Sour taste for Lee, wild decision for Ward
By Ciarán Gallagher
WHERE to start? The fallout from Andy Lee’s world-title challenge continues to provide twist and turns.
Some of our concerns outlined recently were merited, others not. The points robbery that most fans and pundits expected in the generally pro-Chavez state of Texas did not occur as the champion managed to physically overwhelm Lee and stopped him in the seventh round after a barrage of punches.
However, the opening bell had not even rung when US broadcasters HBO announced that Chavez had failed to provide a urine sample for an anti-doping test. For a fighter who has already failed a test in 2010 (for furosemide, a diuretic which can illegally aid a fighter’s weight loss and recovery in advance of a bout), this was an early time bomb which has been threatening to explode all week.
Lee used his jab and distance to control Chavez as he moved into a 4-2 lead on the judges’ cards ahead of the seventh-round stoppage. But the Limerick man seemed to tire as he began to trade with the Mexican.
The Limerick man’s punches seemed to have a minimal effect on the champion, who weighed in at 159lbs for the bout but entered the ring at around 180lbs, which also adds weight to conspiracy theories.
However, a spokesperson for the body in charge of drug testing for the bout, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), this week told Mail Box that ‘Chavez and Lee each provided urine samples before the bout’.
Promoters Top Rank have since claimed that both fighter’s tests have come back negative. One of Lee’s trainers has claimed that an unnecessary amount of Chavez’s backroom team (possibly up to six) were present when the champion provided his sample, while only a doctor and a Texas commissioner accompanied Lee when he gave his own. Major questions have been asked of TDLR’s protocols, which do not apparently measure up to the stringent approach taken by WADA and other internationally recognised anti-doping bodies.
It will be remembered that there were allegations that Chavez high tailed it out of Alamodome after his last win over fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio, who later commented: ‘There was no testing done, and in a championship fight, testing needs to be done. There was no weigh-ins done the days or weeks before the fight, and I feel that he was very well-protected.’
However, it must also be remembered that neither fighter was tested on that night, while anti-doping arrangements were believed to be shambolic. If it is true that Chavez had an entourage present for his test last weekend, questions will continue to be asked of Texas. Whether it was just the case that one of Chavez’s trainers was allowed to hold the fighter’s member, it is still an unprofessional approach to invite every Tom, Dick (ahem) and Harry to a piss party. It allows too much room for sinister practice.
Speaking on the question of testing last weekend, Lee’s head trainer Emmanuel Steward said: ‘Boxing is a physical combat sport where if drugs are used by one fighter then this is a disadvantage against the other fighter and causes serious damage to a fighter’s health.
‘I am waiting on the Texas Commission to clarify the situation before considering any appropriate action.’ Steward is also set to meet with US senator John McCain, who is involved in the ‘Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act’ — proposed legislation to introduce an official US boxing commission – and may yet raise the issue.
That initiative came about after the woeful decision which saw Tim Bradley awarded a points win over Manny Pacquiao, which was ironically promoted by Bob Arum, promoter of Chavez and last Saturday’s bout. Arum this week commented:
‘I know Julio did the urine test at the arena right before the fight. As far as Julio’s weight gain, well so what? That is certainly within the rules.’ Arum was apparently outraged by the Bradley robbery, but seems to have lower expectations of fair play from opposing corners than he does of the three blind mice that upset Pacquiao (well, two blind mice).
Bending the rules was the name of the game for Team Chavez last weekend. The fighter and his trainer Freddie Roach refused to weigh their gloves to prove they were regulation 10oz, provoking fears that the Mexican wore lighter mitts. If that seems speculative what was most certainly not was the size of the ring in El Paso — a smaller ring, which did not measure near standard championship-fight dimensions, allowed the champion to easily pursue the more evasive challenger.
With all factors put together, all Team Chavez were short of doing was asking Lee to wear clown shoes in an effort to hamper his footwork and attempts to avoid the physical Mexican. It may all seem like sour grapes. Mail Box scored the bout even after six rounds and in the immediate aftermath thought that Chavez had impressively lured Lee into his style of fight to dominate and stop the challenger.
However, there is a worrying smell still lingering after the fight’s post-mortem and Team Lee are not unjustified in their calls for transparency. As things stand, Chavez has put in a career-best performance and should be commended for doing so. But a as long as there are so many doubts surrounding gamesmanship and, allegedly, talk of outright cheating, there will unfortunately be an asterisk beside the champion’s wins.
Another Irish fighter wondering what the hell has gone on behind closed doors is Joe Ward. We are sick of writing autopsies — such as the one above — which analyse the slow death of pro boxing, but the amateur game is keeping up when it comes to questionable calls.
Ward this week learned that he ‘does not meet the qualification to be the next best boxer’ in Europe who had not yet qualified for the Olympics and misses out on a ‘wildcard’ place. So the European champion and World No 5 will not be present in London.
The world governing body (AIBA) have yet to confirm who has received the ‘Tripartite commission place’, but Bosko Draskovic of Montenegro is believed to be the selection. The place is reserved for ‘developing’ nations, and Ireland is not considered to be one. Ward’s chances at glory got tangled up in red tape; Lee’s team may yet need to unravel some to reveal some harsh truths.
*Ciarán Gallagher’s Mail Box column appears every Friday in the Irish Daily Mail, follow him on Twitter: @gallagherbox and read more great/confused sports writing at www.grannykiller.com