Billy Joe Saunders to give up WBO title to challenge licence decision

Billy Joe Saunders won his title against Andy Lee in 2015

Britain’s Billy Joe Saunders will give up his WBO world middleweight title “with a heavy heart” as he challenges the decision to deny him a licence, says promoter Frank Warren.

Saunders, 29, was refused a licence to fight Demetrius Andrade after returning an adverse finding in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association test in August.

Warren says the boxer will give up his belt because of the “mental anguish”.

He added the licence decision would be challenged in the Supreme Court.

“Billy Joe will, with a heavy heart, relinquish his world title while this issue is being resolved,” Warren said.

Saunders, who was due to fight Andrade in Boston on 20 October, returned an adverse finding for stimulant oxilofrine.

Under World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) rules, oxilofrine is only banned in competition. That means a fighter is in breach of the regulations only if it is found in their system on the day of a bout.

But it is prohibited at all times by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, which tested Saunders on 30 August.

Warren says it was “not a failed test” because the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC) – which is responsible for issuing a licence to fight in Boston – did not follow Wada’s rules.

After taking the case to the Supreme Court, Warren said he would begin legal proceedings against the MSAC.

He said: “The MSAC in their refusal to grant a licence to Billy Joe have benefited his scheduled opponent, Andrade, who hails from nearby Rhode Island and who will now fight for a vacant title against the next-ranked Namibian Walter Kautondokwa.”

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