Monday, December 05, 2022  |


This isn’t the gift boxing fans expected


Talk about a lump of coal.

Boxing fans and insiders eagerly anticipating the super fight between pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and No. 2 Floyd Mayweather Jr. on March 13 are scratching their heads and asking themselves: What the hell happened?

I still believe the sides will come to their senses over blood testing – the sudden sticking point in negotiations – and the fight will happen as scheduled. The Nevada State Athletic Commission reportedly has offered to oversee the testing, which might save the day.

In the event that no deal is reached, though, who is to blame?

The anti-Mayweather camp already is skewering the gifted but obnoxious superstar, suggesting he demanded Olympic-style testing for performance-enhancing drugs simply to harass Pacquiao. Meanwhile, the other camp is asking: What does Pacquiao have to hide?

In other words, the blame game doesn’t necessarily produce a winner.

I believe there is some gamesmanship on Mayweather’s part, which isn’t unprecedented. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, freely admits he’ll do or say just about anything to get under an opponent’s skin. It’s part of boxing.

I’m also fairly certain that Mayweather truly believes Pacquiao has been taking some sort of performance-enhancing drug or drugs, as his Floyd Mayweather Sr. has openly (and, in my opinion, recklessly) suggested. Thus, I can understand why he would seek more-thorough testing before stepping into the ring with Pacquiao.

And make no mistake: The random testing conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is more effective than the testing done in professional sports leagues in this country. Telling an athlete when he’ll be tested is ludicrous.

Mayweather is justified to ask: If Pacquiao’s is clean, then why is it too much to ask him to face any fears he has about blood testing and get it done?

That said, the fact Pacquiao is outraged that suddenly he is being accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs is perfectly understandable. The man hasn’t failed a single drug test in his long career, at least to my knowledge.

Pacquiao doesn’t deserve the scrutiny, although I personally don’t fully trust any elite athlete these days when it comes to drugs.

I also understand why Pacquiao doesn’t want to jump just because Mayweather says he should. The Filipino idol is as proud as any man; he’d be justified telling his prospective opponent exactly where to go even if it raised questions about himself.

I still think it would be wise for Pacquiao to acquiesce in this case because it would remove any suspicions – however unfair or unfounded – that might hover over him but I understand that he’s reluctant to do so.

So here is the mess on Christmas Day:

Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, has declared that the fight is dead even though that decision is Pacquiao’s and Pacquiao’s alone. Arum is courting Paulie Malignaggi as a replacement for Mayweather, which is ironic because Malignaggi has been one of the few boxing insiders to openly suggest that Pacquiao is on drugs. And Pacquiao apparently is planning to sue anyone connected with Mayweather for sullying his reputation.

Arum seems to be guardedly encouraged by the willingness of the Nevada State Athletic Commission to oversee the testing – apparently including random testing, which it normally doesn’t do — although no one from Mayweather’s side has addressed that possibility.

So, at the moment, it’s possible that Pacquiao and Mayweather will take interim fights and shoot for a showdown in the fall. That raises an obvious question, though: If the sides can’t compromise on blood testing now, what makes anyone think they’ll find common ground in a few months?

The bottom line is that we should celebrating the making of the biggest-possible fight in the sport. Instead, we’re wondering with dread whether we’ll ever see it.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]