Amir Khan's rematch with Lamont Peterson was officially cancelled last night and the American will almost certainly be stripped of his world titles over a failed drug test when he goes before the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Tuesday.
Khan is likely to fight on 30 June for the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation light-welterweight titles he lost to Peterson in Washington last December. The former champion will return to Bolton on Saturday and await the announcement of his new opponent.
It is an anticlimactic turn of events for Khan, who confirmed on Twitter: "The fight is off! sorry everyone the only person to blame is [Peterson]." He was desperate for revenge over the American, who rose from living on the streets of Washington with his brother as an abandoned waif to being warmly embraced as one of the sport's most heart-warming heroes. That fairytale now lies in tatters.
When Peterson's team flew from Washington to Las Vegas on Tuesday it was to argue that the presence of a banned synthetic substance resulted from the "inadvertent" use of pellets designed to counter low testosterone levels.
The Nevada commission's executive director, Keith Kizer, said beforehand it would take some "really enlightening" new evidence to persuade the commission that Peterson should be granted a licence to box in Nevada. Nobody thought that was going to happen and last night the promoters called it off.
Even before their plane had landed, sentiment had swung away from the likable Peterson. He had left his supporters disappointed – and Khan without a credible opponent.
The drama of the past couple of days reached another high point on Wednesday when the commission released details that Peterson tested positive before challenging Khan before Christmas in his home town. It was a fight of rolling controversy but recent developments have overridden even those rows about questionable refereeing and the mysterious appearance at ringside of the man who came to be known as "The Cat In The Hat", Mustafa Ameen.
Referring to Peterson's positive test for excessive levels of testosterone, Kizer said: "He and his team say it was inadvertent. We consider it dishonest. We have to go through the proper procedures, not least with reference to the chairman [of the commission, who has the final say on granting a licence], but we can see no alternative to refusing him a licence."
Asked about Peterson's pre-fight declarations in support of stringent drugs-testing, Kizer replied: "Isn't it always the way with athletes who [test positive for] drugs? We would have loved to have Mr Khan fight here on the 19th but clearly that is not possible. The Peterson team left it too late to inform everybody, ourselves included.
"I feel sorry for Mr Khan and all the undercard fighters who will not now be paid, as well as all the fans who bought tickets and made travel plans."
It is estimated as many as 4,000 British fans have already booked flights, hotels and tickets – Khan's biggest ever contingent of support since he moved to the US to fight under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. He has grown in popularity, with local fans and with the powerbrokers of the game, from Golden Boy Promotions, to the commissioners.
"Hopefully we will have Mr Khan back here in June," Kizer said. "He is always welcome here. We have informed the Washington commission and I suppose they will invalidate the result [of the fight in December]. It's certain we would have been doing so had it taken place in Las Vegas. I suspect the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation will strip Mr Peterson of his titles."
Khan tweeted: "Let's hope the right thing will be done." He added: "Boxing is a dangerous sport a toe to toe battle someone can seriously get hurt especially with an unfair disadvantage, we need to put a stop to this, I still believe they are my belts."
The options for Khan are many and varied. He may contemplate another go with a fellow Golden Boy client, Marcos Maidana, whom he beat in a belting affair at the Mandalay Bay. Zab Judah, whom he beat at the same venue, is likely out of the picture as he is trying to negotiate a fight with Juan Manuel Márquez, but the unbeaten Philadelphian star Danny García would fancy his chances.
Whoever it is, it will not be the opponent Khan was desperate to fight.
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