Blood-testing flap could nix fight
The megafight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is at risk
Pacquiao's refusal to submit to blood testing is the fly in the ointment
Drug testing has been a hotly debated topic in the fight negotiations
NEW YORK -- The proposed megafight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. is in jeopardy over Pacquiao's refusal to submit to a blood test before the fight.
According to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, representatives from Top Rank informed him today that Pacquiao would not agree to have his blood taken within 30 days of the bout based on the fighter's superstition of testing so close to a fight.
"Todd [duBoef] told me that Pacquiao has difficulty with taking blood and doesn't want to do it so close to the fight," said Schaefer. "He, Pacquiao, would only agree to have blood drawn before the kick-off press conference and after the fight."
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said in a statement Wednesday that Pacquiao's issue is not with the testing itself but the schedule.
"Manny will submit to as many random urine tests requested," Arum said. "Regarding the blood tests, he will subject himself to three tests; one given in January during the week the fight is formally announced, one thirty days from the fight, no later than February 13, and the final one immediately following the fight, in Manny's locker room."
Drug testing has been a hotly debated topic in the negotiations for this fight. Members from Mayweather's camp -- particularly Mayweather's father, Floyd Sr. -- have been outspoken in their belief that Pacquiao has been taking performance-enhancing drugs for years. Recently, junior welterweight Paulie Malignaggi -- a former opponent of Miguel Cotto -- publicly accused Pacquiao of being a steroid user.
Mayweather's team has insisted Pacquiao be forced to submit to Olympic-level drug testing before the fight. Olympic-style drug testing involves random sampling of the athlete's blood and urine prior to and after the fight. The USADA procedure includes both blood and urine sampling so that all banned substances, some of which do not show up in urine alone, are tested for thoroughly.
Pacquiao is apparently balking at the request.
"The major issue related to the testing rests with which independent agency will administer these tests," Arum said. "The United States Anti Doping Agency cannot do it because they will not amend its procedures to accommodate the blood testing schedule we have outlined. USADA, under its guidelines, would have the right to administer random blood tests as many times as they want up to weigh-in day and that is ludicrous."
Schaefer expressed surprise at Pacquiao's resistance so close to the finish line of negotiations.
"It is unfortunate to hear this from Manny Pacquiao's representatives, particularly since, as of today, both parties had worked out all other issues related to this fight," Schaefer said. "Team Mayweather is certainly surprised that an elite athlete like Manny Pacquiao would refuse drug testing procedures which Floyd has already agreed to and have been agreed to by many other top athletes such as Lance Armstrong, and Olympians Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant."
Mayweather believes Pacquiao owes the public an explanation.
"I understand Pacquiao not liking having his blood taken because, frankly, I don't know anyone who really does," Mayweather said. "But, in a fight of this magnitude, I think it is our responsibility to subject ourselves to sportsmanship at the highest level. I have already agreed to the testing and it is a shame that he is not willing to do the same. It leaves me with great doubt as to the level of fairness I would be facing in the ring that night. I hope that this is either some miscommunication or that Manny will change his mind and step up and allow these tests, which were good enough for all these other great athletes, to be performed by USADA."
Added Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe: "We hope that Manny will do the right thing and agree to the testing as it is an egregious act to deny the testing and hence, deny the millions of fans the right to see this amazing fight. We just want to make sure there is a level playing field in a sport that is a man-to-man contest that relies on strength and ability. I still hope this decision is coming from someone in Pacquiao's camp and not Manny himself as it would be a shame that an athlete of his stature and who represents his whole country would not be able to show the public or his fellow athletes that he agrees to the highest standards in sports competition."
Schaefer told SI.com on Tuesday night that there was absolutely no possibility Mayweather would agree to the fight if Pacquiao continued to refuse to submit to random blood tests. Schaefer said that all terms -- including the site (MGM Grand in Las Vegas) and an unprecedented $10 million-per-pound penalty if either fighter comes in over the 147-pound limit -- had been agreed to by both sides. But a big concern in Mayweather's camp is the possible use of masking agents -- which could prevent the detection of, among other things, HGH and EPO -- if Pacquiao is tested after the fight. Schaefer added he had no formal discussions set up with Top Rank and is waiting for a formal response from Pacquiao himself.
"We're not talking about a lot blood, just a tablespoon," said Schaefer, who reiterated he is not accusing Pacquiao of any illegal drug use. "For someone that is in the public eye the way Pacquiao is, he should be held to the highest standard of drug testing. That's all we are asking for."