Is Manny Pacquiao on Steroids?

Alan ThomsonCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2009

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 13:  Manny Pacquiao weighs in for his upcoming bout against WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 13, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao and Cotto will meet in a WBO welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand on November 14.  Pacquiao weighed in at 144 pounds and Cotto weighed in at 145 pounds.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There is an old saying that the third time someone calls you a horse, it’s time to go shopping for a saddle.

Floyd Mayweather Sr., welterweight title holder Kermit Cintron, and most recently, former champion Paulie Malignaggi have all been quoted as saying that they believe Manny Pacquiao has been suckling the nipple of performance enhancing drugs.

We all know that PEDs are everywhere. If you’ve spent any time at all slinging plates at your local gym, you know what I’m talking about. And that’s just among gym rats who get nothing out of it but an engorged ego and a side order of shrunken testicles.

I love and respect the fight game as much as the next boxing addict, but I have little doubt that the stuff has infiltrated the sport on a larger scale than most of us would like to believe.

James Toney, Shane Mosley, and Fernando Vargas are some of the big names in the business who have been caught using steroids.

But I don’t believe that steroid use, specifically, is what has been tainting the sport. State athletic commission’s pre-fight drug tests are pretty thorough.

What is much more likely to be seeping its way through the back door of the sport, by way of the buttocks of some of its fighters, is the virtually undetectable human growth hormone (HGH).

Since Major League Baseball cranked up its steroid testing, HGH use among players is believed to have become about as common as teenage boys gawking at Erin Andrews videos.

Notable baseball writer Tom Verducci said in 2006 that “Baseball now, if it didn’t know before, knows it has a huge HGH problem on its hands.”

Roger Clemens, unless you are one of the three people left in the country who believes his side of the story, is presumed to have parlayed his HGH use into posting the lowest ERA of his storied career in 2005—at 42 years old.

Is it reasonable to believe that boxing, a much more physical sport than baseball, and one in which an entire career and the potential for vast fortunes can come down to a single performance, is not at least equally as squalid?

What then of Manny Pacquiao? Well, let’s take a closer look at the accusations.

Here is a quote from Paulie Malignaggi: “This is a guy who was life and death with Juan Manuel Marquez at 120 pounds and now he’s got 15 to 17 pounds of muscle on him.”

The eyebrow-coiffed Brooklynite added: “Full blown welterweights don’t take those types of punches from Miguel Cotto the way he took them, with total disregard for his power, nor do they hurt him with every punch they hit him with.”

Pacquiao and Marquez actually fought at 130 lbs, not 120. And he had apparently been wringing himself out to make that weight.

After moving up to 135 lbs. for the first time in 2008 and TKOing David Diaz, promoter Bob Arum said after the fight:

“I never doubted what he could do, because he was telling me what it was taking out of him trying to make 130,” Arum said. “I’ve seen him when he was at the right weight and able to eat and didn’t have to starve himself and what I saw was a fighter who didn’t have to take a backseat to anyone. We saw that same kid tonight.”

The infinitely humble and lovable Floyd Mayweather, Sr. used less logic but was equally as accusatory: “I believe [Pacquiao] is on some type of supplements. I’m convinced about a lot of [boxers]. That’s what they’re doing right now. Everybody should be checked a little more thoroughly. Sometimes people know what’s going on, but they ain’t saying nothing .”

Kermit Cintron’s accusations were:

“I honestly think that he is taking something, because a lot of fighters coming up in weight like that, 40-something pounds, he just looks ripped like Bruce Lee.  I honestly believe he is taking something. No 112-pounder comes up to 147. To look the way he does, he is taking something.  Definitely, people who come up in weight like that, they look soft. They don’t look as ripped like when they fought at the weight they started. ”

Cintron is actually wrong about Manny’s fighting weights. He used to fight at 106 lbs, not 112, when he began his career—as a 16-year-old.  And his highest weight, if you want to nitpick, has been 145, not 147—14 years later.  

I don’t imagine that Kermit Cintron ever had the occasion to see Manny shirtless at his natural weight of 150 pounds while still fighting at lightweight. But is it unlikely that he is lean and cut at his natural weight? A lot of world-class athletes are.

According to an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in September 2008, before Pacquiao had ever fought at more than 135 lbs., his strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza was quoted as saying that his power declined drastically as he lost weight.

Ariza reported that Pacquiao started training camp for the David Diaz fight at his natural weight of between 147 and 150 lbs. Ariza stated that Manny’s power was brutal at the outset of camp, and that by the time he had cut to the lightweight limit of 135 he was a light-hitter.

This occurred prior to Pacquiao moving up in weight to challenge De la Hoya, Hatton, and Cotto. And it was before any accusations of performance enhancing drug use.

The sad reality of the drug-enhanced era which we’ve stumbled into is that any athlete who dominates his sport the way Pacquiao has is going to be called into question.

Some of these athletes will be guilty of doping. Based on what I can gather, I’m just not convinced that Pacquiao is one of them.

I’m more inclined to just enjoy the amazing display of boxing virtuosity that I’m witnessing.

Yeah, Pacquiao has been called a horse by three people in the sport. But as we all know, the sport has more than its share of horse’s asses. So I don’t think it’s time for Manny to turn on the Home Shopping Network in search of a saddle just yet.