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Boxing, A Blood Sport, Loses A Pint

BY Ron Borges ON January 07, 2010
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Roberto Duran once said, “No mas’’ and never lived it down. Yesterday Manny Pacquiao said “No blood test’’ and may suffer the same fate.

What was expected to be the richest fight in boxing history, one guaranteeing Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. $30 million each and projecting gross revenues of $200 million, collapsed Wednesday after a nine-hour mediation session between the two sides the previous day could not come up with an agreement on blood testing for performance enhancing drugs.

Mayweather had insisted on random testing right up to the fight as well as in the post-fight locker room as part of any agreement for the two of them to meet. Pacquiao refused, citing various reasons why, from a fear of needles to righteous indignation that a man is innocent until proven guilty. What he never agreed to was the kind of testing most drug experts say would be the only effective ones for discovering performance-enhancing drugs in an athlete’s blood stream.

Ironically, a case in point is Shane Mosley, who has admitted before a grand jury to injecting himself with PEDs before fighting Oscar De La Hoya, yet never tested positive before or after the fight in Las Vegas. Mosley is now a partner in De La Hoya’s company, which is the one representing Mayweather in these now failed negotiations.

Drug experts would say Mosley’s shame remained undiscovered until his name came up during the now infamous BALCO case in San Francisco because the Nevada testing procedures are so ineffective they make it all but impossible to catch anyone using today’s PEDs, human growth hormone, EPO or participating in any form of blood doping. The masking agents and other ways used to hide such usage have become so sophisticated they are far more advanced than the testing procedures used to expose such usage.

Pacquiao has never tested positive and so took a public stance that he was being unfairly treated, but the fact is neither have a host of professional and Olympic athletes who later were forced to admit PED use or blood doping when exposed via other means... so what does that prove?

Nothing, which is the same thing Mayweather’s insistence on drug testing proved. Certainly an insistence on random testing, while arguably implying a fear that something is amiss with Pacquiao, is proof of nothing untoward having been done by Pacquiao.

Only Pacquiao and the people closest to him know for sure why he refused the random testing but athletes long ago lost the right to the presumption of innocence in this kind of situation. This is not a criminal case (unless you agree it’s criminal that what should have been the biggest fight in the sport in years has instead become another black eye on boxing). It is a case where two world class athletes could have stepped forward and said they wanted to be part of the cleanest sporting event in the post-PED era, one in which they would agree to be tested and tested and tested yet again to insure that a level playing field existed and a sense of fair play was paramount. That certainly was not the case when Mosley defeated De La Hoya; when Roy Jones, Jr. tested positive in May 2000 after a fight in Indianapolis for PEDs; when James Toney defeated then WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz only to come up dirty post-fight and when so many others in all manner of sports from Olympic competition to major league baseball and the NFL did great things only later to have been found running on high test while others had regular in the tank.

Pacquiao’s refusal to accept random testing does not make him guilty but it does cast a dark shadow over his accomplishments. Why would anyone let a potential $30 million or more payday disappear over a blood test when you have spilled so much of your own blood over the years in the sport just to get to this point?

Boxing is, after all, a blood sport. It is the most difficult job in athletics. It requires great skill, great courage, great conditioning and great self-control, all of which Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KO) has in abundance. So how could a series of blood tests daunt him? How could they throw such fear into him that he would let their presence stop one of the biggest fights in boxing history unless…well, let’s not go there even though much of the public surely already has.

Manny Pacquiao lives a life surrounded by a cone of silence in the Philippines, surrounded by a wall of sycophants and supporters 10-men deep who have perhaps made him tone deaf to what the larger world now fears about him. He has won somewhere between five and seven world titles in different weight classes (depending on whose statistics you want to believe) and is without question the most popular fighter in the world today. Yet his decision not to face Mayweather because of an insistence on blood tests has hurt his reputation and cast a shadow over his accomplishments. This may be unfair but it was his choice and the one he made – to say, in essence “No Mas pruebas de sangre’’- has now become his legacy just as much as those world titles, acts of kindness to many of his countrymen living in poverty and his international acclaim have been.

As for Floyd Mayweather, Jr., he doesn’t escape unscathed either. After the fact he issued a press release that said, “Throughout this whole process I have remained patient, but at this point I am thoroughly disgusted that Pacquiao and his representatives are trying to blame me for the fight not happening when clearly the blame is on them. First and foremost, not only do I want to fight Manny Pacquiao, I want to whip his punk ass.

"Before the mediation, my team proposed a 14-day, no blood testing window leading up to the fight.  But it was rejected.  I am still proposing the 14-day window but he is still unwilling to agree to it, even though this is obviously a fair compromise on my part as I wanted the testing to be up until the fight and he wanted a 30-day cut-off.   The truth is he just doesn't want to take the tests.

"In my opinion it is Manny Pacquiao and his team who are denying the people a chance to see the biggest fight ever. I know the people will see through their smokescreens and lies. I am ready to fight and sign the contract. Manny needs to stop making his excuses, step up and fight."

All well and good but if you want to “whip his punk ass’’ that bad you could simply say “All right, skip the test. I’ll beat you regardless of what you take.’’

If he has real fears that Pacquiao may not be clean, the fact that he didn’t agree to fight is understandable. But skip the street talk when you’re standing behind a line of lawyers, promoters and men in business suits. If you really wanted to fight, you would have.

And if Manny Pacquiao really wanted to fight, he would have…unless … well let’s not go there.

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