Deontay Wilder's WBC world heavyweight title defence against Alexander Povetkin has been cancelled after the challenger failed a drugs test, testing positive for traces of banned substance meldonium.
The bout that was to take place at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow on May 21 and would have been the American's fourth title defence, as the 30-year-old looks to unify the heavyweight division. However, Povetkin's failed drugs test has dealt the undefeated heavyweight a major blow.
Andrey Ryabinsky, Povetkin's promoter, had said on Sunday evening that the fight would be rescheduled at a later date - insisting the trace of the banned substance was taken prior to the ban coming into place on January 1, after it was suggested by the World Anti Doping Agency that meldonium significantly enhances an athlete's performance.
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However, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has since revealed in a statement that, in fact, the fight is now off, after being forced into an earlier announcement after it was revealed Wilder was preparing to flight back to the States, following news of the failed drugs test.
Sulaiman said: "The World Boxing Council is diligently addressing the positive test result from the [WBC's] clean boxing program for mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin," as reported by ESPN.
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Banned substance uncovered
The trace was found in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association urine test that took place on April 27 in Chekhov, Russia, but only came to light on Friday when the organisation sent letters to both fighters and the WBC.
A lawsuit is likely to proceed, with Wilder unable to claim the $4,504,500 he was due for taking on his mandatory challenger, and Ryabinsky faces a similar issue to the one he faced with his other client Denis Lebedev, who tested positive for a banned diuretic, which helps to cover up the use of steroids.
But Ryabinksy insists that Povetkin hasn't taken the illegal substance since the ban was put in place at the beginning of the year, and insists the traces of meldonium were left over from when the heavyweight took the drug in September, last year.
"He has not taken it since Jan. 1. The situation is ambiguous," insisted Ryabinsky. "The blood sample was taken in April this year."
Wilder had given up home advantage by heading to England for a training camp in Sheffield, giving himself the chance to adapt to the European time zones, before heading to Moscow to face Povetkin on home soil.
Wilder left disappointed
"I'm very disappointed that due to Povetkin's failed drug test the fight is not going to happen on May 21 in Moscow," Wilder admitted in a statement.
"I had worked very hard to prepare myself for this important title defence, spending the last two weeks training in England to get accustomed to fighting in Europe.
"I wanted to give the fans a great show, but we understand the WBC's position that the fight occur on an even playing field.
"This is a huge disappointment and a setback to my goals in boxing. I want to be an active heavyweight champion and it is still my goal to collect all the belts and become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world."
Meldonium proved dangerous
And Wilder's promoter Lou DiBella has been left equally as disappointed, with the chance for his fighter to potentially face Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua in the near future, to become the undisputed heavyweight champion.
Meldonium has been proven to increase blood flow, and therefore allow more oxygen to flow through the into the muscles and improve stamina - something that would have proved massively advantageous for Povetkin over 12 rounds against Wilder.
"The guy tested positive for a dangerous drug and the health and safety of Deontay was paramount, so the fight could not take place on May 21," said DiBella.
"He has gone through his entire training camp and expended a tremendous amount of time and money and energy. It's awful."
Lebedev (28-2-0-KO21) and Victor Emilio Ramirez (22-2-1- KO17) will now be the main event in Moscow, as the Russian and Argentine will fight to unify the cruiserweight division.
Who should Deontay Wilder face instead of Alexander Povetkin? Give your suggestions in the comment box below.