On June 5 at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, a feat that some never thought would occur will occur. There will be a world championship…
He’s the man with the menacing glare, the clean shaven head and tattooed body, he’s a threatening presence, and despite the fact that Lucas Browne is a well-spoken, and surprisingly mild-mannered guy outside of the ring, between those ropes he’s as scary as he looks; he’s all fighter.
His thunderous punching prowess and courageous heart were on display when he climbed off the canvas to defeat Ruslan Chagaev in the Chechen city of Grozny last month, but it’s now becoming apparent that Browne is facing a new fight, and one he may not be able to win.
The drug scandal that has engulfed Australia’s first ever heavyweight world champion has given Australian boxing some serious attention these past few weeks, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.
Despite the scandal, there are no shortage of people willing to proclaim Browne’s innocence after his recent statement that he had tested negative to a blood and urine test just six days before the fight with Chagaev. Unfortunately, this does little to change the fact that he returned a positive to a banned substance in the post-fight test. I myself find it hard to believe, in light of Browne’s statement, that he knowingly took the drug, but proving that is another matter.
The rules are clear, the negative test before the fight might lead many to presume his innocence, but the undisputed fact here is that he tested positive after the bout. The onus is now squarely on Browne and his team to prove his innocence, a tough proposition indeed.
The World Boxing Association (WBA), the organisation which Browne holds his heavyweight title with, clearly state in their official rules and regulations that “No boxer that has tested positive for prohibitive substances can be rated, retain a title, or be permitted to fight in a sanctioned bout for a period of no less than six months from the date of the positive test.”
The WBA also states: “If the challenger wins the world championship bout and his anti-drug test is positive and the losing champions has a negative result, then, the champion shall retain his title no matter losing it, and the challenger shall be disqualified and shall not be able to fight for a World Boxing Association title during the next two years, previous presentation of medical evidence proving his rehabilitation.”
All this points to a significant fall from grace for Browne. A few weeks ago he was the new hero of Australian sports, now he stands to become a reviled drug cheat. I agree with Browne when he says it doesn’t make sense for him to take the drug, but this isn’t about common sense. There’s also little doubt surrounding the knavish ways of the Chechen’s involved – just look at the farcical timekeeping that was caught on camera – but once again the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the urine.
Should he fail to clear his name, Browne’s boxing ban could very well be as little as six months or as long as two years. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has a first time ban listed as 24 months in their official ‘Recommendations for Penalties’, but they also state that: “Each alleged violation will continue to be examined on a case‐by‐case basis, and the penalties imposed will be based upon the totality of the circumstances presented at the disciplinary hearing.”
This is where Browne may benefit from the negative test result that was administered on February 29th, six days before the fight. He could very well end up with a shortened suspension from the sport, but even if he is given a lighter punishment of say, six to nine months, his chance at fighting for his WBA title again would be off limits for a whole two years, as per the organisation’s own rules.
This would leave Browne to decide whether or not he attempts to climb the rankings with another body such as the WBC or IBF, or wait the full two years to go the WBA route again. Each association has their own rankings in each weight class which are separate from the others so Browne is unlikely to gain favour with another body based on his previous achievements.
At 36 years old, with what is considered to be a limited time spent in the sport, it’s difficult to see Browne successfully coming back from any suspension at all, and with the likelihood of his team finding enough definitive evidence to clear him doubtful, I fear we may have seen the last of Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne in the sport of boxing.