.
3) Receipts from restaurants where Canelo ingested meat in the time period that would have led to positive tests on February 17 and February 20 were provided to the NAC.
4) A hair-follicle test showed absolutely no trace of Clenbuterol in his system. Though hair-follicle testing is not currently approved for PEDs, one would reasonably expect to find Clenbuterol in the test, as substances ingested as long as years prior to the test, can still cause a positive result.
5) It is well established that Clenbuterol has been used in a slew of slaughterhouses throughout Mexico, despite a government ban on the activity. MMA fighters, NFL football players, professional soccer players, golfers and many other athletes who have travelled to Mexico have subsequently tested positive for the substance. Many have received no punishment whatsoever.
6) If the May 5 fight had been slated to take place in California, Texas, New York or many other places, Canelo would have likely been allowed to fight, as those states do not have a zero-tolerance drug policy when it comes to Clenbuterol.
I understand and agree with many (but not all) of Friedman’s points, especially No. 6, which I believe to be true, but the fact for the matter is that the Canelo-Golovkin rematch was scheduled to take place in Nevada, and the commission of that state had to follow their rules. That’s all the Editorial Board wanted to do. But we have been overruled.
And if we can’t follow our own rules, we should not have those rules as they currently exist. THE RING’s PED Policy as it has been published in the magazine since 2012 is now defunct. (If another RING-rated fighter or RING champ tests positive in the coming weeks, what can we do? The chances that the fighter will admit to willfully doping are slim and none – and Slim left town, as Don King used to say – but if we drop/strip him, we can’t fault the boxer or his or her representatives for claiming that we are being unfair and biased for Golden Boy-promoted fighters.)
It is my sincere hope and goal to draft and establish an updated and more comprehensive PED policy with the cooperation of respected anti-doping experts and advocates as well as members of the boxing community and media that are knowledgeable about the subject. I also wish to assemble an anti-doping advisory board comprised of experts in the field to help us understand the nuances of difficult cases.
In the meantime, there is more to boxing than Canelo Alvarez’s controversial and polarizing suspension.
On Saturday, three-division titleholder Jorge Linares defends his RING/WBA lightweight championship against THE RING/BWAA 2017 Fighter of the Year Vasiliy Lomachenko in New York City.
On May 20, newly crowned RING junior flyweight champ Ryoichi Taguchi will defend his IBF and WBA 108-pound belts against former 105-pound beltholder Hekkie Budler in Tokyo.
On that same day, the World Boxing Super Series is scheduled to announce a new date for its cruiserweight tournament final (and four-belt unification bout) between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev, which will determine THE RING’s champion at 200 pounds.
Divisional rankings changes over the past month:
Heavyweight – No. 7-rated Kubrat Pulev has been dropped due to inactivity (one year), so Dominic Breazeale, Jarrell Miller and Adam Kownacki all move up one spot, allowing Tony Bellew, who scored a rematch stoppage against UK rival David Haye last Saturday, to come in at No. 10.
Middleweight – No. 5-rated Jermall Charlo, who blasted unrated Hugo Centeno Jr. in two rounds on April 21, will stay put. Some members of the panel wanted to move Charlo up to No. 4, but other argued that No. 4-rated Sergiy Derevyancheko still has a slightly stronger resume at 160 pounds.
Junior middleweight – No. 10-rated Maciej Sulecki, who just dropped a competitive decision to Daniel Jacobs at middleweight, was dropped, making room for Kell Brook to enter at No. 10. There was some discussion of bumping THE RING’s No 10-rated middleweight, Gary O’Sullivan, for Sulecki, but “Spike” has enough supporters on the Panel to stay put. (O’Sullivan extended his win streak, since being stopped by Chris Eubank Jr. in December 2015, to 6-0 with a three-round stoppage of Berlin Abreu on May 4.)
Welterweight – No. 7-rated Jessie Vargas will stay put after engaging unrated Adrien Broner to a competitive 12-round majority draw on April 21.
Junior welterweight – No. 1-rated Mikey Garcia leaves his 140-pound perch after vacating his IBF title. Unbeaten Alex Saucedo (27-0, 17 KOs) enters the rankings at No. 10.
Junior lightweight – No. 3-rated Gervonta Davis holds his place after a brilliant third-round stoppage of former featherweight beltholder Jesus Cuellar on April 21. There was some talk of “Tank” moving up one spot but most of the Panel agreed that No. 2-rated Miguel Berchelt’s resume is still stronger.
Featherweight – No. 3-rated Carl Frampton, who outpointed Nonito Donaire over 12 rounds on April 21, moved up one spot. There was some argument that Gary Russell Jr., who makes his annual appearance against WBC-mandatory challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. on May 19, should remain at No. 2, but his lack of activity was not appreciated by the majority of the Panel.
Junior featherweight – Isaac Dogboe jumped from No. 7 to No. 2 with his sensational 11th-round stoppage of No. 2-rated Jessie Magdaleno, who dropped to No. 4.
Bantamweight – No. 1-rated Zolani Tete remains in the top spot after a dreadfully boring unanimous decision over veteran Omar Narvaez, who drops out of the ratings. Emmanuel Rodriguez, who beat Paul Butler for the IBF title on May 5, enters at No. 4. Butler exits the rankings. Replacing Narvaez and Butler are Nordine Oubaali (14-0, 11 KOs) in at No. 9, and Jason Moloney (16-0, 13 KOs) at No. 10.
Flyweight – No. 7-rated Daigo Higa drops out of the rankings after receiving an indefinite ban from the Japanese Boxing Commission for losing his WBC title on the scales prior to his late-stoppage loss to Cristopher Rosales (currently ranked No. 4). That left room for Vincent Legrand (27-0, 16 KOs) to enter at No. 10.
Strawweight – No. 1-rated Wanheng Menayothin remains in the top spot after moving his record to 50-0 with a stoppage of No. 8-rated Leroy Estrada, who drops out. Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9 KOs) comes in at No. 10.
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer