I don’t really give much thought anymore to fighters failing drugs tests. I actually think plenty of those we consider “world class” are on performance enhancers.
I also know that writing that risks bursting the bubble of those who want to believe in their heroes, and who look up to them.
In the case of Dillian Whyte fighting Anthony Joshua, Matchroom were able to salvage their promotion somewhat by replacing him with Robert Helenius. I’d have liked to have seen Joshua-Whyte II, because of their rivalry, but the world moves on.
Unless there’s a year-round programme of strict and regular random drug testing, the authorities are just picking individuals off instead of policing the sport as it needs. The authorities aren’t thorough – those getting caught are those being reckless, as opposed to the only ones doing it.
It’s proved easier to punish individuals like Jarrell Miller. When it’s someone like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez they’ve been given a slap on the wrist. Should Whyte be punished, the example being set wouldn’t be that effective an example to others; that example should instead be consistent testing, year-round, for fighters. Until then, boxing will continue to be like the Wild West.
For all of the problems boxing has in 2023, drug use might be the biggest of all. I believe it takes place all over the sport. It’s difficult not to notice how few fighters seem to get angry about those that get caught. You don’t really see others making statements about it or offering their opinions; a clean fighter should be angry after hearing about another getting caught cheating. That’s how I felt when I was active; nowadays, by comparison, because so little is done about it, I’m almost numb to it. There are also trends, physically, that didn’t exist to the extent they do now. I’d like for the sport to be safer and fairer, but active fighters, and authorities, don’t seem to care.
When I reflect on my career, I believe there are occasions I fought dirty fighters. The most important thing today, regardless, is that I’m healthy.
I reflect on boxing as an avenue to financial security. I used to look at it as way more than that – it was very important to me – but by looking at it differently I have far less of an emotional reaction to considering whether an opponent was dirty or clean. It’s a sport that brings people happiness so I’m just happy to be in a position to commentate on it and to try to provide those people with nuances surrounding what they’re watching.
Active fighters know the individuals they can turn to if they want to cheat. They know where to find them, and they also know who’s working with them, and what to ask for.
The more recent news surrounding Alycia Baumgardner made me feel similarly to when it was Whyte. I’m also yet to see an athlete test positive and say, “You got me”.
Whyte was seen by some as the opponent needed to rebuild his confidence, but the only person who can rebuild that confidence is Joshua himself. No matter who was in front of him it was going to be about his mentality on fight night, and against Helenius it wasn’t very convincing.
His mannerisms in the ring – he looked very hesitant. I don’t think that would have changed if Whyte was in front of him instead, even if Helenius deserves credit for taking the fight at such late notice and taking Joshua into the seventh round.
It’s positive Joshua fought, and had further rounds to attempt to conquer his demons and the doubts that have been haunting him. I don’t think he did so against Helenius, but every fight he has that represents progress is positive.