January 04, 2010

SI.com's boxing experts weigh in on the latest happenings around the ring.

1. Do you think Golden Boy Promotions' demand for Olympic-level drug testing for Floyd Mayweather's proposed fight with Manny Pacquiao is reasonable?

CHRIS MANNIX: We live in a time where athletes are, somewhat deservedly, guilty until proven innocent when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs. So while I question Golden Boy's and Team Mayweather's moral high ground -- especially when Richard Schaefer has feverishly worked to keep Shane Mosley's blood work from getting anywhere near a testing center -- I think the world has a right to know if Pacquiao is 100 percent clean. Listen to the talk shows or read the comment boxes under Internet columns: Pacquiao has already been convicted in some courts of public opinion. It's hard to argue with them, either. Every expert not on Pacquiao's payroll agrees that blood tests are the only way to detect the grocery store of designer steroids that flood the market. The only way for Pacquiao, a fighter whose power and chin have improved significantly as he has risen in weight, to prove that he's clean is to give the public what it wants: real drug tests.

BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Pacquiao's uncanny ability to bring his punch up with him, while extraordinary, is not without precedent. A number of great champions -- among them Henry Armstrong, Alexis Arguello and (lest ye forget) Golden Boy founder Oscar De Le Hoya -- broke in around the 120s and excelled as welterweights or middleweights later in their careers. Pacquiao, who toils under one of the fight game's straightest shooters in Freddie Roach, is cut from their cloth. He's never tested positive for anything other than hard work.

So GBP's demand of Olympic-level drug testing for Pacquiao-Mayweather, a standard that's never previously been written into a fight contract, is excessive. But just because it's unnecessary doesn't make it unreasonable, especially if it's all that stands between the megafight and no fight.

That said, it's worth mentioning that something's at play here besides drug testing. Most folks expected negotiations for Pacquiao-Mayweather to be long and arduous, but when traditional sticking points like the purse split, contract weight and ring size were quickly agreed upon, it seemed a done deal. It's revealing that Mayweather chose drug testing, of all things, as the focal point of the standoff. My theory? Other fighters have accused Pacquiao of PED use, but the media-savvy Mayweather is the first to voice these suggestions while the mainstream media is paying close attention. Floyd is trying to gain a mental edge before the actual fight by getting the press to perpetuate the presumption of guilt surrounding Pacquiao. Mayweather knows that payday isn't going anywhere -- the fight can be made as soon as GBP backs down on random drug testing -- but the suspicion of drug use will continue to sully Pacquiao's image the longer he appears to hold up the fight. Whether it unnerves the Filipino remains to be seen, but Floyd must figure it can't hurt to try.

2. What are the repercussions for boxing if Pacquiao-Mayweather can't be made?

MANNIX: It has to happen. Period. End of story. Contrary to the opinion of some uneducated MMA fans, boxing is not a dying sport. But in any sport, it is rare that two elite athletes in the prime of their careers have the opportunity to face one another. Pacquiao-Mayweather is Tom Brady against Peyton Manning, Mariano Rivera against Albert Pujols, Kevin Garnett against Tim Duncan. It's a fantasy matchup that can become a reality. Boxing will go on without a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight -- but it would be exponentially stronger (not to mention a whole lot more popular) with it.

GRAHAM: Boxing was, is, always will be. But its reduced place in America's mainstream sports zeitgeist is beyond argument. When's the last time you can remember our MSM covering the negotiations of a fight so closely? Pacquiao-Mayweather is the first fight made by the public -- not just the hardcore boxing community but the casual sports fan -- since Leonard-Hearns.

If Mayweather's gamesmanship backfires and the negotiations move from acrimonious to no-turning-back territory, it would create a center stage for the sport's dysfunction -- and the damage to boxing as a mainstream enterprise could take years to repair. Fortunately, the $80 million purse attached to what Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe calls "the biggest fight in the history of boxing" should prevent the megafight from coming apart at the seams.

3. If the doomsday scenario plays out and the fight doesn't come together, who should Pacquiao and Mayweather fight next?

MANNIX: I don't care. Honestly. I mean, the easy answer is Mosley (who would probably take the fight a week after he faces Andre Berto on Jan. 30). But right now Mosley-Pacquiao or Mosley-Mayweather won't resolve the question of who is boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter. It will just add another name to the mix.

Put a gun to my head and I'd say let both men take tough-but-winnable tune-ups. Give Pacquiao another shot at Juan Manuel Marquez, who looked like he lost a step against Mayweather and likely won't give Pacquiao the wars he did in '04 and '08. Let Mayweather sharpen his defense against a heavy hitter like Kermit Cintron, whose lack of defense would make him target practice for Mayweather's counterpunches. Those fights could be entertaining while preserving the possibility of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight later in 2010.

GRAHAM: Pacquiao should complete the Marquez trilogy, while Mayweather should fight Mosley. Bob Arum's talk of a fight between Pacquiao and Paulie Malignaggi goes beyond red herring: It's downright insulting. And I don't dislike Malignaggi.

4. Rumor has it cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek may fight Chris Arreola on April 24. What do you make of this matchup?

MANNIX: It's a good fight for both Adamek and Arreola. Adamek was stellar in his heavyweight debut against Andrew Golota, but let's remember -- he was fighting Andrew Golota. A win over Arreola would give him some real credibility in the heavyweight division and make him the type of name one of the Klitschko brothers is looking for.

Likewise, Arreola would get a chance to face a marketable star who a) probably can't hurt him and b) has never felt a real heavyweight's power. It's a dangerous fight for a free swinger like Arreola, who could get carved up by Adamek's volume of punches, but a win would be a big step toward restoring his status as a contender in the division.

GRAHAM: Sadly, you can count on one hand the number of intriguing fights in the heavyweight division, but Adamek-Arreola is one of them. The victory could (arguably) be the most impressive result on either fighter's résumé. It's obvious that Adamek, no spring chicken at 33, is looking to fast-track his heavyweight title hopes. (Perhaps to get a shot at the WBA belt that belongs to David Haye, himself a glorified cruiser, while the Briton still owns it?) He can earn bona fide contendership with a victory over the heavy-hitting Arreola, the rough-and-tumble slugger who is unbeaten save for a one-sided drubbing against Vitali Klitschko in September. Adamek is already slated to fight Jason Estrada, who represented the U.S. at the 2004 Olympics, on Feb. 6 in Newark, N.J. Should the Pole pass his second heavyweight test, circle April 24 on your calendars.

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