MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Canelo Alvarez's positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol has cast a shadow over his highly anticipated rematch with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and few were more disappointed with the turn of events than Golovkin and his trainer, Abel Sanchez.
"My first reaction was, really, are you serious? I know he's good boxer, you know. I believe he doesn't need medical or drugs like that," Golovkin said about Alvarez's positive test. "Right now, test positive -- it's terrible for the sport. I respect my sport. I love clean sport. For me this is not laboratory. It's natural stuff. If you don't believe in natural stuff, you use medicals. Now he tests positive. It's crazy."
Sanchez said his reaction was disappointment.
"GGG was disappointed more in his team than Canelo but Canelo also," Sanchez said. "It was disappointment because you're putting a big, anticipated event like this in jeopardy by being careless."
Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) and Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) are due to meet in a rematch on May 5 (HBO PPV, 8 p.m. ET) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the same site as their highly controversial first encounter in September, when most thought Golovkin deserved the decision in the action-packed fight, but he wound up with a draw.
Alvarez's positive drug test is under investigation by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the rematch remains on for now. He is the highest-profile boxer ever to test positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Since Alvarez tested positive for clenbuterol in random urine tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association in his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20, he has relocated his training camp to San Diego -- where he has a home and usually does the bulk of his camp. Since the bad tests, he has had three negative tests conducted.
Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez told ESPN that Alvarez submitted to tests on March 3 and March 5 while still in Mexico and both came back negative. On March 9, Gomez said Alvarez was tested in San Diego and that result, which came back on Tuesday, was also negative."
"I'm 100 percent confident that (the positive tests were) accidental and the fight will happen," Gomez said.
Alvarez blamed eating contaminated Mexican beef for the positive tests. He is undergoing more rigorous testing in light of the positive test than he would have been subject to under the usual VADA testing regimen.
Clenbuterol in Mexican beef has been an ongoing problem for athletes from that country. It has impacted the national soccer team and in terms of boxing, fighters such as Erik Morales (in 2012) and Francisco Vargas (in 2016) have had positive tests that they also blamed on contaminated meat. Clenbuterol is a performance-enhancing drug as it helps reduce fat and increase lean muscle mass -- the reason farmers in Mexico feed it to their cattle. The substance is prohibited from being used by farmers in the United States.
"He tests positive, that's it. Only two (results): Yes or no. Positive or not positive. That's it. First time (I heard) I think, 'Oh, really? Maybe fight's canceled. It's a problem." Gennady Golovkin
Sanchez declined to say whether he believes Alvarez's excuse but placed the blame largely on Canelo's team -- trainer Eddy Reynoso and his father, Jose "Chepo" Reynoso, Alvarez's manager and assistant trainer.
"I'm disappointed with the fact his people are meat cutters. His people are meat market owners, they're butchers," Sanchez said of the Reynosos. "I'm disappointed that they wouldn't talk to him about not ingesting meat in Mexico because it has been a problem. So just disappointment in that fact. Canelo should have been smarter than that too, but I blame more his people than him right now.
"I'm hoping the experts, whoever the experts are -- VADA, the commission -- do their investigation and come up with a result. For me to say one way or the other (whether it was on purpose or not), I'm a coach."
So was Alvarez's positive test an accident because he ate contaminated meat or was the amount in his system so low because he was using clenbuterol on purpose and simply at the end of a cycle and miscalculated?
"That's what's hard to understand, that an athlete at that level, a coaching staff at that level, knowing all the problems going on with that substance in meat that they would allow or wouldn't sit down and talk to him and say, 'Listen, you shouldn't be doing this. We have a big fight coming up,'" Sanchez said. "If that didn't happen or did happen and he didn't care, that's what's frustrating for me. That's what disappointing for me.
"I do know this -- if you fight once a year or twice a year you can get on and get off of stuff like that and be clean. So I don't know. It would be ignorant of me to suggest that he was or he wasn't. I think the investigation has to happen."
Golovkin said he was concerned the fight would be immediately called off when the test results came back earlier this month.
"He tests positive, that's it. Only two (results): Yes or no. Positive or not positive. That's it," Golovkin said. "First time (I heard) I think, 'Oh, really? Maybe fight's canceled. It's a problem."
"I do know this -- if you fight once a year or twice a year you can get on and get off of stuff like that and be clean. So I don't know. It would be ignorant of me to suggest that he was or he wasn't. I think the investigation has to happen." Abel Sanchez
Sanchez said Golovkin's motivation to win the rematch is not because he believes Alvarez is a drug cheat and wants to teach him a lesson. Rather it is because of what happened in the fight last fall.
"I think the motivation comes from the robbery he felt took place last year," Sanchez said. "He's gonna knock him out cleanly. Cleanly."
Sanchez doesn't know how the Reynosos handle their gym but he said he is very careful about who he allows in his Summit Gym in Big Bear Lake, California.
"It's not only (being careful about) the meat or what they ingest (while in camp), it's the people that I allow to come into my gym. My gym is a closed gym," Sanchez said. "Nobody is allowed unless they are invited. I don't want somebody coming in and saying to one of my fighters, 'This is real good stuff here, you can take it,' because as soon as one fighter gets tainted in a gym the whole gym is dirty.
"Golovkin hits very hard, (unified cruiserweight world titlist Murat) Gassiev hits extremely hard, so once they get that reputation in a gym everybody is guilty. And that's why I am very careful with what goes on in my gym. I may sound like an ogre or an ass sometimes that I don't let just anybody to come in, but that's the reason."
It appears likely that the fight will indeed take place -- unless there is another positive drug test. Sanchez and Golovkin just want a fair fight.
"I hope that we go into the fight on a level playing field," Sanchez said. "I hope that (Alvarez) is truthful with what he has done and he messed up and the fight goes on. The public deserves that. We deserve a clean fight."