The WBO has weighed in on the latest Billy Joe Saunders 26-0 (12) scandal after the British middleweight was denied a licence to box by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC) on Tuesday.
The WBO middleweight champion was scheduled to defend his world title belt against leading American contender Demetrius ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade 25-0 (16) at the TD Arena in Boston on October 20.
The MSAC voted against granting Saunders a licence after the 29-year-old Hatfield southpaw returned a positive drug test for the banned stimulant oxilofrine.
“It is unfortunate that a boxer as talented as Saunders is facing this controversy. He will not be able to defend the title,” said WBO president Francisco Valcárcel in comments published by World Boxing News.
“The WBO will examine the situation with due diligence. We will proceed according to its ‘Rules & Regulations’ [to] decide which is the proper course of action.”
The WBO had previously flagged stripping Saunders of his title if he was refused a licence to box.
“[The] final WBO championship committee will order BJS to show why WBO shouldn’t declare the title vacant,” read the WBO statement.
“BJS has the right to appeal any decision before the grievances committee according to Rule 34 of WBO Rules and Regulations.”
Massachusetts officials refused Saunders a licence to box in their state after he failed a doping test on August 30. The test was conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Authority Association (VADA) who list oxilofrine as a banned substance. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) only ban the use of oxilofrine “in competition”, considered to be fight day for boxers.
WBO number one middleweight contender Andrade is expected to face Namibia’s Walter Kautondokwa 17-0 (16), the WBO number two ranked contender. If the Puerto Rican sanctioning body does strip Saunders of his title, it is expected that Andrade-Kautondokwa will be sanctioned for their vacant world middleweight championship.
Last month Saunders was fined £100,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) for bringing the sport into disrepute after he published a distasteful video of himself on social media offering a woman crack cocaine in exchange for a sex act and inciting her to punch a passer-by in the face after falsely claiming the stranger was a paedophile.