LAS VEGAS – Maxim Dadashev’s death often reminds Radzhab Butaev that this is an extremely dangerous, unforgiving vocation he has chosen.
Honoring his friend and amateur teammate’s memory also is part of what drives Butaev to demand the most stringent testing for performance-enhancing drugs before and after all of his fights. If his opponent isn’t willing to submit to random testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, Butaev won’t sign a contract.
That’s the approach that the Russian welterweight contender took before his ill-fated fight against Alexander Besputin.
His countryman beat Butaev by unanimous decision to win the then-vacant WBA world welterweight title in November 2019, but Besputin tested positive for Ligandrol after their fight, was stripped of that WBA belt and was suspended for six months. The result of their 12-round fight eventually was changed to a no-contest 10 months after they fought at Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco.
The 27-year-old Butaev consequently will receive another shot at that WBA world title Saturday night, when he’ll challenge Jamal James for it in a “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event at Mandalay Bay’s Michelob ULTRA Arena (10 p.m. EDT; 7 p.m. PDT). Though thankful for this second chance, Butaev admits that he was furious because Besputin used a performance-enhancer before the biggest fight of Butaev’s life.
Dadashev died from brain injuries suffered during an 11th-round, technical knockout loss to Subriel Matias in July 2019, just four months before Butaev boxed Besputin. Russia’s Dadashev, 28, was a married father of a young son.
“I was very angry,” Butaev told BoxingScene.com regarding the Besputin PED ordeal. “You can see it even in the fight, you could see that I was angry. That fight also got rescheduled because we were demanding VADA testing for that fight, and they wouldn’t accept it. And then, at the end of the day, I had to pay for both sides for the VADA testing to keep going with the fight. Of course I was pissed because boxing took my friend, Max Dadashev, who died in the ring. We will never know the reason he died, but who knows what the other guy was taking? No one knows because there is not enough testing.
“That’s why for our fights we are always demanding VADA. For this fight [against James], we said there is no fight if there is no VADA testing. I think that every respectful fighter, every athlete, to be fair and square, has to go clean to respect the sport and to respect their opponents and everything. That’s why we always try to prevent [PED use]. Even though people are always finding ways to cheat, we always try to be with VADA because we really trust that they are the most respectful organization for monitoring the doping. For us, to work with them is an honor.”
The James-Butaev bout was pushed back several times, thus both boxers have been tested multiple times by VADA during the buildup toward their 12-round, 147-pound championship match. That’s fine by Minneapolis’ James, who agrees wholeheartedly with Butaev’s testing demands.
“It should be very thorough drug testing,” James said. “I think any time you’re in any type of professional sport, where big money starts getting involved, you know, people are gonna do what they can to win. And some people don’t have as much integrity as others do, unfortunately. So, obviously I don’t condone any type of drug use. I don’t take no drugs myself. I don’t mind getting drug-tested whenever VADA shows up at my door. That stuff can be very dangerous. If you’re competing against a guy who’s on drugs, it’s giving him extra abilities that these people would not have if they were just fighting you off of their regular will and skill.”
Butaev (13-0, 10 KOs, 1 NC) and James (27-1, 12 KOs) received another reminder Thursday of the extreme importance of thorough PED testing in boxing.
That’s when it was revealed that super middleweight contender Jose Uzcategui tested positive for human recombinant erythropoietin, more commonly known as EPO. The Venezuelan veteran therefore was removed from his upcoming IBF/WBC elimination match against David Benavidez, a fight Showtime was supposed to televise November 13 from Footprint Center in Phoenix.
For Butaev, catching Uzcategui was just more proof that boxing needs the most comprehensive PED testing for every fight, no matter how costly or complicated it can make matters.
“It’s a big responsibility for everyone who gets in the ring,” Butaev said. “I know that anything is possible, that things happen … I’m not saying that everyone is a cheater. But what I’m saying is it’s not a game. It’s a sport where one man hurts another and people die in the ring. With so many tragedies happening the past few years, a lot of death in the ring, you have to maintain a clean sport. I think that it’s a big responsibility for all the sanctioning bodies, the commissions and everybody to make it as clean as possible.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.