By Chris Robinson
The buzz surrounding the November 12th Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez trilogy bout took an interesting turn earlier this week when BALCO founder Victor Conte released a message via Twitter stating that Marquez has been working with admitted steroid dealer Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia for this particular camp. Now known as Angel Hernandez, the strength and conditioning coach had testified before a San Francisco court in May of 2008 that he had sold illegal substances such as EPO and steroids to Olympic sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.
The news certainly came as a curveball of sorts as Marquez has always carried himself as the consummate professional and any prior association of him with performance-enhancing drugs seemed to be a stretch. But while you never want to accuse anyone without proof, people’s speculation towards Marquez has been running rampant the past 48 hours because of his connection to Hernandez.
The topic obviously struck a chord with Larry Merchant as well, as the HBO color analyst ringed me earlier tonight to share his thoughts on the subject. Merchant was sure to keep things professional without crossing any kind of lines, but you could sense some definite curiousity coming from him towards Marquez’s new working relationship.
Merchant revealed that producers of HBO’s excellent 24/7 series, which has been following Pacquiao and Marquez in their respective camps during the latest episodes, seemed to already have some interest in Hernandez even before Conte’s tweet set the sport ablaze. Merchant also shared his thoughts on steroid use in boxing as a whole and why he feels that it shouldn’t be a necessity in the first place.
Continue reading for all of Merchant’s thoughts…
Initial reaction to the Hernandez drama…
“I’m a little amazed that Victor Conte surfaced. There’s a proven case of performance-enhance drugs, yet fighters have openly used him for advice or training. If a guy is running for office, I don’t think you could do this, but in boxing, maybe you can do this and get away with it and it doesn’t matter how it looks. It certainly doesn’t look right.”
Producers showing curiosity towards Hernandez…
“My information, and this information may not be conflicting, was that it first materialized when the guy first appeared on the first 24/7. And flares went up in various places, including our own, about ‘Who is this guy?’ and whether or not he was who he said he was. I don’t know the timeline about who revealed what first, but I heard that our people, the producers who did 24/7, were curious about who this guy was. And when a guy changes his names, tries to rebrand himself, then you wonder what Marquez is up to. But at the same time, this is the guy who was drinking his own urine the last time we saw this movie. I don’t know what he’s up to. I think the record is clear that he’s never beaten anybody above lightweight.”
A reasonable conclusion…
“It certainly is a reasonable conclusion to come to, that [Marquez] felt that he had to do something more than he did the last time he fought at welterweight. There are a lot of trainers out there in the world and why would he have picked this guy? The same thing could have been said of Conte and he has several big fighters who have sought out his help. Donaire is with him, Berto is with him, I’m not sure who else has aligned themself with him. And I’m not sure there has been any particular consequence from his work. These guys may just be great snake oil salesman. And fighters are often looking for some magic elixir to bring them to their best performance.”
Would he ever feel that a fighter like Marquez would cheat?
“You know, I don’t know. I’ve been surprised before. I never imagined that Shane Mosley could get involved with a guy like Conte. I’ve always argued that, from my position in ringside, of the guys we know who tested positive, I’ve never seen once that it noticeably helped in terms of performance. But sometimes there’s a psychological boost for somebody. I’ve seen that in all sports, not just boxing and not just performance-enhancing. There have been all kinds of, as I call them ‘magic elixirs’ and snake oils down through the ages of athletes who thought they would get some kind of an edge. Marquez has always seemed like a straight arrow but that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for an edge. If he drinks his own urine, he’s looking for an edge. Whatever his reputation, that part of his reputation shows he will do whatever it takes.”
To seem right is imperative…
“It may have been stirred up by the airing of the 24/7. Again, I just don’t know the timeline of when people were alerted. I guess Marquez could argue ‘Hey, if I didn’t put the guy undercover I wasn’t trying to hide anything’. He could say that clearly. There’s an old saying that when you are dealing with the public ‘To be right is important, to seem right is imperative’.”
Skeptical about PEDs in boxing…
“I’ve always been curious or skeptical about the notion that you can make yourself bigger, stronger, faster or just as fast as you ever were. If you go back and look at the Mosley story, Conte and his trainer both talk about the fact that he used PEDs for the rematch with Oscar. If you go back and look at the fights, Mosley fought him better in the first fight than in the second fight. I question whether making yourself stronger helps, because I don’t think it makes you faster. My own opinion is that if Marquez is able to fight Pacquiao on even terms with his natural ability and quickness, why try to make yourself bigger? What is that going to do for you? And I think fighters have made that mistake in the past, that when they moved up in weight or in weight class, they thought they had to somehow deliberately rather than naturally, make themselves artificially strong. And the advantage is his quickness and skill. It had nothing to do with strength.”
[ Reader's note: Continue on to the following slideshow for the latest images from the boxing world... A look inside 24/7 Pacquiao-Marquez, episode 2 / A look inside the Wild Card]
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at Trimond@aol.comTags: Manny Pacquiao , Larry Merchant , Juan Manuel Marquez , Pacquiao Marquez Trilogy , Pacquiao vs Marquez Trilogy