Roughly two months ago, the biggest fight in boxing history did not happen due to arguments regarding the testing for performance enhancing drugs. And now, the fallout from that decision continues to affect and possibly change the future of boxing as we know it.
Over the past week, representatives for Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley, and Golden Boy Promotions have begun a media offensive to reveal the benefits of Olympic style drug testing for the May 1 superfight. The Mayweather-Mosley fight itself is the result of an act of God and a clash of superstar egos.
Mosley was originally supposed to fight Andre Berto on January 30, but the young Haitian fighter pulled out after losing several family members in the Haiti earthquake. Mayweather was scheduled to face Manny Pacquiao on March 13, but the Filipino icon balked and eventually walked over Mayweathers insistence that they both undergo random, Olympic drug testing no later than 14 days prior to fight night.
On the call was USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) CEO Travis Tygart, who explained that he was contacted by Mayweather and Golden Boy Promotions about his organizations services in December 2009. Regarding the actual testing, Tygart laid out the USADAs credentials for this fight.
Today more than 400 individual sport bodies around the world and over 125 governments have signed on to follow the anti-doping program, he reviewed. That program includes testing for a full menu for prohibited substances and methods. It provides the best protocol for the collection of samples to ensure maximum comforts of athletes while ensuring the integrity of the samples collected. Theres a system of accredited laboratories, so that only the best and specific sport accredited labs are analyzing samples using the best and most advanced techniques available.
Mayweather-Pacquiao was not the first time that one party of a superfight has requested stringent drug testing. Preceding their first bout in 1996, Mike Tyson requested that Evander Holyfield undergo blood testing, which he passed. In 2007, news broke that Holyfield had allegedly been using steroids for years, obtaining them under the name Evan Fields.
Mayweather and Golden Boy had initiated fight talks with Pacquiao from the beginning with the blood testing clause included. The Filipino fighter had his own contract requests, such as penalizing Mayweather $10 million for every pound he came in that was over the welterweight limit of 147 pounds, and having a glove size of 8 ounces (a benefit for punchers), over the standard 10 oz. gloves.
The Nevada boxing commission did not get involved, advising that the stipulations for both sides were contract issues that were left up to the fighters.
Mayweather agreed to all of his opponents demands, but Pacquiaos camp began to have issue with Floyds testing request. When the impasse first hit the media, Pacquiao himself allowed representatives from his camp (including Bob Arum and trainer Freddie Roach) to speak for him. This resulted in conflicting information as to why the testing was a problem. Initially, it was said that Pacquiao had a phobia of needles, which was quickly discarded after critics pointed out the fighters numerous tattoos. Then it was cited that Pacquiao held a superstitious belief that giving blood close to a fight weakened him. Proof of this was an interview given after his loss to Erik Morales in 2005, where Pacquiao blamed his defeat on giving blood several days before the bout.
The two parties failed to reconcile the issue, with Pacquiao not willing to go lower than blood testing 24 days before the fight, and Mayweather insisting on 14 days. In his recent March 13 bout against Joshua Clottey, Pacquiao gave required blood 19 days before the fight.
Aware of these issues, Tygart argued that Olympic style blood testing should be more than just a contract stipulation. For him, it has huge social ramifications.
Sport has and will always be more than just entertainment. Its a vehicle by which our communities come together, and our fans put hopes and dreams on our athletes performances, Tygart began. Like it or not, our athletes are role models, athletes inspire our youth to be like them. Their performances confirm that hard work, dedication, and playing by the rules will lead to success, and there are no shortcuts. Thats why today [Mayweather-Mosley] is another watershed moment in the anti-doping efforts that have happened over the last several years.”
Mayweather-Mosley is the first time that boxers have reached out to any agency to have an anti-doping program in place. Under the USADA, both fighters will be subjected to unannounced, unlimited blood and urine samples through fight night (May 1) and several days afterward. Mayweather and Mosley must make the USADA aware of their locations at all times. If either man tests positive to any banned substances, the findings would be made public following legal proceedings. The guilty fighter would be subject to criminal charges, fines, and a two year suspension from boxing.
Shane Mosley admitted under federal testimony that he had used the Clear, a banned substance supplied by BALCO head Victor Conte, before his rematch with Oscar De La Hoya in 2003. To date, Mosley is suing Conte for defamation, claiming that he took the substance not knowing it was a performance enhancing drug. Conte denies this, stating that Mosley was fully aware of the product.
The Nevada state boxing commission threw out Mosleys urine and blood samples after the fight, resulting in no further testing or Mosley possibly facing suspensions or fines. Under the USADA, samples will be kept for eight years following the fight.
When asked if a competent steroid testing plan can only include random urine testing, Travis Tygart gave an emphatic no, and criticized the boxing commission that was over Mosley at the time of his steroid controversy.
There are at least four potent performance enhancing drugs that are not detected in urine, including Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Homologous Blood Transfusion (HBT), [and] HBOC which is synthetic hemoglobin The sport has allowed cheating to take over the culture They (the boxing commission) did not bring any discipline on those allegations or any others. Honestly, all athletes are entitled to a full legal process prior to be accused of cheating. But if those allegations are proven to be true, he would have certainly served time like any of the other BALCO athletes that were disciplined at the time.
Mosley attorney Judd Berstein stated that his client is now completely clean, and would not subject himself to this type of testing if he had anything to hide.
Shane would not be doing this [if he were guilty]; its a very rigorous program. He would not be doing this if there was any doubt in his mind that he wasnt a clean athlete, Berstein stated.
Several prominent boxers have tested positive for banned substances in the past, including Roy Jones Jr., James Toney, and Fernando Vargas. But the issue of how widespread steroid use is in boxing remains disputed amongst experts.
Late last year, Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Roger Mayweather publicly accused Manny Pacquiao of being on performance enhancing drugs. Pacquiao has never tested positive for any banned substances, and launched a multi-million dollar defamation suit against the Mayweathers (including Floyd Jr.) and Golden Boy.
In a statement, Pacquiao used religious imagery to paint the defendants as morally bankrupt.
“Liars go to hell. They should be man enough to own up to their words, blasted Pacquiao, a devout Catholic. For including my country in the picture, claiming that we are the producers of the best performance enhancing drugs, Mayweather and those who are guilty need to get punished, the sooner, the better, whether it be in the courts or in the ring. Last week, I told Floyd Jr. to shut his big, pretty mouth and that we should fight so that the world will get to see who is the best fighter on the planet.”
Before the Pacquiao fallout, Floyd Mayweather had never requested this style of blood testing for an opponent. When pressed about why Olympic style drug testing would be enacted now, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe countered that Floyds stance is long overdue for the sport.
Why not? With Floyd being the face of boxing, this is something that hes wanted to clean up the sport of boxing, he said. Every fighter [who fights Mayweather] from this point on is going to be subjected to this. This is great with USADA being the gold standard. This can do nothing but benefit the sport of boxing.
With Mayweather-Mosley appearing to have no issues, the question moves onto if Mayweather should win, would Manny Pacquiao be willing to subject himself to the same testing as Mosley?
HBO commentator Max Kellerman broached the subject to Pacquaio trainer Freddie Roach following the Joshua Clottey fight. Roach was firm in arguing the state boxing commissions should handle blood/urine testing while the fighters focus on what goes on between the ropes.
Its a fight the world wants to see. Me and Manny want to see it. Floyd, let the commission do their jobs, let them run the rules, you dont run this sport, Roach taunted. Get in the ring and fight us! Manny is disappointed in Floyds accusations, so he makes fun of him in the gym and shows me how he would crush that defense.
Manny himself ignored the blood testing issue, simply shrugging his shoulders and stating its up to Mayweather if he wants the superfight.
I want that fight. The people want that fight. But its up to him if hes going to fight with me, he explained. For me its no problem, I dont think hes ready now. He should win against Mosley. If not me and Mosley should fight.
The boxing commissions around the U.S. may soon change their regulations as the negative attention from the Mayweather-Pacquiao failure has shed light on the inadequate and antiquated methods used to test for performance enhancing drugs.
According to the NY Post, the New York State Athletic Commission is reviewing their regulations in hopes of an upgrade.
Were in the process of doing research now. We have been for several weeks. Were going to upgrade our testing policies, detailed Melvina Lathan, chairwoman of the NYSAC. As soon as my medical advisor board gets back to me with their findings, were going to look over their recommendations. Were tossing around a lot of policies. Were trying to find out which ones work better for our state, for our boxers, and for boxing. Were trying to get what works, and once we get all of those things together, then well come out with a statement about our findings.
Much of the USADA testing is expected to be covered further during HBOs 24/7 series for Mayweather-Mosley. The winner is expected to enter immediate negotiations with Manny Pacquiao for a fight before the end of 2010.
Ismael AbduSalaam is a senior staff writer for AllHipHop.com, freelance journalist, and the creator of Beats, Boxing and Mayhem, a website specializing in boxing and Hip-Hop coverage. He can be followed on Twitter @Allahschild