COMMENTARY | Scoring controversies and an 8-year professional rivalry may have to take a back seat to a new bit of nastiness in the days leading to Manny Pacquiao's fourth bout with Juan Manuel Marquez on December 8. This time, Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach has spoken up, expressing his concerns that the 39-year-old Mexican is employing performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to prepare himself for the upcoming contest.
"If [his body] is natural, I will kiss his ass," Roach told USA Today. "[Marquez] has gotten bigger and gained weight - it throws up a red flag. I've been accused so many times of my fighters being on steroids (that) I hate to accuse other people. But it is part of our life, part of the world we live in."
Roach's suspicions have been amplified due to Marquez's continued work with Angel "Memo" Hernandez, the strength and conditioning coach who had supplied track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with PEDs and later testified on behalf of the federal government during the BALCO drug trial in 2011.
While the increase in Marquez's muscle mass is clearly evident in recent photos taken from his training camp, there is nothing other than Roach's own personal observations to offer up as proof of something less than legal.
For the record, Marquez denies the use of any illegal substances and Alex Ariza, Manny Pacquiao's own strength and conditioning coach also brushed off the possibility of something out of sorts, telling USA Today, "Memo is brilliant - I don't have any suspicions."
Ironically, accusations of PEDs use aimed at Manny Pacquiao by Floyd Mayweather eventually led to the end of negotiations for a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout and brought about a now-settled lawsuit for defamation against Mayweather and members of his family by Pacquiao. The accusations and subsequent scandal indirectly brought about a recent rash of voluntary pre-fight testing that has seen fighters Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson test positive for banned substances.
Roach has been known for making headline-grabbing, antagonistic statements prior to Pacquiao's bouts. It has to be considered part of the process as trainer, working to get into the head of an opponent and offering up distractions for the enemy. Since Manny refuses to engage in these mind games and media feuds, the job has fallen to Roach, who has been quite good at it.
But accusations like he made against Marquez go beyond what normally passes for pre-fight psychological maneuverings. An accusation of PEDs use completely destroys a fighter's reputation and diminishes his legacy. Worst of all, with the ill-equipped and outdated testing protocol employed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, there's no real way of proving Marquez's guilt or innocence. Since many of the new PEDs being employed aren't subject to commission screening, tossing out accusations will create permanent uncertainty about anything Marquez may do against Pacquiao on December 8 or in any subsequent fight he may have.
Roach should know this better than anyone else, as his fighter's reputation has been dragged through the mud for the better part of three years following similar, albeit more crudely stated, accusations. To this day, Manny Pacquiao is labeled a drug cheat by a good number of fans, without ever actually having tested positive for a banned substance.
Ideally, if Roach had concerns about Juan Manuel Marquez and Memo Hernandez, a deal could've been made for both fighters to undergo true random blood testing by an independent screening agency in the weeks leading up to the fight. Instead, Roach decided to toss out an unsubstantiated accusation with less than two weeks to go before the fight.
It was wrong to engage in rumor-mongering against Pacquiao and it's wrong to do it to Marquez.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Jon Saraceno, Pacquiao opponent Marquez denies doping accusations, USA Today