Now I’m not saying he did, and I’m not saying he didn’t, but I do know that quite possibly, the biggest fight in the history of boxing is being held up by a few drops of blood. In the past few weeks, Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao and his team have effectively halted all further negotiations of a potential megafight with his Pound-for-Pound rival Floyd Mayweather Jr., due to demands of Olympic-style drug testing. Now before we get to the rumors, let’s start with the facts.
Traditionally the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) test combatants for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) through urine analysis and at best, a couple of scheduled blood tests. The problem is that many PEDs are not detectable through urine and can be effectively cycled out of the blood stream if the test dates are known in advance. Therefore, Team Mayweather is requesting random Olympic style testing from the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) of both urine and blood. Now, onto the controversy.
First, Mayweather is not scared of Manny Pacquiao. Of all my years as a boxing fan, from his methodical destruction of Diego Corrales to his latest shutout performance against Juan Manuel Marquez, this is by far the fastest I’ve ever seen Mayweather concede to conditions of a fight. First were the rumblings of a 154lb class, and the use of bulkier 10oz gloves. Both those demands were quickly batted down as Mayweather almost instantly conceded to a 147lb limit, 8 oz gloves and even a ridiculous $10 million dollar penalty fee for each pound overweighed on the day of the weigh-in. What’s most surprising is the concession to the purse split, as a 50/50 split was immediately agreed upon; something neither party has ever done with such haste.
The real question is why Pacquiao refuses to agree to these drug tests. With an estimated $40 million dollar purse for each fighter looming on the horizon, you have to ask yourself, how much can a few drops of blood mean if a fighter isn’t hiding anything? First came the excuse of Pacquiao’s phobia of needles, yet there is video evidence of the tattooed boxer taking a blood test with relative ease fourteen days before his bout with Ricky Hatton. Then came the argument that taking blood so close to the bout would weaken the fighter, yet the amount of blood taken by the USADA is less than a tablespoon and have been commonly practiced on athletes during the Olympic games without adverse effect on athletic performance. Furthermore, Mayweather has agreed to subject himself to the same tests, so if there is indeed an issue of “weakening”, neither party would be at an advantage.
Now I’m just as disappointed as the next fight fan. Part of me wishes that both sides would put their egos aside and just fight. But at the same time, I don’t believe Mayweather’s demands are unreasonable, at least not any more unreasonable than a title fight being stipulated at a catch-weight or the replacement of a referee because of the shared ethnic background of the opponent – two demands Pacquiao has made for previous bouts. In a competitive sport like boxing where steroid and PED abuse has occurred in the past, a move towards a stricter testing policy is not outside the realm of reason and should be considered a standard, not an exception.
My hope is that all this is merely marketing buildup by the promoters and that these two eventually face each other in the squared circle. But if there are indeed legitimate concerns behind the demands of testing, the entire denial fiasco is making it pretty damn suspicious for “Pacman”, and well, as the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s usually a fire.