Manny Pacquiao's injury debacle leaves bad taste, potential for legal repercussions

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – No matter what, healthy or not, at the top of his game or not, Manny Pacquiao was not going to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr.

That's an opinion, and there are others who undoubtedly feel differently, but it's an opinion held after years of carefully watching both men.

Nor is it meant to demean Pacquiao, who is one of the elite fighters in the world and has been for many years.

It's the simple, cold hard truth: Mayweather is the better fighter. Period.

The injury became an issue after Yahoo Sports broke the news shortly after the fight that Pacquiao had competed with a bad shoulder.

On Monday, Top Rank and Team Pacquiao released a statement explaining the circumstances surrounding the alleged injury.

The final line reads, "However, as Manny has said multiple times, he makes no excuses. Manny gave it his best."

The statement is nothing more than an excuse and provides little insight into what happened.

More significantly, no one can answer why Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz checked no in answer to a question on a form he filled out on Pacquiao's behalf for the Nevada Athletic Commission that is entitled, "Pre-Fight Medical Questionnaire."

The sixth question is, "Have you had any injury to your shoulders, elbows or hands that needed evaluation or examination? If yes, explain." Koncz made an "X" in the no box.

Manny Pacquiao throws a right hand at Floyd Mayweather on Saturday. (Getty)
Manny Pacquiao throws a right hand at Floyd Mayweather on Saturday. (Getty)

Four questions later, Koncz listed the following medications that Pacquiao was taking: "Lidocaine, dBupivicaine, Celestone, PRP and Toradol."

Yahoo Sports spoke to Koncz on Monday in an attempt to understand why no one had reported the injury to the commission. Commission executive director Francisco Aguilar said he first heard of Pacquiao's shoulder injury at 9:08 p.m. ET on Saturday, about 2½ hours before Pacquiao was to meet Mayweather at the MGM Grand.

According to Pacquiao's statement on Monday, he wanted to take a shot of Toradol, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.

"Manny's advisers notified the United States Anti-Doping [Agency] of the shoulder injury and the treatments being proposed by the doctors during training and on fight night," the statement read. "USADA spoke to Manny's doctors twice, investigated, and confirmed in writing that the proposed treatments, if used, were completely allowed. The medication approved for fight night was a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory [Toradol]."

It's important to note that USADA wasn't regulating the fight. It was only overseeing the drug testing for the fight and it confirmed to Team Pacquiao that he wouldn't fail one of its drug tests if any or all of those drugs were discovered in his system.

But since the Nevada Athletic Commission was regulating the fight, it was the only entity that had the authority to approve the use on Saturday.

And Aguilar admitted he might have given such permission had he known of the injury on Friday at the weigh-in. At that point, he said, the commission doctors would have had a chance to see Pacquiao's MRIs and talk at length to his doctors before making a determination whether to allow him to do it.

That brings up an issue regarding the reporting requirements.

This fight was all about money. The money angle was promoted and reported relentlessly.

Indications are that pay-per-view buys will soar past 4 million. The fight could wind up generating a half-billion dollars once everything is counted.

So it was a legitimate angle to promote and report.

However, it also made discussing injuries a very delicate topic. When Pacquiao hadn't sparred for several days last month, there was a great amount of speculation among Filipino reporters regarding a potential injury.

Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach told Yahoo Sports that Pacquiao had sparred at strength-and-conditioning coach Justin Fortune's gym, simply to get away from all the reporters who were hanging around. Pacquiao publicist Fred Sternburg, who attended sparring daily, also denied that Pacquiao had any injury.

Nobody at Top Rank ever mentioned it, either publicly or in private to the commission.

The news came out about a half hour after the fight ended. Arum was seated about 20 feet from reporters, awaiting the start of the post-fight news conference.

Promoter Bob Arum (L) watches as Manny Pacquiao answers reporters after his fight with Floyd Mayweather. (AP)
Promoter Bob Arum (L) watches as Manny Pacquiao answers reporters after his fight with Floyd Mayweather. (AP)

Yahoo Sports approached and asked him several questions about the fight. His answers were largely unremarkable. Then, Yahoo Sports asked how Pacquiao thought he could win by throwing fewer punches than the notoriously economical Mayweather.

Arum said he didn't really want to say anything, but there was an issue. Pressed what the issue was, Arum declined to say anything further and suggested a reporter speak to the commission.

Yahoo Sports then spoke to Aguilar and learned of the request to take a shot for an injury.

Athletes in all sports go to great lengths to hide injuries. The NHL is particularly coy in its injury reporting and will say only "upper-body injury" or "lower-body injury."

There has never been a clear diagnosis released. Arum said Saturday that Pacquiao has the same injury that Kobe Bryant has. Bryant was operated on to repair a torn rotator cuff.

Koncz, who took Pacquiao to an orthopaedist in Los Angeles on Monday, said he didn't know the specific nature of the injury, but said it wasn't a torn rotator cuff.

In the statement, Team Pacquiao noted that doctors " … concluded that with short rest, treatments and close monitoring, Manny could train and, on May 2, step into the ring against Floyd Mayweather."

The public was asked to pay outrageously high prices. Tickets ranged from $1,500 for a cheap seat to $10,000 for a floor seat. Hotel prices were jacked way up. Airfares to Las Vegas rose dramatically.

The pay-per-view was sold at a record $100. It included only two fights on the undercard, neither of which were compelling.

It was a money grab.

But no one would have complained had it been a great fight.

Pacquiao, though, wasn't up to fighting great. Pacquiao threw only 429 punches against Mayweather on Saturday. By comparison, he fired 669 against Chris Algieri in November.

Everyone, including Roach, said that for Pacquiao to win, he'd have to punch in volume and keep the pressure on Mayweather.

He did neither, moving forward ineffectively and landing rarely.

If his shoulder was legitimately injured so badly that it hampered his performance that much, did the fans who shelled out so much money deserve to know it?

It's a tough call, because making the injury public was like putting a target on it for Mayweather.

But there is no other way to say it other than it was amateurish and a colossal mistake to not notify the commission of the injury on the pre-fight questionnaire.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) hits Manny Pacquiao during their welterweight title fight. (AP)
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (L) hits Manny Pacquiao during their welterweight title fight. (AP)

Have no doubt that there will be lawsuits filed by fans who paid extraordinarily inflated prices, which will not only make Mayweather and Pacquiao rich but which lined the pockets of the promoters and the casino, as well.

They'll argue they didn't get what they paid for, and they have a point. That said, injuries are a part of sports and the small print on all boxing sales posters says "card subject to change."

Pacquiao was able to appear, but not perform because of the lack of a quality right hand, his team would have us believe. Pacquiao became a superstar only after he added a quality right hand to go with his always strong left. It took him five years working with Roach to perfect it.

He didn't have one Saturday and so he was no match for Mayweather.

Now, he may have more problems than just losing to Mayweather. The commission could question him for perjury, given he didn't answer all questions on the form truthfully.

And Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe was angry to learn of the injury post-fight.

"We have first-hand experience dealing with them and anytime something doesn’t go their way, this is what you get," he said. "The Nevada commission is the best in the sport and they are always very meticulous in anything and everything they do. They scrutinize the fighters' health very carefully.

"Floyd went into the fight with two sore shoulders and two bruised hands. I can't think of one fight he went into where he was fully healthy. It's terrible for them to say that. Floyd always has injuries. It's part of the wear and tear of the sport."

It leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. The truth, as is often the case in boxing, wasn't told.

And fans who expected "The Fight of the Century" got something far, far less for their money.

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