The Tiresome Drug-Testing Dust-Up Complicating Floyd Mayweather – Manny Pacquiao

We knew it would happen, didn’t we? That at some occasion during negotiations for Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, prospectively the richest fight in boxing history, everybody would throw up their hands, say the fight was dead, point fingers at the other side. Maybe more than once.

We’re at that once, and the whole thing just seems so foolish that I feel like a stooge for even weighing in on it. This is boxing, and these kind of things happen, especially when each boxer stands to gain $40 million. But it’s the thing everybody’s talking about, so ignoring it isn’t an option. Both sides say the fight is off. I suspect it isn’t, but then, I haven’t gotten swept up by previous pronouncements that the fight was on, either.

It boils down to this: Mayweather’s team wants some ultra-rigorous drug testing that could involve blood being drawn randomly and frequently leading up to the fight. Pacquiao’s team doesn’t, saying they’re willing to do random urine tests any time and draw blood well before and right after the fight.

Mayweather’s team, wholly without evidence, claims Pacquiao is on steroids. Never mind that Pacquiao has never failed a test. Never mind that the thing they say is so impossible — Pacquiao’s continual effectiveness as a pro at weights from 106 pounds to 147 pounds — is exactly what Mayweather has accomplished, if you include his amateur career. (At age 16, the age when Pacquiao began as a pro, Mayweather was an amateur champion at 106 pounds.)

Pacquiao’s team has thrown around its own unconvincing answers. Pacquiao is squeamish about needles, but so am I, and I can tell you that Pacquiao has way more tattoos than my zero tattoos. Pacquiao’s training could be affected by the random testing, they say, which I guess it could for a few days out of three months. And just a few days ago, nobody seemed to have any trouble with this “Olympic-style” testing regime.

My view on this is that this issue should not be a deal-breaker when there’s this much money involved. I guarantee there’s some compromise that could be arranged. Pacquiao’s team has said they don’t want blood drawn 48 hours before the fight, because it could weaken their fighter. Fine. Make it so the random blood samples don’t apply to that period, and there’s an immediate blood test after. What kind of megasupersecretsteroid would Pacquiao have to be on to turn himself into a monster with a drug he took two days before the fight that could also disappear by fight night? Four to six blood withdrawals over a span of a couple months seems excessive, too. Cap it at three. This is just an outline, a way to demonstrate there has to be a compromise here.

From what I can tell, most of the boxing world is taking Pacquiao’s side on this. That’s fine. I, too, think Mayweather’s demands are irrational. They strike me more as psychological games than authentic demands. Or maybe it’s retaliation for the $10 million per pound over weight penalty Pacquiao’s side wants; even then, though, we have evidence Mayweather will come in over weight, because he did it against Juan Manuel Marquez in September, unlike the lack of evidence of Pacquiao’s steroids.

My view is I’d like to see Pacquiao meet Mayweather in the middle. Mostly because I want the fight that bad, but also because everybody would then have to shut up about whether Pacquiao is on any performance-enhancing drugs. America has a weird mindset about drug tests — the thinking is that if someone suggests mandatory drug testing, and you don’t want to submit, you must have something to hide. And there’s a chance that while the boxing world might be on Pacquiao’s side, the wider world won’t. On the other hand, if Pacquaio’s side proposes compromises and Mayweather won’t negotiate, then we’ll know who’s to blame.

This whole spectacle is somewhat embarrassing, really, and I hope it’s taken care of soon. There isn’t a whole lot of time left between now and March 13, the fight’s planned date, and I’d rather spend my time talking about the build-up to the fight than b.s., petty negotiating crap. But that’s what I’ve been forced to do, alas.

Stop being goofy, team Pacquiao and team Mayweather. Find a way to make this fight happen and quit wasting our time with this junk.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.