It seems like yesterday...
A fading sport gets a shot of adrenaline from a popular slugger. A man with a combination of skill and power that has never before been seen. Records fall, and the public falls in love.
The problem arises years later when we find out it was all a lie. The slugger was cheating. His great natural power wasn't enough and he turned to performance-enhancing drugs to achieve the greatest heights of his career.
The slugger becomes a disgrace. He is almost never seen in public. He may not even make the Hall of Fame despite breaking one of the most impressive records in the sport.
The slugger is not completely to blame though. The public had all the evidence right in front of them the entire time but instead of acknowledging it, they turned a blind eye because they loved the sport the ride was great.
The slugger is Mark McGwire, but 10 years from now, if we don't speak up soon, this is how boxing will treat the memory of Manny Pacquiao.
This story is getting the wrong treatment from the boxing press and boxing fans for a couple of reasons. First, like with McGwire, what Pacquiao is doing is great for the sport. He's wildly popular, exciting in the ring, and he draws mainstream fans into a sport that desperately needs them.
Secondly, we want to take Pacquiao's side simply because he is an easy choice when compared to Floyd Mayweather Jr. The demand to find a fighter that can beat Floyd is so strong it is reminiscent of the "Great White Hope" era where Americans would give ANYBODY a shot if they thought they could beat Jack Johnson, the most hated athlete in the nation.
So we have this charismatic, friendly guy who happens to be a monster in the ring, and seems poised to beat the most hated man in boxing. How can we turn against him? How much evidence would it take?
Certainly, we wouldn't blink at him going from 129 pounds in his last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez to 142 just nine months later against Oscar De La Hoya. We could look past the fact that he did so without losing any of his speed, even though when Marquez went up just seven pounds in a similar time frame he looked painfully slow against Mayweather.
Walking away from the Mayweather fight over drug testing? This one is easy; he doesn't want to give in to the hated Mayweather! It's just Floyd being a jerk! Certainly, we don't have to believe anything this clown tells us about our hero.
Well, for me, the final straw was dropped on the camel's back during last night's episode of Friday Night Fights.
Teddy Atlas detailed information (watch the replay on ESPN 360 if you want to hear it in his own words, also some good action in the main event) about a source close to the negotiations who claims to have seen emails sent from Pacquiao's camp to the Mayweather people.
The first email allegedly asked what the penalty would be if Manny tested positive. The second requested that a potential positive test from Pacquiao be kept secret for the benefit of boxing.
If that is true, it can be seen as absolutely nothing other than an admission of guilt. Why the hesitance, the reluctance, the questions from Manny's camp unless there's a legitimate chance the test could turn up positive
Now, say what you want about Teddy Atlas. While I personally respect him more than any other voice in the boxing community, I can understand how some might find him a little off. He sort of reminds me of boxing's John Madden. You know he knows what he's talking about, even if sometimes he seems not to.
What you can't say about Atlas, however, is that he has any sort of agenda. He is the last guy in the world to come out with some wild story just to draw attention to himself. The man is the very definition of a straight shooter.
Unlike Golden Boy or the Mayweathers, he has no reason to make Manny look bad. In fact, as he loves boxing more than anyone, he has every reason NOT to make Manny look bad. It would be a horrible black eye for the sport that any true boxing fan would rather avoid.
This is now the second time this source has been quoted, as Tim Smith of The Daily News ran a similar story weeks ago that somehow got next to no attention from the rest of the boxing press. Of course, since the story is a buzz kill, probably better to not talk about things that might shine a bad light on the world's most popular fighter.
The problem is, you can't avoid the truth forever. Boxing fans need to learn a lesson from what baseball went through. Covering these things up because you happen to like the athlete in question is flat out bad for the sport.
People defending Pacquiao at this point are doing immense damage to the integrity of boxing in the future.
For the die-hard Pacquiao fan who just doesn't want the rise in weight class to be phony: Stop and think for a moment. Why doesn't he just take the tests?
Take Mayweather completely out of it and imagine it's another respected fighter like Marquez or Cotto demanding that Manny take blood tests. Would you still be understanding towards him not agreeing to the tests?
The man's reputation is permanently stained now. All he would have to do to completely change that perception (and gain some $40 million dollars) is take a few random blood tests. When you consider this, it really becomes silly to even assume that he could be clean.
Of course, it seems that like baseball, boxing is going to have to learn this lesson the hard way. It's unfortunate that the man who brought these allegations to light, Mayweather, has absolutely no credibility.
Of course, just because you are a jerk, doesn't make you wrong.
When we look back on the "steroid era" of boxing years from now, we will remember we were duped into thinking that Pacquiao and Mayweather was a battle of good vs. evil, where the Pacman could do no wrong.
In our desperation to find that one great fighter who could finally shut up Mayweather, we were swindled by a wolf in sheep's clothing. A cheater with a smile on his face, Manny Pacquiao.