Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett has filed a formal complaint against Canelo Alvarez for doping violations.
The complaint, signed Tuesday and made public on Thursday, all but seals the deal that Alvarez's much-anticipated rematch with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, scheduled to headline a major HBO PPV event on May 5 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, will be canceled. It is extremely rare for the commission to issue a complaint against a fighter for doping violations and for the fighter to go unpunished.
Alvarez twice tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20.
The commission issued Alvarez a temporary suspension last week and required him to appear at a commission hearing -- either in person or via telephone -- on the issue on April 10. At that time, Alvarez and his legal team would be permitted to explain the failed tests to the five-member commission. The commission would then vote as to whether the fight could go ahead or whether Alvarez would have his suspension extended.
However, with the filing of the formal complaint, Bennett made Alvarez's hearing part of the commission's regularly scheduled monthly meeting on April 18, just two weeks before the fight date, making it a virtual certainty that the fight will not go forward as planned.
"After completing my investigation, I made the determination to file a complaint against Mr. Alvarez and set the matter for a disciplinary hearing during the commission's regularly scheduled meeting on April 18," Bennett said.
Bennett, however, told ESPN on Thursday that if Alvarez still wanted to have his hearing on April 10, the commission would accommodate him.
Because clenbuterol is classified as a prohibited anabolic agent, Alvarez faces a minimum one-year suspension for a first-time offense based on the commission's doping rules and regulations, which were overhauled in September 2016. The commission could suspend him for even longer but, based on its regulations, it could also cut any suspension it issues by 50 percent -- six months -- if he cooperates with the commission.
Any suspension is retroactive to the date of the first positive test, which means if Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs), 27, of Mexico, receives a one-year suspension but cooperates with the commission and has it cut to six months, he would be eligible to box again after Aug. 17. That means the rematch of his controversial draw last September with Golovkin -- who most thought won -- could be rescheduled for the Mexican Independence Day weekend in mid-September.
If Alvarez is suspended, Bennett said there would be no fine imposed because there is no fight purse from which to fine him. However, Alvarez "could incur the costs of the state's attorney fees." Alvarez claims his positive test results are due to his eating contaminated beef in Mexico, where that has been an ongoing problem for athletes. Farmers in Mexico often include clenbuterol, which is prohibited for farming use in the United States, in cattle feed because it helps reduce fat and increase lean muscle mass.
However, Nevada commission regulations are clear, and one of the telling lines in the eight-page complaint issued against Alvarez said that "Alvarez's utilization, ingestion and/or consumption of clenbuterol, whether intentional or not, constitutes an anti-doping violation. By his administration or use of clenbuterol, and/or by allowing clenbuterol to enter his system, Alvarez engaged in conduct that reflected discredit to unarmed combat and he is guilty of foul or unsportsmanlike conduct that was detrimental to a contest."
In another significant sign of just how unlikely the fight is to take place as scheduled, MGM Resorts International, the owner of the T-Mobile Arena, has begun offering ticket buyers a full refund because of the probability that the fight will be canceled.
Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), 35, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Santa Monica, California, who has been critical of Alvarez and accused him last week of purposely using PEDs in training for the rematch as well as in preparation for the first fight -- for which he never failed a test -- hopes to still fight on May 5 at T-Mobile Arena.
Time is short to secure a replacement, not to mention talks that would have to take place between Golovkin's promoter, Tom Loeffler, and HBO, which probably would not go forward with a pay-per-view event against a lesser opponent.
Loeffler said everything was up in the air.
"We're waiting for the official decision from the commission, but GGG is training and preparing for May 5 and that's what he wants to do -- fight May 5," Loeffler told ESPN. "Naturally, Canelo is the top priority and if for some reason Canelo is not available, we'll have to weigh all the options at that point. But as of right now we're waiting to get more direction from the commission."
One potential replacement opponent is fringe contender Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan (27-2, 19 KOs), 33, of Ireland, who probably was going to fight on May 4 on Golden Boy's ESPN card in Las Vegas. Whomever Golovkin fights next, a victory would tie him with Bernard Hopkins for the most consecutive middleweight title defenses in boxing history at 20.