By Jake Donovan
If only Manny Pacquiao could demand that Juan Manuel Marquez take the test before stepping into the ring with the best.
For now, judgment needs to be reserved. However, the revelation of convicted steroid dealer-turned-government cooperator Angel Heredia – now known as Angel Hernandez – joining Juan Manuel Marquez’ camp in preparation for the Mexican’s third crack at an official win over Pacquaio can’t possibly fly under the radar.
News first caught the attention of many in the industry after scanning the Twitter page of BALCO co-founder Victor Conte, who of course is no stranger to doping scandals. Conte revealed through tweets that the man identified as “Angel Hernandez” in Episode 2 of 24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez is in fact Heredia, who testified in 2008 against former Olympic coach Trevor Graham as a cooperating witness.
Heredia became the government’s star witness three years prior when he was linked to money laundering and drug trafficking. His credibility was called into question, but all of his information proved to check out, leading to the discovery of PED use by several notable athletes and Olympic medalists, including Marion Jones and Maurice Greene.
Then 33 years old, Heredia agreed to testify even before knowing what he would get in return. Prosecutors had assisted him with his Visa (Heredia is a Mexican citizen), but never outright promised full immunity in exchange for his court testimony.
When all was said and done, Heredia never served a day in prison for his role in a scandal that rocked the sports world. He was sparsely heard from since that trial, and certainly an unknown entity in the boxing world.
Boxing’s link to that world has become more prominent in recent years, with Conte working with several top stars, including current pound-for-pound entrants Nonito Donaire and Andre Ward. There are still many who are skeptical of his involvement in anyone’s career given his checkered past, largely in part to the number of athletes whose names were tarnished during the height of the BALCO scandal, including boxing’s own Shane Mosley.
More troubling to some is the fact that he goes out of his way to seek publicity and keep his name in the headlines, though rarely if ever at the expense of the clients with whom he’s working. The other side of that argument is that Conte does it to ensure all that he has nothing to hide.
Whether or not the same can be said for the man now known as Angel Hernandez remains to be seen.
For what it’s worth, there has never been any reason to suspect Marquez of any wrongdoing throughout his storied career that is destined for the Hall of Fame. His business sense has been called into question – most notably his rejecting a high six-figure payday to rematch Pacquiao in 2005, to instead travel to Indonesia for a $32,000 payday in a controversial points loss to Chris John.
Marquez has long ago recovered from that publicity hit, largely in part to the late career surge he has enjoyed. Beginning with his points win over countryman Marco Antonio Barrera in March 2007, Marquez has been on a role, racking up notable against some of the best in the world in the super featherweight and lightweight divisions. Chief among them have been his knockout win over Juan Diaz in a fight that went on to win 2009 Fight of the Year honors, and last year’s off-the-canvas stoppage of Michael Katsidis in yet another Fight of the Year contender.
In fact, his only losses since the Chris John debacle have come against the sport’s two very best fighters in the world – a narrow split decision loss to Pacquiao in their ’08 rematch that many have scored for Marquez; and his lopsided points loss against a returning Floyd Mayweather in 2009, in a bout that took place two divisions above Marquez’ lightweight frame.
It was his performance in the Mayweather fight – as well as the preparation leading into it – that had his handlers putting a lot of thought into how he was going to properly grow into the 144 lb. catchweight for next weekend’s showdown with Pacquiao.
Enter Heredia/Hernandez, who was brought into this camp to help Marquez change up training methods to naturally add strength and muscle to his frame without sacrificing speed and reflexes.
The results have been a far cry from his simply adding nine pounds – most of which appeared to be in the form of flab and love handles – as Marquez now boasts a chiseled frame and what seems to be a greater confidence about himself, though never to the point of arrogance as he remains one of the sport’s most humble servants.
Given Marquez’ honorable past, you want to believe that Hernandez has joined the camp with the intention of taking the necessary steps to reestablish his credibility and not be forever identified as a former steroid distributor.
For those who question why he’s now running around as Angel Hernandez, optimists will immediately counter that it’s easier to sell a good product (his knowledge and training methods) without being weighed down by a bad name.
It’s also his attempt to pass along knowledge to a boxing superstar in a different manner than his own cruel introduction for how many of the modern day athletes chose to improve their game.
Hernandez’ entrance into the world of PED’s came unexpectedly. A championship discus thrower as a teenager in Mexico, Heredia was a great enough athlete to immediately compete against the best when he began attending high school in Texas.
One day while training back home in Mexico City, Hernandez bumped into Cuban discus thrower Luis Delis, who won Olympic Bronze in the 1980 Moscow Games.
Hopes of learning how to improve his game instead became an eye-opener, when Delis simulated the technique of injecting PED’s into his veins. The run-in changed Hernandez’ life, while reminding him of the resources at his disposal as the son of a chemist and his own love for science.
Three years after a trial that forever changed his life, Hernandez now looks to return to put to better use his undergraduate degree in kinesiology (the scientific study of human movement). It’s what he learned in a classroom and through his own experiences as an athlete that he looks to pass on to Marquez ahead of the biggest fight of his life.
Or so we can only hope.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]