COMMENTARY | Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Timothy Bradley, scheduled to take place on October 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, looks to be an intriguing match-up of styles and temperaments. Lately, however, it looks to be a bout precariously close to becoming lost in the confusion of boxing's muddled regulatory structure.
Imagine if boxing had one centralized authority rather than a loosely-bound collection of state commissions that range in quality from below average to dangerously inept. Imagine the sport with one set of rules regarding drug testing and not the current situation where even the very best commissions suffer from laughably outdated testing protocol.
If such a boxing world existed, there would be a smooth ride to Marquez-Bradley. As it is now, though, this contest between Manny Pacquiao victors is hitting every speed bump on the road to October 12 and creating serious speculation as to whether all issues will be resolved in time to get these fighters into the ring.
Bradley, fueled by suspicion that Marquez's new, buff physique and punching power may be the result of something other than hard work, introduced the idea of random blood testing for the bout. Marquez, eager to prove his innocence, agreed to the demand.
Then there was a dispute over which agency would actually do the testing. The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), the commission under which the bout will be governed, doesn't do random blood testing for performance enhancing drugs, so the fighters would have to turn to an outside agency.
After a failure to come to agreement on which agency to use, it was decided that both the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) would test the fighters.
But yet another roadblock has presented itself.
Promoter of both fighters, Bob Arum, now wants to get rid of both independent testing agencies, re-write the language of the contract, and turn the responsibility for testing back to the NSAC.
"Whatever the expense, we'll pay it," Arum told Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times. "They're the regulatory body. If VADA or USADA get a positive, so? But if the regulatory agency does, then they decide what to do with it."
The question remains whether the NSAC, which has rejected the idea of updating their testing protocol in the past, will temporarily adopt this more stringent testing. And, if they are game to try, can they get all the pieces in place to do a good job in time for the fighters' training camps? According to Arum, the commission is onboard with the additional testing, as long as he pays for it.
Another question is whether the NSAC will have the courage of its conviction to scrap the bout if something irregular does present itself. Under the current structural model, the commission would be costing its own state a good chunk of money in lost revenue if a failed pre-fight test forced a cancelation. With Arum funding the tests and the NSAC conducting the tests, all parties involved in testing will have a real vested interest in seeing that the bout takes place. Even under the best of circumstances, this is a real conflict of interest.
And just when the issue of PEDs testing seemed enough of a roadblock, Marquez would add his own last-minute stipulation to the bout.
The Mexican star, who began his career as a featherweight, wants to add a rehydration clause to the deal, assuring that Bradley won't weigh more than ten pounds over the welterweight limit on fight night.
"What Bradley wants to do" (i.e., testing) "is not a rule for the fight and," a fight-night weight stipulation "is not a rule for the fight," Marquez said. "If I do it, he should do it. Bradley is too big."
In response, an irate Bradley insisted that he has no intention of abiding by Marquez's last minute stipulation.
"I just think it's dumb," Bradley told Boxingscene. "I can't weigh ten pounds over? We fighting for the welterweight championship, baby. This ain't no catchweight."
It'll be next to impossible to insert a rehydration clause into an already-signed contract and all reports indicate that Arum absolutely does not support the Marquez idea. Unless the four-division former world champ stands firm and insists on this as a must before fighting, expect nothing to come of this added stipulation.
But whether Marquez bends on the rehydration clause or not, the issue of weight manipulation in boxing is a real one and something that a real commission with universal authority would need to address. The practice of boiling down to an artificially low weight for the weigh-in, only to balloon up and compete as a much larger competitor on fight night is a deadly game that will one day result in tragedy. Some insist that this legalized cheat has already been responsible for death and injury.
However, don't expect any reform in this area, either. There is no real authority in boxing to enact meaningful reform.
For those interested in seeing how this chaos affects the sport, just pay close attention to Marquez-Bradley. This main stage, big ticket clash will continue to teeter on the brink of cancelation right up until fight night as both sides attempt to do the right thing in a world where no course has been designated for "the right thing."
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 as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Sources: The Los Angeles Times, Boxingscene
- Sports & Recreation
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Timothy Bradley