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Why Canelo Alvarez might not be allowed to fight on May 5

There are some serious doubts about Canelo-GGG II going on as planned, and some good reasons why.

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There are two types of people in this world, our world, the world of the severe boxing fanatic.

In one camp, there are the folks that think the May 5 super fight sequel between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez will proceed as planned, after hitting a speed-bump, in the form of PED positives submitted by Mr. Alvarez. But, this camp thinks, the speed bump didn’t and won’t trash the vehicle, and after an April 10 hearing for Canelo in front of a Nevada Athletic Commssion tribunal, we will motor toward the Cinco de Mayo rumble.

And in the other camp, there are heavy hitters galore, including some of the top-most members of the boxing media, topped by ESPN’s Dan Rafael. These guys, and that includes vet analyst Steve Kim, have been hinting and basically even out-right stating that they think Canelo will be suspended at that hearing, and will be forbidden from fighting at T-Mobile, and that GGG will have to find a substitute foe.

Me, I’ve been in the former camp, but respect the track record and intelligence of the Rafaels and Kims and such to be open to the possibility that their instinct will play out. But because the journos promised their sources they wouldn’t out them, they haven’t been able to offer much specificity about WHY the May 5 fight could be derailed.

So, their hinting and commitment to the belief that Canelo won’t be fighting GGG May 5 has me re-considering my stance, and has me re-framing how I look at this whole deal. I decided it’s better that I think less as a fan, and a slightly possiby cynical journo, and a partial-pragmatist, and instead look through another lens. How about the lawyerly lens?

Attorney Kurt Emhoff is a fight game lifer who has worked with a load of accomplished pros, and is based on the East Coast. And I think the lens he’s looking through is a smart one, and he may well have hit on the best reason one can think of to help explain why these journos are coming to the conclusion they are. And, also, why the Nevada commission, which we would THINK would possibly be pre-disposed to salvage the fight, which, hello, will be the biggest boxing match made in 2018, would NOT do that, and instead punish Canelo harshly, elongate his suspension and thus forbid him from fighting May 5.

Emhoff is referencing the rule/regulation reset of 2016, which came about largely because the MMA sphere was seeing combatants get popped with regularity for PED usage. This commission determined they needed to harden up their language, to have stricter guidelines, so they’d have a clear road map on how to handle a situation like Canelo’s two clenbuterol positives. Clearer, maybe we should say.

Because when you look at the wording of the updated rules and regs from September 2016, you see there is room for interpretation. BUT MAYBE NOT ENOUGH ROOM FOR TEAM CANELO TO BE ABLE TO GET THE OK TO FIGHT MAY 5.

In a Twitter exchange with a fellow lawyer/Twitter pal, John Einreinhofer, which in response to reporter Steve Kim referencing the term “strict liability,” Emhoff wrote, “The NSAC does not have to establish the fighter, ‘intentionally, knowingly or negligently used a prohibited substance or . . . is otherwise at fault for the presence of the prohibited substance.’ Rut-roh!”

And the Twitter exchange continued, after Einreinhofer asked about the commission’s stance on intent. Emhoff wrote, “Nothing on intent but there’s a ‘mitigating circumstances’ sec.: ‘The [] violation was the result of the use . . . of a product that contains a prohibited substance that was not disclosed on the product label or in information available from a reasonable search of the Internet.”

I will maybe add the Scooby-Doo “Rut-roh.” Because, yes, there is no shortage of material on the web touching on the issue of tainted cattle.

Emhoff finished up by saying, “There’s wiggle room — but Canelo needs to come prepared. He needs to hire lawyers who have experience in this area and present good precedent for leniency or letting him off. It’s going to be interesting. I didn’t realize the NAC had re-written things so extensively.”

And I think we’ve hit on WHY, possibly, these scribes seem to be pretty certain that Canelo will be punished harder, and not given a pass, because he didn’t knowingly ingest clenbuterol back in February, at the April 10 hearing.

That revamped wording by NAC reduced the “wiggle room” for athletes or their mouthpieces to use to try and escape punishment for testing positive. And Canelo might be the case which sends a clear message to the boxing world that in the Nevada jurisdiction, the authorities are not as inclined as, say, California, or maybe NY, to hear a defense from a fighter who maintains they didn’t knowingly ingest a banned substance, and rule that punishment should be mitigated, because of lack of intent. (Someone also pointed out to me that because commissions are supposed to honor each others’ rulings, a California or a NY couldn’t swoop in, and invite Canelo and GGG to take their fight to their turf, where their commissions would be more lenient than Nevada’s, and allow the fight to take place. Why? Because Canelo is on the Nevada suspension list, and thus another state wouldn’t be kosher in having him ply his trade while suspended elsewhere.)

On Wednesday night, I went on “The Undercard” radio show, and admitted to the host that I’m still feeling muddled about this kerfuffle. OK, so what if Canelo had derived a benefit from using clenbuterol as a weight loss accelerant in February? That wouldn’t be such a performance enhancer, all things being equal, for his May 5 bout. I think I would be feeling differently if he’d popped for a steroid or an EPO. But “just” a weight loss agent? I don’t know, should there not be language in the Nevada regs which allows for penalties to be adjusted based on the level of performance enhancer? We know that Team Golovkin indicated that they’d be OK with having the fight go on — shouldn’t that have a large impact on the ruling that the Nevada commission makes April 10? No? Should the wishes of the other party, who is also being massively affected by this mess not be fully factored in?

Anyway, I think maybe we’ve hit on some very pertinent info here, and maybe even THE REASON why some folks are so dubious that the May 5 superfight sequel will occur, on May 5. The Nevada commission would well believe their regulations demand they suspend Canelo.

Me, I look with non-lawyer eyes and think maybe Team Canelo can work off some of the wording in the revamped regs. Like, it says that a strike can be forgiven if the presence of the banned chemical “is not the result of his or her use of a prohibited substance.” If Canelo was eatng tainted meat, yeah, steak ain’t clenbuterol, and he wasn’t per se using the prohibited substance. He was using steak! And if a credible expert can tell us on April 10 that the levels found in Canelo’s Feb. 17 and 20 tests were and are consistent with eating tainted meat, then maybe that should be reason enough to let the show go on.

Anyway, I’m getting out of that lane, staying more so in my own, now, but I wanted to help myself better comprehend some of the strange developments we’ve seen since March 5, and hopefully help you readers do the same.

Listen to Woods’ Everlast podcast here.

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