LAS VEGAS – As if it weren’t bad enough that Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao was a dud, a big, fat, money-burning stinker, we now have to deal with this: Pacquiao’s revelation that he fought with a tear in his right shoulder, one that will require surgery and keep him on the shelf for anywhere from nine to 12 months and has sparked at least one lawsuit and allegations of perjury.
Here’s what we know: At a press conference, hours after losing a wide decision, Pacquiao revealed his injury. He said he aggravated it in the later rounds. He said he wanted to take a painkiller before the fight. He said he was denied by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to do so. When the press conference concluded, Francisco Aguilar, chairman of the NSAC, went to the podium. He confirmed that Pacquiao had requested a painkiller. He confirmed the commission denied it, because they had no idea he was injured in the first place.
The next day, Top Rank, Pacquiao’s promoter, released more information: Some three weeks ago, Pacquiao injured his shoulder in training. He underwent tests from doctors at the renowned Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic clinic in Los Angeles. He was prescribed painkillers—the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory Toradol, to be specific. He was told to rest.
On the night of the fight, Pacquiao’s shoulder had healed enough for him to go forward, Top Rank said, though the pain was significant enough that he needed another shot of Toradol. The commission denied him the medication. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said the commission was aware of the injury; the commission produced a document, signed by Pacquiao, where he checked the box—and signed his name below it, under penalty of perjury—that he did not have a shoulder injury. In the early rounds, Pacquiao re-aggravated the shoulder, possibly worsening the tear, contributing to the lowest punch output (429) of his career.
Pacquiao’s advisor, Michael Koncz, said checking the box was a mistake, that he did it, not Pacquiao. As if that makes a difference.
So many things wrong with this, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Pacquiao should fire everyone he works with. He should fire Koncz. He should fire Freddie Roach, his trainer, who this week said he was in favor of postponement. He should fire Bob Arum, his promoter, who clearly wasn’t. No one was looking out for him here.
Athletes fight hurt all the time, Arum grumbled to reporters after the fight, and to some degree that’s true. Guy gets in the ring, breaks his hand, he tries to continue. His legs cramp, he tries to continue. His shoulder is shredded weeks earlier to the point that he can’t spar and the end result could require a year of post-surgery rehabilitation?
Sorry guys, there aren’t many athletes who would go through that. And the list is whittled to none when you head it “fighters entering the biggest, most lucrative, career-defining fight of their lives.”
Pacquiao bears responsibility here, but fighters want to fight, just as football players who sustain concussions want to go back into the game. It’s up to those around him to protect the athlete from himself. Pacquiao’s team believed he was well enough to go through with the fight. The truth is more likely that everyone in Pacquiao’s camp knew what a horror show this promotion was and that there was a strong likelihood that if Pacquiao pulled out, the fight would not be rescheduled.
Pacquiao’s team appears to have played Russian roulette with the fighter’s future. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something's wrong—but sure, Manny, keep ripping off those piston-rod right hands. Yes, Pacquiao will pocket in the neighborhood of $100 million for fighting Mayweather. But he won’t fight again this year and who knows if he will ever fight again. That’s millions of dollars in future revenue flushed down the drain. He’s 36 and already showing signs of slowing. Even if this injury heals properly, what kind of fighter will Pacquiao be after he returns to action? People who claim to care about Pacquiao don’t seem interested in that answer. Hell, they didn’t seem interested in anything that happened to Pacquiao after Saturday night.
A rematch solves everything, right? Sure, as long as tickets are free, the broadcast costs nothing and Top Rank cuts a check to every fan who shelled out thousands to travel to Vegas for last Saturday’s debacle. Pacquiao and his team knew the severity of the injury, knew it could become a problem, and knew that if it did, Pacquiao’s already slim chance of beating Mayweather would evaporate entirely.
The NSAC is pushing the state’s attorney general to investigate, though the commission’s sprint for the moral high ground here is laughable. This is the same commission that rubber stamped Mayweather’s license in 2012, soon after Mayweather was sentenced to 87 days in jail as part of a plea deal for a domestic violence charge; the same commission that bobbed its collective head last year when Mayweather assured it that a 31-minute sparring session depicted on Showtime’s All Access had been edited and that marijuana shown on the episode was fake; the same commission that didn’t even quiz Mayweather about a nasty civil suit filed by his ex-fiancée, Shantel Jackson, in his most recent licensing hearing.
At this point, Mayweather would have to detonate a tactical nuke in the MGM Grand food court for the NSAC to take notice.
Here, though, they have a point. Pacquiao could be declared guilty of perjury for having checked the wrong box. The defense, according to Pacquiao attorney Daniel Petrocelli, is that technically Pacquiao was not injured. In a telephone interview with SI.com, Petrocelli called accusations of perjury “frivolous” and said the medication Pacquiao was requesting was preventative. Pacquiao also told the Los Angeles Times that before the fight his shoulder was 60 percent.
Whatever the truth about the timing and severity of the injury, Pacquiao certainly short-changed the three-to-four million people who shelled out $100 for a fight that, deep down, his team knew he couldn’t win. So, sure, make a rematch. But pay everyone back for the original first.