Wilder, who embraced going to foreign territory to defend his title, was upset that the fight was called off.
“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 said in a statement. “I had worked very hard to prepare myself for this important title defense, 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 is the same drug for which tennis star Maria Sharapova and many other athletes recently tested positive. It was approved to be added to the banned substance list by the World Anti-Doping Agency in September, and the ban went into effect Jan. 1. Meldonium is used to increase blood flow and carry more oxygen to muscles, thereby enhancing stamina, a trait boxers would want in a long fight.
“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,” Wilder promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. “Deontay would have fought King Kong without any regard for what substance was being used, but Povetkin’s use of this banned substance and the breach of the contract deprived Deontay of an opportunity to defend his title on a fair playing field. As a result, Deontay has suffered significant damages.
“He has gone through his entire training camp and expended a tremendous amount of time and money and energy. It’s awful.”
Andrey Ryabinsky of World of Boxing, Povetkin’s promoter, said the fight would be rescheduled while the rest of the card will go forward. A cruiserweight world title unification bout between Russia’s Denis Lebedev (28-2, 21 KOs) and Victor Emilio Ramirez (22-2-1, 17 KOs), of Argentina, has been moved from the co-feature to the main event.
“Any talk from Ryabinsky of a rescheduled date is both unfounded and premature,” DiBella said. “We need to sit back and await further rulings from the WBC, but we will weigh all of our options.”
There is a lot of money at stake. Based on Ryabinsky’s winning purse bid of $7.15 million, Wilder was due $4,504,500 to Povetkin’s $1,930,500 with the remaining 10 percent — $715,000 — going to the winner. With no fight, the purses won’t be paid and a lawsuit is likely to ensue; Wilder’s purse is sitting in escrow in a United States bank, according to his camp.
If there is a lawsuit, Ryabinsky could have issues mirroring a 2014 situation he was in.
Lebedev, who is promoted by Ryabinsky, was due to face Guillermo Jones in a rematch in Russia, but with the fighters in their dressing rooms hours before the fight, Jones tested positive for a banned diuretic, which is typically used as a masking agent for steroids. The fight was canceled, and Ryabinsky later won a judgment against Jones promoter Don King for the money he and Lebedev were owed for the bout.
Ryabinsky said Povetkin’s levels of meldonium were very low and that the traces in his system were left over from when he took it in September, before the ban.
“He has not taken it since Jan. 1. The situation is ambiguous,” Ryabinsky told Russia’s TASS news agency before the fight was called off. “The blood sample was taken in April this year.”
However, Povetkin was tested by the VADA on April 7, 8 and 11, and each of those tests came back negative for any banned substances, according to two letters ESPN.com obtained in which the VADA disclosed those test results to both sides and the WBC. Those results indicate that meldonium apparently entered Povetkin’s system after the ban was in place.
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), 30, a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was supposed to make his fourth title defense against Russia’s Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs), 36, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist. Povetkin loomed as Wilder’s most significant opponent, and the fight is one of the significant bouts that could be made in the heavyweight division.
TORONTO — Twelve days ago, Kyle Lowry was a humbled two-time All-Star, working late into the night to try to fix his broken jump shot.
But on Sunday afternoon, with everything on the line, the Toronto Raptors point guard was the best player on the court.
And when he exited for the final time, with the franchise’s first trip to the Eastern Conference finals already secured, Lowry received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Air Canada Centre.
“Hard work pays off,” Lowry told ESPN.com after posting a 35-point, 9-assist, 7-rebound, 4-steal performance for the ages in Toronto’s 116-89 blowout victory over the Miami Heat in Game 7 of their second-round series.
“It’s the dedication that I’ve put into this game of basketball for myself and for this organization. I just wanted to make sure I could be the best player I could be, at all times — especially on the biggest stage.”
“The word ‘na?ve’ comes to mind pretty quickly more than anything, especially now that I’m old and looking back on it,” said Raycroft, 36. “You don’t really feel the complete gravity of it, which is obviously a positive, especially for these guys jumping into scenarios where they weren’t really expecting it. I had a whole year to kind of expect it. I was probably gearing up for it a month or two earlier and I was really excited when it came. For these guys to jump in, I’m sure come August it’ll really click in, so being a little na?ve is a good thing and just going out and letting it fly.”
Current Penguins coach Mike Sullivan coached Raycroft and the Bruins that season, and it ended with a loss to the Canadiens in seven games. Raycroft said he felt the coach had confidence in him, but it was also the presence of veteran Felix Potvin — the former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie who had bounced around and was in his last season in the league — that had a calming influence on Raycroft, similar to the relationship between Murray and Fleury.
“I’m willing to bet that Flower has been a huge help,” Raycroft said of Fleury. “I know for the few weeks to have Felix with me and talking to him, he had been through the trenches many times and won many huge games through his career, so to have him there, and he was the kind of guy who would tell you, ‘It’s just another game.’ I remember him having that demeanor and basically saying that to me. He was helpful to me, so I would imagine it’s a similar scenario because Marc-Andre has a similar personality and he just goes out and plays and has fun with it. I would assume that helps.”