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January bout between David Benavidez, Jose Uzcategui called off

The planned super middleweight fight between former champions David Benavidez and Jose Uzcategui, a PBC on Showtime main event set to take place in January, has been scrapped, multiple sources told ESPN.

The reason, is public backlash surrounding Uzcategui’s positive test for the performance-enhancing drug recombinant human EPO (rEPO) ahead of a planned November 2021 fight with Benavidez.

The rescheduled fight between Benavidez and Uzcategui wasn’t formally announced, but ESPN reported last month that the sides were finalizing a deal for the fight. Benavidez is seeking a new opponent for a fight in the first quarter of 2023, sources said.

Showtime spokesperson Chris DeBlasio told ESPN that the fight was never scheduled for Showtime. Sampson Lewkowicz, who promotes Benavidez, declined to comment. PBC didn’t respond to a message seeking comment as this went to publication. Sean Gibbons, who manages Uzcategui, also didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

The news of the rescheduled Benavidez-Uzcategui fight broke just 11 days after an October bout between Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr. was canceled following Benn’s positive test for a PED, leading to backlash versus Uzcategui and other parties involved with the planned fight.

The pair were set to square off in November 2021 before Uzcategui tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug rEPO (recombinant erythropoietin), a synthetic version of EPO.

Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) instead faced Kyrone Davis and scored a seventh-round stoppage.

The 25-year-old went on to defeat former middleweight titleholder David Lemieux via third-round TKO in May, but the marquee matchups have continued to elude Benavidez, perhaps boxing’s most avoided fighter.

He has called for a fight with boxing’s top star, Canelo Alvarez, along with bouts versus fellow PBC boxers Caleb Plant and Jermall Charlo.

ESPN’s No. 2 boxer at 168 pounds, Benavidez is feared for good reason. He’s over 6 feet tall, throws a seemingly endless amount of punches and does so with tremendous power.

He twice held a super middleweight title but both times lost his title outside the ring. First, a positive cocaine test led to him being stripped. Benavidez regained the title with a ninth-round KO of Anthony Dirrell in 2019 but was forced to relinquish his belt the following year when he failed to make weight.

A Venezuelan boxer who fights out of Mexico, Uzcategui (32-4, 26 KOs) has fought once since the revelation of the banned substance, a second-round KO of journeyman Felipe Romero in May.

The 31-year-old’s career-best victory remains an eighth-round TKO of former titleholder Andre Dirrell in 2018.

Uzcategui went on to lose his title to Caleb Plant via decision in 2019. Two fights later, Uzcategui dropped a decision to Lionel Thompson in an upset.

“EPO is possibly the most powerful PED that can be used by a boxer,” Victor Conte, the founder of Balco, told ESPN last year after news broke of Uzcategui’s adverse finding. Conte served time in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute performance-enhancing drugs before founding SNAC, a sports nutrition company.

“It increases oxygen uptake and utilization, which drastically improves stamina and endurance,” he said. “Some have described the benefits to making an athlete like a machine.”

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