ALTHOUGH we have unfortunately come to accept boxing is rife with performance-enhancing drug cheats, today is the day we contemplate the implications of referees and judges being caught getting up to no good during work hours.
That’s not to say we haven’t previously wondered if some of the iffy officiating in boxing has been affected by drugs (rather than good old incompetence). We have. Often. But it’s only now the World Boxing Council (WBC) have made their suspicions known in revealing their Clean Boxing Program will incorporate boxing officials as well as boxers.
According to a statement on their website, the drug tests are designed to detect the usage of recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines, and to restore the integrity of the sport the WBC will be working with all national and state federations of the world to develop this ‘vital project’.
The first two officials tested were Steve Morrow, a boxing judge from California, and Frank Garza, a judge and referee from Michigan, who were presented with tests at the WBC headquarters in Mexico City. Both tests came back negative.
Boxing News can’t confirm or deny whether some of the ludicrous officiating – judging, refereeing – we have witnessed in the past can be attributed to drugged up officials but at least now, following future WBC title fights, we will be able to know once and for all.
Michael Conlan’s dream of exacting pro revenge on Vladimir Nikitin, his 2016 Olympic Games nemesis, was crushed last week when it was announced the Russian had withdrawn from their proposed August 3 fight due to a bicep injury.
Today, however, the Irishman’s spirits will have been lifted by the news that the has a replacement opponent for his 10-round featherweight fight next month at Falls Park, Belfast. The new opponent will be Diego Alberto Ruiz, a durable type from Argentina who has lost just twice in 23 pro fights.
Currently on a run of 10 straight wins, Ruiz, 21-2 (10), has spent the entirety of his career boxing in his homeland and started out as a bantamweight, a division in which he was Argentinean champion. At super-bantamweight, meanwhile, he became a WBC Latino silver champion, whatever that means, as well as the interim South American champion.
His best win to date, up at featherweight, was a 10-round decision victory against Luis Emanuel Cusolito, though a split-decision verdict suggests it was a close one.
“This is the biggest fight of my career,” Ruiz, 25, said. “This is a great opportunity to prove myself as a fighter. I fought June 1, and I am going to be ready for whatever Michael brings.
“It won’t be an easy fight, but it is not an impossible task. I am not scared to fight on the road. That is my motivation because the pressure will be on him.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Conlan, 11-0 (6), has looked relatively comfortable so far in his two-and-a-half-year professional career, despite being extended the full 10-round distance in his last two fights (against Jason Cunningham and Ruben Garcia Hernandez).
His route to a world title shot seemed to put him on a collision course with Nikitin, the man many believe was lucky to beat him in Brazil three years ago, but those plans now seem to have changed in light of the Russian’s recent injury woes.
“When Vladimir Nikitin dropped out due to injury, I told Top Rank and MTK Global to get me the toughest possible opponent,” Conlan said. “Ruiz is on a 10-fight winning streak and I know he’s coming all the way from Argentina to continue his victorious ways.
“This is my toughest test as a professional, but if I’m going to become a world champion, I must beat Ruiz. I’ve been busy in London with my trainer, Adam Booth, and I can’t wait to put on a show on August 3.
“Maybe once I’m a world champion, I might give Nikitin a shot, but for now, I’m moving on because it was more stalling my career than advancing it in terms of the level I’m at.”