Testing issues could derail Mayweather-Pacquiao

Nearly every detail is finalized for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to fight on March 13 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas but one. That one detail, though, may kill the fight.

Negotiations are at an impasse over Pacquiao’s failure to agree to random Olympic-style drug testing, said Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, on Tuesday.

Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said his fighter is willing to comply with strict drug-testing standards, but Roach won’t allow Pacquiao to have blood drawn 48 hours before the fight.

Ellerbe said he would not let Mayweather enter the ring unless Pacquiao agreed to it.

Both sides agreed that the drug testing issue is the only hurdle preventing the fight from being finished. Earlier Tuesday, Golden Boy Promotions officially requested March 13 from the Nevada State Athletic Commission to host the show.

“As Floyd’s management, we are insistent that there be a level playing field,” Ellerbe said. “This is in the best interests of the fighters, the fans and the sport. If you want a level playing field, the best way to do it is to have Olympic-style, random drug testing administered by the premier agency in the world, the [United States Anti-Doping Agency].”

Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum said the demand is “absolutely crazy,” done simply to harass Pacquiao, who is squeamish about needles, and is proof that Mayweather doesn’t really want the fight.

Arum said the request has been an unsettled issue since the first day of negotiations last month.

“We’re not going to agree to have Manny give blood in training, because that’s stupid,” Arum said. “Every doctor in the world will tell you that is stupid. He’ll give his blood at the beginning of the year and he’s willing to be urine-tested 24/7, but blood doesn’t show [expletive] and he’s not going to do it.”

Michael Koncz, Pacquiao’s adviser and de facto manager, said Pacquiao believes drawing blood so close to a competition harms the body, but the boxer is willing to have his blood drawn a month away from the fight as a compromise.

Koncz said Pacquiao was willing to pass on the fight if it came to that.

“Manny has a lot more options than Mayweather does,” Koncz said. “Manny is clean and he’s never done a thing, and he’s willing to go to great lengths to prove it. It’s my understanding that this stuff doesn’t just leave your system overnight.

“He’ll take a blood test immediately after the fight, if that’s what they insist upon. But Manny believes very strongly that it would be harmful to him to draw blood that soon before the fight and he plain and simple isn’t going to do it.”

In a statement released by his publicist, Mayweather said he is willing to submit to the testing. There was never any suspicion that Pacquiao had ever taken banned substances until earlier this year, when Floyd Mayweather Sr. suggested he was on steroids.

Pacquiao has passed every urine test he’s been given in connection with boxing matches.

“I understand Pacquiao not liking having his blood taken, because frankly I don’t know anyone who really does,” Mayweather said in his 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.”

Blood tests for illegal drugs and banned substances are not required by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which would have regulatory control of the bout if it is held in Las Vegas.

In Nevada, a fighter is required to submit to a blood test that screens for HIV and Hepatitis B and C, as well as other blood-borne diseases, as part of the requirement to gain a license.

A license in Nevada is good for one year. In Pacquiao’s case, he received his 2009 license shortly before he fought Ricky Hatton in May. He submitted his blood to the commission between April 5 and April 20, said Keith Kizer, the commission’s executive director.

Kizer said all fighters who fight in Nevada are subject to random urine tests as well as any other medical tests, such as an MRI or a CAT scan, that the commission deems necessary. Arum said Pacquiao is willing to submit to testing by an outside agency but won’t give his blood. Roach said it’s an issue because Mayweather’s side has been insisting Pacquiao give blood as close as 48 hours within the fight.

“We’ll accommodate their requests and do urine testing up the wazoo and we’ll agree to have them done by an outside agency,” Arum said. “Manny has nothing to hide. But he’s not going to give blood because that’s crazy. He’ll do it at the beginning and he’ll do it at the end. That’s how it is done. Ask some former Olympic boxers how many times they give blood.”

Ellerbe said having the testing administered by USADA would quell suspicions about the procedures or the result.

“This is no rooty toot organization,” said Ellerbe, who noted that such testing was accepted by elite athletes such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps and Lance Armstrong.

Roach scoffed at such talk and said it won’t matter to him if the fight is not held.

“I really don’t care, because Manny doesn’t need Floyd Mayweather,” Roach said. “The tests he’s requesting are not commission tests, they’re not boxing tests and this is not an Olympic sport. A urine test is just as qualified as a blood test. [Human growth hormone] is not detected by blood or urine.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency successfully used blood testing at the 2004 Olympics in Athens to test for HGH.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Dec 22, 2009