Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley: Who's Got the Juice?

Johnny WalkerCorrespondent IMay 5, 2011

Is success going to Manny's head?
Is success going to Manny's head?Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This Saturday’s welterweight fight between Sugar Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao has received a ton of scrutiny in the boxing press, probably far more than it deserves, given the fact that the fading Mosley didn’t really merit the date with Pacquiao and is likely to take a brutal, one-sided beating.

After an initial period of criticism of the matchup, however, boxing scribes have for the most part fallen in line and forced themselves to believe that Mosley has a chance, trying to find any factor, no matter how picayune or seemingly irrelevant, that would make this a competitive fight or even produce a surprise Mosley win.

One, more obvious angle on the fight has been virtually ignored, however, by boxing scribes, if not boxing fans: Both of Saturday’s combatants fight under a cloud of suspicion regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). This lack of curiosity is puzzling given the previous high profile of the issue in the cases of both Mosley and Pacquiao.

For Mosley, it’s actually more than just suspicion. Mosley has admitted under oath to using the oxygen-boosting drug EPO, as well as “the cream” and “the clear.” Though Mosley has in public taken the usual, vague, “I know nothing” stance regarding PEDs, when you watch his testimony on YouTube, it becomes clear that the squirming, annoyed Sugar Shane knew exactly what he was doing when he was juicing big-time prior to his 2003 bout with Oscar De La Hoya.

It’s odd that while Antonio Margarito, who attempted to load his gloves before a contest with Mosley, is still openly regarded with contempt and suspicion by much of the boxing press, that same press seems to have no qualms about Sugar Shane Mosley, even though using PEDs is just a more scientific way of loading your gloves, using chemicals instead of plaster.

Are we to believe that some of Mosley’s other big wins, like his surprise destruction of the same Margarito, weren’t tainted by PED use? Since Mosley has already proven himself to be dishonest on this subject, all of his fights not conducted with Olympic-style, unlimited drug and urine testing (his 2010 loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. being an exception) can now be the legitimate subject of juicing speculation.

Pacquiao, of course, has shown an aversion to such testing in the past as well. When it comes to the American boxing media, it’s pretty clear why he is mostly let off the hook. With the heavyweight division and its stars having packed up and moved to Europe, Pacquiao, along with his nemesis Floyd Mayweather Jr., are two of the last boxing superstars in the United States. To criticize the happy-go-lucky Pac-Man is thus biting the hand that feeds you for many boxing scribes.

Yet the rumors about Pacquiao using PEDs to fuel his phenomenal rise through various weight divisions to become the current king of the sport itself won’t go away.

While Pacquiao hasn’t been caught with his hand in the steroid jar like Mosley, there is some interesting circumstantial evidence suggesting that perhaps what seems too good to be true actually is too good to be true.

Pacquiao has still never fully agreed to the random blood and urine testing with no cut-off dates that Mayweather has insisted on as a precondition of them fighting. He has agreed to blood and urine tests, but always with preset cut-offs, which defeats the purpose of the testing. Pac-Man has also offered various weak excuses for not wanting the tests, like being weakened by loss of blood, that really have no validity.

Also interesting is the fact that Pacquiao’s rise to his current status has come under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach, whose previous star pupil, James Toney, has twice been busted for using PEDs, the first time while fighting for Roach. Roach himself has offered various and contradictory statements about what he knew regarding Toney’s use of PEDs. None of this proves that Pacquiao was encouraged to follow in Toney’s footsteps, but it doesn’t exactly help his case either.

And then there is the size of the Pac-Man’s melon. Recent pictures show Pacquiao’s skull size to be disproportionately large, despite his attempts to camouflage it with a new, Donny Osmond-style haircut. This skull-growth phenomenon is often the result of use of human growth hormone (HGH), as also seen in the super-sized domes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. HGH, of course, is notoriously hard to detect in standard urine testing for PEDs.

None of this means Pacquiao is guilty of juicing, but put together, it all adds fuel to the fire. The fact that neither he nor Mosley insisted on random and unlimited blood and urine testing for this fight only makes matters worse. Boxing people, including the media, ignore these important issues at their own peril. Short-term gain can mean long-term pain for the sport.

The Mosley-Pacquiao fight could be totally on the up and up, or it could be a juice war, a matter not of who’s got the strongest punch, but who’s got the strongest stuff. We boxing fans shouldn’t have to wonder which of those things is true.