All boxing fans, must have given at least some thought to this question. The press has written what must amount to the equivalent of 100 War and Peaces exploring the possibility of Pacquiao juicing. In this article I wish to explore another, different `what if`. Because by now, we must all have some level of doubt as to Pacquiao`s fair play, I think that it is in the interest of a balanced and open-minded view that we have a closer look at the alternative scenario. What if Pacquiao is clean?
Pacquiao in his early days was a very different fighter to the one we see before us today. He was a light, slight southpaw, had a truckload of confidence and self-belief, and a devastating straight left punch that put an early end to many a boxers` ambitions. Yet his confidence cost him dearly. His two early defeats can be put down to overconfidence. He lost to less talented fighters who caught him unawares as he played `cock of the ring`. While he definitely had talent, his losses underlined his need for more boxing skills, and more importantly, the need for a really good trainer. Both came to him later when he teamed up with Freddie Roach.
Roach took the raw diamond that was Pacquiao, and with all the skills and attention to detail of a master jeweler, shaped him to become the brilliant jewel of a boxer we see today. Pacquiao`s boxing arsenal has been transformed from a `one-shot-wonder` to that of an all-round, great boxer. Today it seems he can do just about anything in the ring. As far as I know there is no drug that can give you skills you don`t have. That is the work of a trainer.
There is a very good reason why Pacquiao and Roach get along so well. At some stage in his career Pacquiao must have admitted to himself that he was simply not a good enough boxer to become a legend. While most boxers would rather die than to have to admit to a shortcoming, Pacquiao is obviously able to put himself to question. He knows he needs Roach, and he respects him enough to listen to every word he says. How many times, while watching a fight, have you heard a trainer telling his fighter in the corner between rounds to double up his jab or keep his hands up or some such, only to find that in the following round the obviously good advice has fallen on deaf ears? The boxer goes right on doing what he should not be doing. More than once or twice I have been pleasantly surprised to hear Roach telling Pacquiao to do something different in the next round, and lo and behold, Pacquiao does exactly what he has been told. The best trainer in the world will achieve nothing with a boxer who won`t listen to him. Roach is as a brilliant trainer as Pacquiao is a trainee.
So, back to the `what ifs`; what if` the reason Pacquiao defeated Hatton had nothing to do with drugs, but was because he had learned to use both left and right hooks, neither of which he used in his early years? And `what if` the only PED that Pacquiao has ever used is Mr. Freddie Roach, one of the best Performance Enhancing Dudes in the business? `
Michael Moorer gives us valuable insight into boxing, and particularly into training in an article at Fight Hype; “I see these guys that half-ass fight, and some of them down here in training, they half-ass train, and that`s not how I was brought up.” For Moorer training is obviously the key to success in boxing. He goes on to tell us how unbelievably hard Pacquiao trains. “I witnessed him go 26 rounds, nonstop hitting the mits. That`s phenomenal. He just strives to be the best.” He also tells us of Pacquiao`s work ethic and his will to win, all in the most flattering of terms. Moorer was a world champion and is now a trainer, so his thoughts on the subject definitely carry weight. He has proved himself to be an honest, straight-talking guy with loads of integrity. That`s good enough for me.
So `what if` Moorer is right, and Pacquiao`s success comes from such a high level of hard work, discipline, and dedication, that steroids are simply unnecessary?
In many ways Pacquiao`s hunger for success in not as surprising as it may seem. In Pacquiao we have all the elements of the ultimate fairytale, `rags to riches` story. The lowly street urchin who makes it big in a world he may never even have dreamed of as a child. It is a well known fact that a disproportionate number of self-made success stories find their roots in deprived backgrounds. Could it be that the sting of near starvation once felt will forever haunt and drive a man, and may even drive him to exceptional greatness? Perhaps being born into abject poverty gives the lucky ones who manage to escape a sense of steely, stubborn self-determination that makes them fight every second of their existence to never have to return. Can we conceive that Pacquiao feels that he has a sacred `duty` to pay back for his own good fortune by being the greatest boxer he can, and then to use his fame and fortune to help his fellow countrymen get a fairer deal than he got as a child? Could that be what has driven him to the top? Why not?
`What if` Pacquiao`s success is a result of an exceptional drive inherited from his background, and not some `two-day-washout` designer drug?
So why did Pacquiao refuse to take the damned tests? Pacquiao knows, the rest of us can only speculate. I feel that it is a combination of things. First and foremost he refused point-blank to get pushed around by Mayweather. Understandable! Secondly he did not want his all important training schedule interrupted by unannounced, invasive blood takes which could have weakened him at a time he needs all his strength. Thirdly he may believe that Mayweather needs this fight more than he does, and is playing poker not boxing. Mayweather is reportedly close to broke. Even if Pacquiao only makes 10 million dollars from his fight with Clottey, 10 million dollars in Pacquiao`s hands in the Philippians is probably the equivalent of 100 million dollars in Mayweather`s hands in the US. Pacquiao took the best welterweight challenge available for March 13, leaving Mayweather with very little choice of landing himself a convincing match. This could all be part of a plan so that team Pacquiao can dictate terms if, and when negotiations are reopened between the two teams.
To those who claim that Pacquiao`s refusal to take the random blood tests is conclusive proof of his guilt, I ask you, `what if` one or all of the above are the real reasons why Pacquiao refused the tests, not because he is dirty?
It is very easy to understand why so many people have jumped on this `Manny`s a juicer` bandwagon. Our world has evolved into a cynical, dark place. In recent years we have been repeatedly betrayed by our elected leaders who have been serving their own nasty little agendas rather than serving the common good. Some of the Churches we worshiped in have fallen into damnable disgrace. Huge pharmaceutical companies have been caught doing far more harm to people`s heath than good. Soulless corporations bloody-mindedly and shamelessly rape our world. These days nothing more is sacred. Nothing is as it seems. Honesty has become rarer than the finest gold.
And yet, `what if`, `WHAT IF` for once something was as it should be? `WHAT IF` Manny Pacquiao is simply the best boxer of his generation, no drugs required? Is that really so hard to believe? I hope not, and, call me a helpless romantic if you will, but I actually find it easy to believe the beautiful, magical, amazing story of the skinny little slum-kid who conquered the world.