Heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder had completed his training camp in preparation for a May 21 mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow when he got the news that Povetkin had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in a random urine test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, boxing’s most reputable testing agency.
“My immediate reaction was my mouth dropped open when Jay [Deas, his head trainer] was explaining what happened,” Wilder told ESPN.com on Wednesday. “”My heart fell to my stomach when Jay was telling me.”
Wilder, Deas and the rest of their team were in Sheffield, England, where Wilder had spent the final two weeks of his training camp, a move made in order to help with the adjustment in time zone changes. ESPN.com broke the news of Povetkin’s failed test two days before Wilder and his crew were supposed to fly from England to Moscow for fight week.
"All I could think about was what I had put my body through in training camp, the travel and to be leaving empty handed? It was a horrible feeling."Deontay Wilder
But the only plane they boarded was one back to the United States when the fight was called off. That meant the two months Wilder had put into training, not to mention the cost of training camp and traveling overseas, had gone to waste. And, by the way, he was not paid his $4,504,500 purse because there was no fight, although a lawsuit to recover that money could be filed.
“All I could think about was what I had put my body through in training camp, the travel and to be leaving empty handed? It was a horrible feeling,” Wilder said. “I had a tough camp, did hundreds of rounds of sparring. Traveled to another country to train. That was hard. Then to have what happened be basically the week of the fight? It was a horrible feeling.”
At least Wilder got the thumbs up from the WBC on Wednesday that he could pursue an optional defense while the organization figures out what to do about Povetkin and the mandatory obligation. Wilder’s team plans to set up a summer defense for him.
“We’re by no means sweeping this [Povetkin situation] under the rug, but the show must go on and I must fulfill my legacy of being undisputed heavyweight champion,” Wilder said. “But we will pay close attention to the decision that will be made [by the WBC]. This is a dangerous situation. This will set the tone for the next guys who decide they want to do crazy stuff.
“I’m glad the WBC has allowed me to move forward and let me do what I love to do, which is to perform for the fans.”
Had Povetkin simply suffered an injury, Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) said he would not be upset. Disappointed, yes, but understanding.
“It would be understandable if he tore something or broke something,” Wilder said. “But when it comes to somebody taking something, whether by mouth or in his veins by syringe, that’s unacceptable. There should be no tolerance. They were well aware of what they were doing.”
Wilder said he believes Povetkin should be given a lengthy suspension.
“I definitely think he should be suspended,” Wilder said. “This will set the tone for the future of boxing. There are probably a lot of users on the edge of their seat right now. They could be next. We gonna see what the [WBC] decision is. I support the WBC movement to have a clean program. But just because Povetkin got caught, a lot of guys haven’t got caught. Boxing is already dangerous without taking anything.”
Wilder then cited his massive one-punch knockout of Artur Szpilka in the ninth round on Jan. 16 as an example.
“Take a look at my last fight and the knockout against Szpilka with my God-given power,” Wilder said. “Now imagine if I did that using meldonium or any other kind of illegal substance that allowed my body to do something it’s not supposed to do? Now he’s dead. That’s manslaughter and I should be in jail.”