Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting Testy - Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao

The very latest scandal in the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Manny Pacquiao super-fight is the demand by the Mayweather camp for Manny Pacquiao to undergo Olympic-style drug testing leading up to the fight March 13, 2010.

Perhaps the smartest thing Mayweather has done so far is to partner up with Golden Boy Promotions, allowing them to negotiate on his behalf and utilizing their substantial muscle and network. Mayweather's demand that the Olympic U.S. Anti Dopers Association (USADA) be the organization that conduct the tests is most likely because of Oscar De La Hoya's personal relationship with the head of this group. Considering that "Olympic-style drug testing" means the testing would be at random and as often as the USADA would like, the relationship with De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions is a huge advantage. Especially now that everyone knows Pacquiao is superstitious about getting blood drawn in general, much less right before a fight. (This superstition was born when Pacquiao was blood-tested before his first bout against Erik Morales, which he lost.)

Team Pacquiao has refused such random tests and instead, have offered to give blood directly after the fight. The USADA claims that a scheduled blood test would give Pacquiao's team the opportunity to shoot him up with a masking agent and thus render the test meaningless.

So it seems they are at an impasse and the fate of the super-bout hangs in the balance.

Is this a pressure tactic designed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. to ultimately avoid fighting Manny Pacquiao? There are many inconsistencies within Golden Boy Promotions' protocol that would make it seem so. While negotiating the PPV bout between Shane Mosley and Zab Judah in 2008 (the fight never got made,) Golden Boy CEO, Richard Schaeffer refused the Olympic-style drug testing requested by the Judah camp, stating "Whatever tests they [the Nevada State Athletic Commission] want them to take, Shane will submit to that. We are not going to do other tests than the Nevada commission requires. The fact is Shane is not a cheater and he does not need to be treated like one."

Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach has stated that they will adhere to the rules and tests enforced by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), which includes extensive drug tests through urine analysis, a method that NSAC Executive Director, Keith Kizer considers less invasive than blood testing. "Urine tests are not only cheaper, they are more effective and there are no risks of nicking a blood vein or causing an infection," Kizer explains. "If blood tests are administered in the locker room, something like nicking a vein or excessive bruising would force us to cancel the fight, not to mention the risks of infection, administering a test in that kind of environment." Kizer states "Our goal is to deter the use of drugs [by athletes] in the first place." It is Kizer's belief that if drug tests aren't strictly enforced, the athletes who don't normally use performance-enhancing substances may feel compelled to do so in order to even the playing field. "Blood tests are not as effective as urine tests in most cases," Kizer says. "As far as I know, the only test that shows up better in blood is EPO (blood-doping), which is a long-term test that should be administered over the course of months and months in order to be accurate." When asked whether he thought Manny Pacquiao uses steroids, Kizer immediately answers "No. We've tested Manny Pacquiao several times, including the fights during his climb through the weight classes and he has always tested clean."

Roach has even proffered a letter from the NFL, arguably the strictest professional league when it comes to drug-testing, which would state that blood testing is unnecessary and less effective than urine or saliva tests. Though a blood test has been developed for human growth hormone (HGH,) the test has not been proven effective or reliable, as it has never detected HGH in any of the athletes tested, including all of the athletes at the Olympic Games of 2008.

A Brief History

Mayweather was accused of ducking the mega-fight in May, 2009, when he announced his first fight out of retirement would be against Juan Manuel Marquez. The announcement came on the day of Pacquiao's fight against Ricky Hatton. Fight fans and media outlets started calling Mayweather out for his apparent avoidance of fighting Manny Pacquiao, though claiming to himself be the true pound-for-pound king of boxing. Brian Kenny of ESPN went head-to-head against Mayweather in an on-air interview (click to see video clip,) being the first public figure to officially accuse the former pound-for-pound champion of dodging Pacquiao. Mayweather may have suffered his first comeuppance at the hand of Brian Kenny, but the real blow came when ticket sales to his comeback fight against Marquez were dismal. The fight got moved from July 18, 2009 to September 19, 2009 due to an alleged rib injury suffered by Mayweather, but many people have speculated that the real reason for the postponement was to build the fight and increase ticket and projected PPV sales. Mayweather dominated his fight against Marquez, who was forced to gain over 10 pounds for the bout. Mayweather even came in two pounds overweight, tipping the scales further in his favor. Instead of regaining the respect of fans for beating the pound-for-pound second best in Marquez, Mayweather suffered further criticism through the media and fans. Hip Hop icon, Eminem's Sirius radio station, Shade 45, had a phone interview with the tarnished former pound-for-pound champion on October 29th, 2009, attacking Mayweather for protecting his record and not fighting anyone who would test him. Hip Hop star "RA the Rugged Man", a guest on the show and a veritable boxing encyclopedia, did most of the talking in the no-holds-barred conversation (click to hear audio clip.)

Conversely, Pacquiao went on to fight one of the the welterweight division's most feared fighters, Miguel Cotto and in a stunning TKO victory in the 12th round, affirmed his position as boxing's pound-for-pound king. During Pacquiao's post-fight interview, fans chanted "we want Floyd!" repeatedly, begging Larry Merchant to ask who Pacquiao would like to fight next. Pacquiao gave the usual answer, stating he would fight whomever his promoter put in front of him. Mayweather immediately went on record, harping to anyone who would listen that Manny was avoiding the fight by not specifically calling Mayweather out when asked who he'd want to fight next. Mayweather stated "Tell Manny Pacquiao to be his own man and stop letting everyone including his loudmouth trainer, talk for him. If Manny Pacquiao wants to fight me, all he has to do is step up to the plate and say it himself." During coverage of Manny Pacquiao's LA victory party, days after the Cotto fight, a KTLA Los Angeles reporter asked Pacquiao "For the record, do you want to fight Mayweather?" to which Pacquiao simply replied, "for the record, yeah."

This may have forced Mayweather's hand as far as starting negotiations for the fight of the decade, but since then, fight fans are left wondering whether he will actually go through with it. The latest blood-testing hoopla only confirms the fans' worst fears that this much-anticipated fight may not get made as it seems Mayweather's camp is trying to find any feasible way to back out of the fight while saving face.

Freddie Roach states "I'm not going to let my fighter endure any kind of blood test so close to the fight. We don't work for Mayweather. I'm perfectly happy complying with whatever the Nevada State Commission asks of us." As it is, Mayweather insisted on having the fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas instead of in Dallas, Texas, which would have been much more lucrative. Though Pacquiao didn't express a preference of where the fight should be located, Roach believes that having the fight at the MGM, or "Floyd's backyard" as he put it, was enough of a compromise.

Inside Scoop

Insiders say Golden Boy has tentatively agreed to use the tests enforced by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but only if the NSAC standards are also adhered to in the weight clause, reducing the $10 million penalty per pound over from the contracts to $600 thousand per pound over. Roach has no problem with this, stating "I don't care how much the penalty is. If Floyd shows up overweight - we won't fight him."

Roach goes on to say that negotiations are already underway with WBO NABO Light Welterweight champion, Paulie Malignaggi as well as WBA World Light Middleweight champion, Yuri Foreman. A win over Foreman would make Pacquiao a world champion in a record-breaking eight different weight classes, to which he already holds the record at seven titles, beating Oscar De La Hoya's six and besting Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s five.

Talk has also surfaced that Pacquaio plans to sue Mayweather for defamation of character.

In My Opinion

Will this fight get made? Many arguments can be made for either side, but I believe it will get made in the end. Mayweather has already succumbed once to holding negotiations after countless accusations that he is ducking Pacquiao and for the most part, the media and fans are still not backing him up even after this latest attempt to scandalize the fight. He is left with no leverage and no way out other than admitting cowardice, or sustaining (read: faking) an injury / infection that would prevent him from fighting for the next several months - which might happen. And if it does, you heard it here first.

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