Welterweight boxers Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez face off on December 8th in Las Vegas to contest their fourth bout against one another. Speculation of steroid abuse has once again hit the table ahead of the fight, only this time it’s not being thrown in Pacman’s direction.
In an interview with USA TODAY this week, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, leveled the accusation against his fighters opponent. In the interview Roach said “If his body is natural, I will kiss his ass”, and later went on to discuss the changes in Marquez’s body.
In that same article, Marquez shrugged off the allegations and discussed the strength and conditioning training he is undergoing with Angel Hernandez. He states that his workouts have changed and become more focused on enhancing both speed and strength at the same time.
Given this, I find it interesting to read that Roach feels there are artificial means to the weight gain and sculpting of Marquez while the same changes his own fighter went through during his meteoric rise through the weight classes was carefully planned diets and workouts.
Is either man doping? I doubt it, but cannot categorically say no. However, we can look at their records through the years to examine the changes both men have gone through.
Since his debut as a professional in 1993, Marquez fought around the Featherweight (126 lb) and Super-Featherweight (130) weight classes for the next 15 years.
Looking at his fight weights on boxerrec.com, you can see that there were some occasions in which his weight was a little over the 130 limit, but they were few and far between. You could point to those occasional higher weights and say he was a man struggling to stay within the weight limits.
Marquez made the step up in weight in 2008, weighing 134½ against Juan Diaz then a career high 146 in his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Since then he has stayed above 135 pounds.
Now, looking at Pacquiao and using boxerrec.com again to examine his weights we can see that he had a steady rise through the weight classes throughout his career.
Starting out in the Light-Flyweight (108) division and gradually progressing every couple of years before settling in around the Featherweight (126) and Super-Featherweight (130) division, thus beginning the rivalry with Marquez.
Who is doping?
Pacman’s final rise through the weight classes also began in 2008 with a fight at 135 against David Diaz prior to his breakthrough bout to world stardom when he destroyed Oscar De La Hoya at 145 pounds.
The only difference between the two since that jump in weight class is that Pacquiao stayed at or above the 140 lb mark while Marquez dropped back to slightly below.
Even the manner of their victories has been similar, with both fighters enjoying a mixture of stoppages and decision victories in the higher weight classes.
Given the similar nature of their recent ascents to the higher weight class, and the manner of their fights, nothing jumps out at me to scream cheater. While some will point to the sculpting of their bodies in their 30’s being an indication of juicing, new diet plans with legal supplements, new training methods and renewed dedication to getting the most out of aging bodies could also lead to re-sculpting of the torso.
So, to believe Roach’s claim that Marquez has been cheating, I would also have to believe speculation that Pacquiao was also a cheat.
The speculation has been there. Touted future opponent Mayweather Jr spoke quite candidly on the matter in the build up to his bout earlier in 2012 with Miguel Cotto. He commented on changes he sees in Pacman’s head size as an indication of doping and also of the manner in which Pacquiao blitzed his way through opponents.
Words such as these from other members of Team Mayweather had already landed them in court on defamation charges, charges that ultimately led to them having to issue a public statement that they did not intend to claim Pacquiao had, or was, using performance enhancing drugs.
Pacquiao himself has also addressed the PED rumours numerous times, most recently in this interview with USA TODAY in which Manny discusses the Lance Armstrong situation, stating “this is why I never have used drugs like steroids for my career...Why use illegal drugs–steroids–and ruin your name?”
Now, I understand that nobody is going to admit willingly to having used PED’s to further their career, but also believe in that people are innocent until proven guilty.
Is it possible that one or either man has used PED’s to change their body, maintain power through the weight classes or prolong their career? Yes, it is highly possible. However, until somebody can show that either man has cheated we have to go by their word.
This is why I find it incredible for Roach to be leveling accusations at Marquez given the flack he has seen his man take first hand. Roach, however, understands that mind games can play a huge role in boxing and how better to get under the opponents’ skin than by accusing him of cheating less than two weeks before the fight?