Drug test procedures being debated
The Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather welterweight title megafight, tentatively scheduled for March 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, is in jeopardy because of the camps' failure to agree on the manner of drug testing for the fight.
In an interview late Tuesday with the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press, Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum told the newspaper that the fight is off.
I understand Pacquiao not liking having his blood taken because, frankly, I don't know anyone who really does. 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.” -- Floyd Mayweather
According to Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Mayweather, Pacquiao refused Tuesday to agree to the Olympic-style drug testing procedures the sides had been negotiating.
Mayweather requested that the drug testing for the fight be in compliance with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which handles testing for Olympians, "to ensure fair play and sportsmanship by both fighters."
"We're going in a different direction," Arum told the Grand Rapids newspaper. "What I believe is that Floyd never really wanted the fight and this is just harassment of Pacquiao.
"We appeased Mayweather by agreeing to a urine analysis at any time, and blood testing before the press conference and after the fight. Mayweather pressed for blood testing even up to the weigh-in. He knew that Manny gets freaked out when his blood gets taken, and feels that it weakens him. This is just harassment and, to me, just signaled that he didn't want the fight."
Olympic style testing is more rigorous than the drug testing performed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and other state commissions. It would involve random blood and urine testing before and after the fight. Nevada commission testing only tests urine for banned substances, once just before the fight and once immediately following the fight.
Floyd Mayweather Sr., the fighter's father, has repeatedly accused Pacquiao of taking illegal substances, even though Pacquiao denies it and he has never failed a drug test.
According to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who is negotiating the deal with Top Rank president Todd duBoef, Pacquiao refuses to have his blood drawn within 30 days of the bout based on his superstition of testing so close to a fight.
"Todd told me that Pacquiao has difficulty with taking blood and doesn't want to do it so close to the fight," Schaefer said. "He, Pacquiao, would only agree to have blood drawn before the kick-off press conference and after the fight."
Two weeks ago, Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, told ESPN.com that their side had no problem with Olympic style testing.
"I have no problem with the testing whatsoever," Roach said then. "They can do whatever kind of drug testing they want. They're scared of Manny and scared of his power. He'll pass any test in the world."
Schaefer said he hoped it was simply a "miscommunication" on the Pacquiao side.
"I do hope it is some sort of miscommunication and that Pacquiao is not even aware of what is going on and he will clear this up and say what is good enough for these great Olympic athletes is good enough for him and Floyd, and he agrees to do these drug tests.
"Team Mayweather is very 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. Why would Pacquiao refuse to have the same kind of testing that Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have had?"
Told of Pacquiao's reluctance to be tested, Mayweather said he should explain himself.
Rafael: Pacquiao's Power? All Natural
Tuesday wasn't the first time members of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s camp have questioned Manny Pacquiao's strength and fitness. Blog
"I understand Pacquiao not liking having his blood taken because, frankly, I don't know anyone who really does," Mayweather said in a statement. "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."
Said Leonard Ellerbe, a Mayweather adviser, in a statement, "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."
Top Rank spokesman Lee Samuels said the company declined to comment.
Schaefer said he and duBoef had "worked out all other issues related to the fight," disclosing to ESPN.com that the fight would be at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, if they can work out the drug testing issue.
"We have agreed on all terms, including the site," Schaefer said.
The MGM Grand beat out several other interested venues, including Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Team owner Jerry Jones had offered a $25 million site fee, the largest in boxing history, but the promoters took an offer from the MGM Grand, whose terms have not been disclosed.
In addition, Schaefer told ESPN.com that the sides had agreed on an unprecedented penalty if either fighter weighed in heavier than the contract limit of 147 pounds.
"We agreed to $10 million per pound, or fraction thereof," Schaefer said. "That's what the Pacquiao side wanted and we said OK to that. That's unheard of. We have agreed on everything except for this drug testing issue. I have to think Pacquiao is unaware of this. The drug testing had been part of the contract for a while and then they suddenly said no. I was informed of that [Tuesday] morning. Suddenly they changed course and I don't know why."
Pacquiao wanted a huge monetary penalty if Mayweather was overweight because he ignored the contract limit of 144 pounds for his September fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, coming in at 146 pounds and paying a $600,000 penalty for the extra advantage.
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.