AT the end of 2017, Billy Joe Saunders produced a dazzling performance in unanimously outpointing the dangerous David Lemieux to retain his WBO middleweight crown. This impressive victory capped off a productive year for the skilful southpaw, during which he also made a successful title defence against the tricky Willie Monroe Jnr – once again via unanimous decision. Unfortunately for Saunders, 2018 was to turn out to be his annus horribilis.
Just over three weeks before a lucrative scheduled October clash with fellow unbeaten Demetrius Andrade in Boston, it emerged that Saunders had failed a voluntary drug test, with the stimulant oxilofrine being detected in his system. Though the substance – which Saunders’ team said came from a “common decongestant nasal spray” – is permitted for use outside of competition by the British Boxing Board of Control, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission – the body that was governing the Andrade fight – refused to license Saunders due to the “adverse analytical finding”. This led to the cancellation of the bout, as well as Saunders relinquishing his WBO belt.
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