Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pacquiao can’t afford to pass on megafight

The request by Floyd Mayweather for both he and Manny Pacquiao to potentially be blood tested as close as 48 hours from their possible March superfight is both unprecedented and unnecessary.
Pacquiao’s de facto manager told Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole that Pacman will be blood tested one month out and just after the possible March 13 fight in (likely) Las Vegas. That schedule should answer any possible doping questions about Pacquiao (or Mayweather). The 48-hour deadline is a classic Mayweather psychological ploy, a little edge designed to get into his opponent’s head.

That said, at this point, with the debate this far along, Pacquiao should just suck it up and agree to it.

Mayweather is a master at putting opponents in bad positions, both inside and outside the ring. Pacquiao is in one now, outfoxed by Mayweather in the fight negotiations. There’s no way Pacquiao can explain walking away from one of the biggest bouts in boxing history because, as his promoter suggests, he’s afraid of needles.

Do that and it isn’t just the game of boxing that takes a beating – it’s also Pacquiao’s reputation. The semantics about boxing standards or steroid cycles or unfair negotiations won’t break through what would, no doubt, be a vocal hammering from critics, none louder than from the Mayweathers.

“For that kind of money, how could you not take a test?” Floyd’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., has already crowed to the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press.

Indeed, how do you not take a test?

The Mayweather camp has been outspoken in its suspicions about Pacquiao and performance-enhancing drugs. So it demanded that both fighters possibly submit blood samples to the United States Anti-Doping Agency in the days before and after the fight. When to test would be up to USADA. Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, said they’d stick to State of Nevada regulations, although Pacquiao’s adviser, Michael Koncz, said they’d do blood samples, just not that close to the fight.

That isn’t good enough, so far, for the Mayweather camp. If no one budges, boxing may be in the process of shooting itself in the foot, walking away from an event that already has fans worldwide buzzing in anticipation. More likely: Something gets worked out in time for a fight announcement in early January.

“In a fight of this magnitude, I think it is our responsibility to subject ourselves to sportsmanship at the highest level,” Mayweather Jr. said in a statement.

“We’re going in a different direction,” Arum told the Grand Rapids Press. “What I believe is that Floyd never really wanted the fight and this is just harassment of Pacquiao.”

There’s little doubt this is harassment of Pacquiao. What else would you expect from Floyd Mayweather? He’s the master at screwing with opponents. Making Pacquiao discuss PEDs in the run up to the fight is a potential distraction – even if he’s clean. That was, no doubt, a goal when his camp requested aggressive doping standards.

This isn’t Mayweather’s normal bluster, though. He’s on the moral high ground here. The Pacquiao camp can hate the situation it finds itself in and may be correct that the requests are mostly ridiculous. It doesn’t change the reality of the debate.

If Pacman pulls out of the fight because of the timetable for doping tests, he’ll have a near-impossible challenge proving he isn’t trying to hide something.

Arum isn’t doing Pacquiao any favors with some of his silly excuses. He said Pacquiao is squeamish about needles, which is a heck of a thing to blow up a contest to determine the toughest pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

He added that Pacquiao thinks a blood test within 48 hours of the fight might drain him, although most such tests take very little actual blood. Then there’s Arum’s claim that every doctor in the world would say doing such a thing is “stupid” and blood tests don’t “prove anything.” That’s hyperbole.

“Manny Pacquiao doesn’t know anything about drugs,” Arum told the Grand Rapids paper. “This is just typical nastiness by wise guys like [Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard] Ellerbe and Mayweather.”

Nastiness? Sure. Wise guys? Absolutely. The Mayweather camp doesn’t play around. However, to say we have to just take Arum’s word that Pacquiao doesn’t know anything about drugs is absurd. There hasn’t been a reason to believe anything or anyone in sports on this topic in years. PED scandals in baseball, football, cycling, track, swimming and so on aren’t Pacquiao’s fault, but that’s the sporting reality he lives in.

He can’t just pretend fan suspicion isn’t reasonable.

Pacquiao has been a breath of fresh air for boxing and he’s never failed a drug test in his 50-3-2 career. The chance to see a man of similar speed and skill finally challenge the unbeaten Mayweather (40-0) has reenergized the sport.

Which doesn’t mean either fighter is above reproach. The Mayweathers have had no problem voicing their concerns about Pacman’s ability to maintain punching power and punch-taking ability as he has climbed through weight classes (even as Mayweather has made a similar journey).

Regardless, in one of their typically deft maneuvers, they demanded extreme testing standards that left the Pacquiao camp backpedaling and debating an issue they can’t win.

What Mayweather is calling for may be unfair, but is Pacquiao going to give up tens of millions of dollars and a chance to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greatest fighters out of principle?

Is he going to bail knowing that he opens himself up to questions about PEDs because, despite being tough enough to let Miguel Cotto unload on him, he’s scared of a needle?

Floyd Mayweather has cornered him on this one, doing what he does best, making the fight get fought on his terms. The way to stop Mayweather, though, has always been to punch back – hard.

Instead, Manny Pacquiao is going to walk away?


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