A shock fight could take place on the Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker March 31 undercard. Alexander Povetkin, the Russian heavyweight who has had two fights cancelled due to failed drug tests, could box David Price, the Briton who has twice suffered knockout defeats to drug cheats. It is an alarming development, but Price himself has accepted the fight.

Povetkin is in a position to become the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua’s WBA world title. That means sooner or later he could well compete in the UK. Eddie Hearn, who promotes that show, told Boxing News, “They’ve got no interest in doing the [Joshua] fight in Russia. So they want to come over and box on the card, which might be the Price fight, which people have been talking about and Povetkin might be next for Joshua, but at some point we will have to fight Povetkin.”

Given Povetkin’s track record it’s a surprise that he merits such an opportunity. “Unfortunately there’s no point in operating in business like that. It is what it is. You have to deal with what’s in front of you. The WBA made him the mandatory, not yet by the way, it’s not been called yet. It’s a bit like Dillian [Whyte]. Dillian’s number one with the WBC, he’s not mandatory until he gets called. So he’s the number one challenger, as is Povetkin. But Povetkin’s people I think they’d like a couple of fights as well. They’ve been very inactive,” Hearn said. “So we’ll see if the Price fight gets over the line.”

He added of the situation, “We can’t control that. It’s down to jurisdictions. At the end of the day, if one guy’s our mandatory and he’s been banned previously for PEDs, we’re not going to turn around and say we’re not fighting him and just vacate our belt. The fighter wouldn’t do that. Whether he [Povetkin] deserves it or not is another debate.”

Povetkin would be a dangerous proposition for Price, who has endured four inside-the-distance defeats, made all the worse by seeing Tony Thompson and Erkan Teper hand him damaging loses only to then fail drug tests. But Hearn suggested that Povetkin, “might be a chance for him to get redemption”. The promoter continued, “I think we’re in a stage now where there is so much being done now from the governing bodies finally, re the testing of fighters. Joshua-Parker for example, Joshua’s on the 365 VADA/WBA testing, he’s on the 365 UKAD testing and in addition he pays 40 grand per fight to make sure they do additional random testing for the 12 weeks of the fight. I just don’t think you can cheat. If you’re fighting in Russia like Povetkin and there’s no testing, yes, it’s not going to be ideal. Povetkin is on the WBA random stuff. If we did a fight with Price or Joshua, we’d also do additional VADA testing as well. So you’d like to think you’ve got a clean fighter in there.”

It is though Price who has accepted the Povetkin fight. “I think there’s a method to the madness. You look at it and say it’s a lot of money but if I beat Povektin, I’ve had it off. And if I don’t, I’m back where I was and I fight [Dereck] Chisora, or a British title. The one thing that Price has, he has the equalizer,” Hearn said. “Can Price knock out Povetkin? The answer is yes. Will he, is another argument.

“It might be a concern for Povetkin because they haven’t come back yet and accepted the fight. They might look at it and go, what do we gain from fighting Price? He’s been knocked out four times and he can punch.”

Nor is Hearn discouraged from promoting a bout like Price-Povetkin on such a high profile event. “Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s not a decision for us. If he is the person we have to fight, we have to fight him. There’s no point campaigning saying it’s not fair he’s failed a drug test in the past. He’s [Anthony Joshua’s] mandatory. We’ve got to fight him. It’s not going to change,” Hearn said. “The [British Boxing] Board will have to sanction Alexander Povetkin to fight. They can’t stop him from fighting if he’s cleared from his own governing body and also the global governing bodies.”

David Price

Australian Lucas Browne who fights Dillian Whyte on the March 24 Matchroom show at the O2 has failed drug tests himself. Whyte too, in past years, served a suspension for a nutritional supplement that contained a prohibited substance.

The promoter though remains optimistic, insisting that drug testing in boxing is improving. “This fight [Whyte-Browne] is with the WBC and they’re both on the VADA programme random testing. It’ll also be subject to UKAD testing as well. You can’t do any more. If he [Browne] is cheating in this fight he will fail a drug test. I do believe in a lot of these occasions some people are stupid, some people are just cheating but you’ve got to determine what. When Dillian Whyte failed his one for Jack 3D pre workout I don’t believe he was cheating at all. But he took the supplement that is on the banned list. Tough,” Hearn said.

“The cheating in boxing in my opinion is nowhere near as advanced as the cheating in cycling. It’s running though [cycling]. I would be astonished and gutted if any of my fighters failed a drugs test. And they’ve never by the way. I’ve never had a fighter that I’ve had signed at the time fail a drugs test. And I would hate to be in that position where I would have to sit down, look him in the eye and ask him did you know you were cheating? You bet your life he’d say no. I think it’s in a good place, testing in worldwide boxing right now, people are taking notice and I think it’s good.”

Watch Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne argue over their history HERE