BOSTON -- Throughout his 10-year professional career, major fights had eluded Demetrius Andrade, until he landed a significant one as the mandatory challenger to middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders.
Andrade was excited for the fight, excited that his new promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, had worked out a deal to get Saunders to come from England to defend against him in his New England home region.
But then Saunders failed a drug test. In a random Voluntary Anti-Doping Association urine test conducted on Aug. 30, Saunders tested positive for the powerful banned stimulant oxilofrine. The results were returned on Sept. 26, less than a month before the fight was due to take place.
So with Saunders' status for the fight in limbo, Hearn quickly made a deal with the next man in the WBO's rankings, Walter Kautondokwa, an African fighter as unknown as it gets but who happened to already be training and in shape, to be on standby.
Sure enough, on Oct. 9, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission denied Saunders' application for a boxing license because of the positive test, and knowing he would likely be stripped of the title by the WBO, Saunders relinquished it and lost out on a career-high $2.3 million payday.
"It was crazy because of all that smack he was talking, that I can't beat him, that I've been inactive for one year," Andrade said. "It shows you how scared people are to fight me, and they need to take drugs to get in the ring with me when that's unfair. I want to make sure that when I step into the boxing ring it's an even playing field because I work extremely hard with the talents I'm blessed with and I want to let the people know there's no enhancements over here."
The whole affair left Andrade disappointed and upset but quickly turning his attention to Kautondokwa, whom he will fight for the vacant 160-pound belt on Saturday (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET main card, preliminary bouts at 5 p.m. ET) at the TD Garden.
"It was crazy because of all that smack he was talking, that I can't beat him, that I've been inactive for one year. It shows you how scared people are to fight me, and they need to take drugs to get in the ring with me when that's unfair." Demetrius Andrade on Billy Joe Saunders' positive test
"This was a megafight [against Saunders] I believe in the 160-pound weight division, where you got top guys, and we were two of the top guys going at it, undefeated, title on the line, and this meant a lot for boxing," Andrade said. "The commission did the right thing. The right decision was called. I was pretty upset because I was looking to whup Billy Joe's ass.
"VADA is the way to go. It is the gold standard of professional drug testing, and he got caught. We signed a contract with VADA, and it simply tells you what not to take."
Kautondokwa, a stablemate of former unified junior welterweight world titlist Julius Indongo, didn't hesitate when offered a chance to fill in for Saunders.
"This is a huge opportunity for me and one I will take with both hands," Kautondokwa said. "I've been in the gym, and I am 100 percent ready to add Demetrius to my KO record. I've earned my spot as the No. 2 challenger in the division, and I fear no man. Demetrius is a great fighter, but I know that I can KO any 160-pounder in the world, and that includes Andrade."
Andrade said that although he was upset by the situation, he wasn't shocked he didn't wind up facing Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), who blamed nasal spray for the failed drug test.
"Billy Joe Saunders [has] pulled out of previous fights. He's a bad representative for boxing," Andrade said.
Now Providence, Rhode Island's Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), 30, a 2008 U.S. Olympian and a former two-time junior middleweight word titlist, is prepping for Kautondokwa as best he can.
Kautondokwa (17-0, 16 KOs), 33, of Namibia, has had all of his fights in his home country, except for one in Ghana, and never faced a remotely recognizable opponent.
Video of Kautondokwa is limited with only one bout available on YouTube along with a few training clips. Andrade wasn't even sure how tall Kautondokwa was until seeing him at the fight-week news conference at Fenway Park on Thursday. But he has brushed aside the uncertainty.
"I've earned my spot as the No. 2 challenger in the division, and I fear no man. Demetrius is a great fighter, but I know that I can KO any 160-pounder in the world, and that includes Andrade." Walter Kautondokwa
"I'm a smart boxer. I'm talented, I know what it takes. I've seen this type of guys throughout the years," said Andrade, who at 6 feet is about an inch shorter than Kautondokwa. "I'm just ready to get in there, claim what's mine and move on."
The change of opponents also meant that Andrade had to alter his plan to face a fellow southpaw who likes to box and move to facing a rugged right-handed puncher.
"My mind stays the same. When we spar, we spar right-handers, we spar left-handers. We spar everybody," Andrade said. "We never stick with one particular style because you never know what's going to happen inside that ring, and you never know if an opponent is going to switch at the last minute like what happened, so we're ready for whatever."
Said Kautondokwa: "He's been preparing for Billy Joe, who is a technical guy that doesn't have power. I am going to be a nightmare for him, and I am ready to become a major player in the middleweight division."
Even though Andrade is a heavy favorite against Kautondokwa, he still would have preferred to face Saunders.
"He has a better resume than this Walter guy, so it's definitely not the same caliber of fighter, but at the end of the day, I didn't do anything wrong," Andrade said. "I did my job, so therefore I'm fighting for the WBO [title] because they want to see a clean athlete, well-spoken, a behaved athlete. At the end of the day, it ain't my fault. I'm willing to get in the ring with any of these guys because I truly believe I'm the best."
A win will put Andrade in an extremely strong position for bigger fights because of the fact that he would have a world title.
Unified middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez signed an exclusive contract -- which at $365 million for 11 fights over five years is the largest athlete contract in history -- with streaming service DAZN this week. That means that even though Alvarez, boxing's biggest star, and Andrade are with different promoters, they are signed to the same broadcaster, as Alvarez promoter Golden Boy is moving its whole stable to the service as part of the Alvarez deal and Hearn has an eight-year deal with DAZN.
It is also likely that Hearn-promoted top contender Daniel Jacobs, who faces Sergiy Derevyanchenko for a vacant middleweight title on Oct. 27 in one of the final HBO events before the network drops its boxing coverage at the end of the year, will join DAZN after the fight.
Andrade knows that with a win, he will figure squarely in the hunt for those bouts.
"Tell them guys to say, 'I want to fight Demetrius Andrade.' Demetrius Andrade wants to fight Canelo, Demetrius Andrade wants to fight [Gennady Golovkin], the winner of Derevyanchenko-Danny Jacobs. Those are the type of names I'm looking for right now. Canelo, GGG, the winner of Derevyanchenko-Danny Jacobs -- those are the guys I want to get in the ring with, at least one of them, next year."
First up, however, is Kautondokwa, and Andrade has a good idea of how that one ends, taking a moment to imitate how he thinks famed ring announcer Michael Buffer, who is also signed to DAZN, will sound when he reads the result: "And the new, from Providence, Rhode Island, your boy, tall, black and handsome, Demetrius Andrade!"
The main card also includes unified women's lightweight world titlist Katie Taylor (10-0, 5 KOs), of Ireland, defending against Brooklyn, New York's Cindy Serrano (27-5-3 10 KOs); junior lightweight world titlist Tevin Farmer (26-4-1, 5 KOs) of Philadelphia, making his first defense against Northern Ireland's James Tennyson (22-2, 18 KOs); and Toka Kahn Clary (25-1, 17 KOs), of Providence, Rhode Island, squaring off with England's Kid Galahad (24-0, 15 KOs) in a featherweight elimination bout that will make the winner the mandatory challenger for the belt held by Josh Warrington.