Boxing: New allegations levelled at Botha

By Michael Brown

As soon as the C word is mentioned, Kevin Barry starts working the room. "Cortisone,'' he whispers to one media representative as Francois Botha holds court with his gravely voice, "is a masking agent''.

With that, the very public and slightly farcical drugs test of Botha and Joseph Parker, supposedly done to prove Thursday's fight would be at least clean when it came to performance enhancing drugs, takes another twist.

Barry talks later about schooling Parker, who has only five professional fights to his name, about The Boxing Game. Boxing 101 he called it.

Barry graduated with honours many years ago and, although relative newcomers, promoters Dean Lonergan and David Higgins from Duco Events are well on the way to earning their degrees.

The Duco pair knew exactly what they were doing by holding the public drugs test. An initial urine test - fortunately, this was done behind closed doors - showed both fighters were clean but it proved little considering the limited number of drugs it tested for.

Both blood and urine samples will be sent to Sydney to be tested by the Australian Drug Testing Laboratory, the only Wada approved laboratory in Oceania, with the results not available for at least 10 days.

Barry was concerned about what it might not find, considering Botha admitted he received a cortisone injection recently. Botha recently complained of an arm injury which threatened his involvement in the Parker fight so Lonergan gave him approval to receive a cortisone injection.

"I'm relaxed about it,'' Lonergan says. "Athletes take cortisone to lubricate joints and take pain away from joints. It's a common thing to do. From that point of view, I shrugged my shoulders.''

Barry, on the other hand, gave one of his intense stares. After all, Botha was stripped of the IBF heavyweight title he won in 1995 for having nandrolone in his system - he said he took it inadvertently, blindly trusting people in his camp to give him the right things, becoming the first boxer to test positive - and allegations of a failed test were also levelled at him by Khoder Nasser after his controversial defeat to Sonny Bill Williams in February.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out he is a very experienced guy in and out of the ring,'' Barry says of the South African. "He knows all the tricks. I'm sure he's told this story many, many times in the past and got away with it many, many times in the past.''

He also wasn't impressed Lonergan hadn't informed him. Lonergan wasn't bothered.

"Do I think he's taking cortisone as a masking agent?'' he ponders. "I don't know. Probably not. Do I think Kevin Barry gets paranoid about a whole lot of things? Yeah.

"It all comes down to Thursday night. Performance enhancing drugs or not, I think Joseph Parker will knock Francois Botha out regardless of whether he has anything in his system and, in my opinion, I don't think he does.''

Parker was almost a bystander throughout the 45-minute sideshow. Botha was the centre of attention as soon as he burst through the doors of Duco's offices in central Auckland and immediately called out 'Baby Joseph', as he's been referring to him all week.

Parker grinned and replied, 'Hey, Granddad'. It was about his only meaningful contribution.

"I am learning a lot off him,'' Parker says looking at Botha. "I'm grateful I am in the situation I am in at the moment in my boxing career.

"I need to learn because, if I don't back myself up, then I will let someone run all over me. But the Buffalo, everything he says is funny to me. He's a real character. We are good friends but, in the ring, different story.''

Botha thought today's public drugs test would prove he's clean and ensure Thursday's fight was about nothing more than boxing. Little in the world of professional boxing is like that and suspicion follows Botha wherever he fights.

"Listen to me, man, I have permission to do this,'' he says. "This is not a title fight. I don't have to a doping test but I'm willing to do a test to show you I am clean. I have nothing to hide.''

- APNZ

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