LOS ANGELES, December 23 – A dispute over doping test rules for the planned showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather has jeopardized the long-awaited welterweight showdown, promoters claimed Tuesday.It’s uncertain, however, whether the testing issue is simply an over-hyped negotiating ploy aimed at Pacquiao or truly a deal-breaker that could scuttle a fight with the potential to be the biggest boxing moneymaker of all time.
Mayweather has insisted upon stricter World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) test procedures for the fight rather than the usual methods, a change that would mandate blood tests for banned substances as well urine analysis.
Mayweather’s father, veteran trainer Floyd Mayweather Snr, has accused Pacquiao of taking performance-enhancing substances, and Mayweather all-but accused the Filipino hero of being a dope cheat in a statement.
"I have already agreed to the testing and it is a shame that he is not willing to do the same," Mayweather said. "It leaves me with great doubt as to the level of fairness I would be facing in the ring that night."
Richard Schaefer, top executive of Mayweather-backer Golden Boy Promotions, said Tuesday that Todd duBoef, president of Pacquiao backers Top Rank, told him Pacquiao would not agree to have blood drawn within 30 days of the fight.
Schaefer said duBoef told him "Pac-Man" was superstitious about having blood taken so near a fight, instead seeking it done before a planned news conference in early January to launch a fight that had been expected on March 13.
"Todd told me that Pacquiao has difficulty with taking blood and doesn’t want to do it so close to the fight," Schaefer said. "Pacquiao would only agree to have blood drawn before the kick-off press conference and after the fight."
That would not comply with Mayweather’s desires.
"I understand Pacquiao not liking having his blood taken because frankly I don’t know anyone who really does," Mayweather said. "But in a fight of this magnitude, I think it is our responsibility to subject ourselves to sportsmanship at the highest level.
But the Los Angeles Times and ESPN reported Tuesday that a deal is set for the March 13 fight at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. Schaefer said all other aspects of the fight have been agreed to by both camps.
"It is unfortunate to hear this from Manny Pacquiao’s representatives, particularly since as of today both parties had worked out all other issues related to this fight," Schaefer said.
"Team Mayweather is certainly surprised that an elite athlete like Manny Pacquiao would refuse drug testing procedures which Floyd has already agreed to and have been agreed to by many other top athletes such as Lance Armstrong and Olympians Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant."
Such test procedures have not been required of pro boxers, however, and Pacquiao has never failed a drug test, leaving Mayweather critics to wonder if excuses in case of a defeat, or a way out of the fight, were being prepared.
"I hope that this is either some miscommunication or that Manny will change his mind and step up and allow these tests, which were good enough for all these other great athletes, to be performed," Mayweather said.
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, told ESPN earlier this month that his fighter was willing to undergo the tougher test standards.
"They can do whatever kind of drug testing they want," Roach said. "They are scared of Manny and scared of his power. He’ll pass any test in the world."
Schaefer told ESPN he was uncertain if the change of heart on testing came from Pacquiao himself.
"I have to think Pacquiao is unaware of this," Schaefer said. "The drug testing had been part of the contract for a while and then they suddenly said no… suddenly they changed course and I don’t know why."
Schaefer also told ESPN that the fighters had agreed to an unprecedented penalty of 10 million dollars for every pound or any fraction thereof if either fighter weighed in heavier than the welterweight limit of 147 pounds.
Pacquiao wanted the demand in order to face the larger Mayweather after the US fighter weighed in two pounds over the contract limit for his September ring return against Juan Manuel Marquez and paid a 600,000-dollar penalty for the extra size edge.
Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, said the fight would be off if Pacquiao did not agree to WADA-style testing.
"We hope that Manny will do the right thing and agree to the testing as it is an egregious act to deny the testing and hence, deny the millions of fans the right to see this amazing fight," Ellerbe said.