Megafight talks take another strange twist

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Negotiations to finalize a lucrative boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. took another bizarre twist Friday as Pacquiao threatened libel lawsuits and the chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions was accused of telling a Filipino journalist that Pacquiao is using performance-enhancing drugs.

Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum said Friday that reporter Ronnie Nathanielsz of the Manila Standard told him that in September, Nathanielsz was in the Golden Boy offices in Los Angeles when Richard Schaefer accused Pacquiao of using PEDs.

Schaefer, whose company is representing Mayweather in a fight expected to be the largest-grossing in history, recalls meeting Nathanielsz in his downtown Los Angeles office but denied the allegations.

Nathanielsz, whose newspaper has not reported the alleged conversation, declined via email to comment.

Talks to finalize the bout between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world hit a snag on Tuesday when Mayweather issued a statement demanding "Olympic-style drug testing" administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Top Rank, on behalf of Pacquiao, declined and the sides have exchanged bitter words since.

On Friday, Arum said he spoke on the telephone late Thursday with Winchell Campos, a Pacquiao publicist. Arum said Campos told him Pacquiao planned to file a lawsuit against Mayweather, Mayweather Sr., Golden Boy Promotions and Schaefer for allegations Pacquiao says they made without evidence that he is on performance-enhancing drugs.

Arum said he tried to talk Campos out of issuing a statement from Pacquiao announcing plans for the suit. But Arum said Campos then put Pacquiao on the telephone and that Pacquiao was as angry as he has ever heard him.

"Manny is usually this mild-mannered guy, but he was unbelievably angry," Arum said. "I never heard him like that. He told me to make it stop. This was a different Manny than I'd ever heard. When I hung up, I said, 'What the hell was that about?' "

When he spoke to Nathanielsz by telephone 30 minutes later, Arum said Nathanielsz recounted a meeting in Schaefer's downtown Los Angeles office in the buildup to the Sept. 19 fight in Las Vegas between Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez in which he alleged that Schaefer told him Pacquiao was using performance-enhancing drugs.

Arum, who flew to Mexico on Friday for a week-long vacation, said Nathanielsz's comments clarified things for him. He said he had been puzzled by Mayweather Sr.'s public allegations against Pacquiao, but said they began to make sense after speaking with Nathanielsz.

"Ronnie said he came over early for the [Mayweather-Marquez] fight and he met with Schaefer," Arum said. "He said they met for a half hour and that Schaefer went on and on and on that Manny is a cheater and that Manny uses steroids and that Manny was on performance-enhancing drugs.

"Ronnie asked him, 'Why would you take this attitude with this young man?' Ronnie told me he thinks Schaefer is pissed off that Manny chose us over Golden Boy, though Schaefer is happy to take the money."

Pacquiao signed promotional contracts with both Golden Boy and Top Rank in 2006. Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya met Pacquiao at Los Angeles International Airport and gave him a suitcase filled with $250,000 in cash, which Pacquiao later was forced to return, as an inducement to sign.

Lawsuits were filed and the matter was eventually settled in arbitration by retired judge Daniel Weinstein. Weinstein ruled Pacquiao would be promoted by Top Rank, but that Golden Boy is entitled to a percentage of profits in perpetuity from all Pacquiao fights as long as Top Rank had Pacquiao under contract.

Arum said he has asked his attorneys to have the arbitration reopened and have Golden Boy eliminated since Schaefer's actions were not in the fighter's best interests.

Schaefer said Nathanielsz has had a good relationship with Golden Boy, particularly with its matchmaker, Eric Gomez. Schaefer admitted he hosted Nathanielsz in his office, but denied he made any accusations about Pacquiao and performance-enhancing drugs.

"I would never accuse anybody of anything and those who know me know that's just not the way I am," Schaefer said Friday. "I would never go and allege anybody is doing anything, so that is absolutely not true that I would have said to anybody that Manny is cheating. I didn't.

"We have a pretty good relationship with Ronnie. I think Eric does. He came to see our offices, but there was no accusation of cheating. And in this process, over the last few days or weeks, not once did you hear me say, to you or to anyone else, that I am accusing Manny of taking anything or doing anything illegal."

Schaefer also questioned why, if Nathanielsz had such information, that he had not reported it.

Mayweather Sr. began inferring that he suspected Pacquiao was on steroids or some other performance-enhancing substance in September, not long after Nathanielsz visited the Golden Boy offices.

After Pacquiao's victory over Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas, Mayweather Sr. suggested to Yahoo! Sports reporter Martin Rogers that Pacquiao's improvements were not natural.

"You know there is something going on with him," Mayweather Sr. told Rogers. "If I was Floyd I wouldn't fight him because of that. It just don't add up. Take a look at them old pictures, man. That's a different dude. And he got knocked out when he was 30 pounds lighter, but now he can stand there and take Cotto's best shots? Come on."

Arum reiterated Friday that Pacquiao is clean and said the fight can be salvaged if Mayweather backs off his insistence that testing be administered by USADA. USADA's procedures demand random testing up to and including the day of competition.

Pacquiao has an aversion to giving blood close to an event, both Arum and his adviser, Michael Koncz, have said, believing it weakens him. Arum said Pacquiao would submit to testing if it were done under the auspices of the Nevada Athletic Commission.

"They're corrupted in this thing; they're complicit," Arum said of USADA. "Both sides here know the people involved in the Nevada Athletic Commission. It can handle the testing and we can work out a protocol that will prove Manny is not on anything and that won't interfere with the fight."

Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions and the fighter's closest friend, refused to say Friday whether his side would accept testing done by any group other than USADA, as it has demanded.

Ellerbe said he and Mayweather adviser Al Haymon came up with the idea to require the testing, not Mayweather Jr., as a way to protect their fighter.

"We're waiting to see if Manny Pacquiao is going to do the Olympic-style drug testing," Ellerbe said. "The bottom line is that neither Top Rank, nor Manny's camp, nor Mayweather Promotions or Golden Boy Promotions are going to dictate how the blood and urine testing is conducted.

"I understand this could be the biggest fight in the history of the sport, but all money ain't good money. You can't put a price tag on anything when it comes to a man's livelihood. The fighters are the only ones stepping up, putting their lives on the line. It's the fighters who are putting their lives on the line, not me, not Top Rank, not Golden Boy, not Al Haymon. Our responsibility here is to protect the interests of our guy and that's what we're doing."

In his statement in which he threatened to sue, Pacquiao denies taking steroids and said he didn't sue Mayweather Sr. earlier because he didn't want to create distractions during his preparations for Cotto.

"I maintain and assure everyone that I have not used any form or kind of steroids and that my way to the top is a result of hard work, hard work, hard work and a lot of blood spilled from my past battles in the ring, not outside of it," Pacquiao said in his statement. "I have no idea what steroids look like and my fear in God has kept me safe and victorious through all these years.

"Now, I say to Floyd Mayweather Jr., don't be a coward and face me in the ring, mano-a-mano and shut your big, pretty mouth, so we can show the world who is the true king of the ring."

Arum said he plans to continue parallel negotiations with Lou DiBella, who promotes Paulie Malignaggi, and plans to resume those talks on Monday for a Pacquiao-Malignaggi fight on March 13.

Malignaggi has suggested Pacquiao may have taken performance-enhancing drugs and Arum said Pacquiao would agree to some type of testing administered by a regulatory agency like the Nevada Athletic Commission to quell those fears.

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