by David P. Greisman
It started with whispers, with baseless suspicions and inflammatory accusations, with unproven charges and controversial comments.
It has carried on for a year-and-a-half, these insinuations and implications that Manny Pacquiao has used performance-enhancing drugs to aid his rise, a run through heavier divisions and accomplished opponents, a route that has taken him from future Hall of Fame inductee to contemporary all-time great.
The idea of being presumed innocent before being proven guilty does not apply in the court of public opinion. Conspiracy theories only ever spread. The deeper into the rabbit hole believers get, the more impassioned their beliefs become. Nothing will sway them. Nothing will stop them.
The rumors have long since become ruckus. It takes the lightest of tinder to add fuel to the fire.
That tinder came in the form of what was called an article but was no more than a posting by an anonymous person – not a boxing writer and not a journalist, but the pseudonym of “The Shadow,” or the username of “mikejohnson313.”
The posting ran on an unheard-of website – not a boxing website, not a news website, but on places such as “FreePressReleaseList.com” and “ArticleDesire.com” The article advertised for something called “ValueSportsPicks.com.”
The most isolated of fires spread, via message boards and Twitter, with some questioning the source of the story, but many more only exclaiming about what was said in the story itself.
“One of Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao’s former sparring partners has admitted that he regularly injected the fighter with steroids ‘in the locker room, in the upper outer quarter of his butt cheek!’ ” read the first sentence.
The remainder cited an anonymous sparring partner interviewed “in a top secret location in Las Vegas,” someone who is “a Filipino and a former pro fighter,” accusing Pacquiao of transitioning from using steroids to injecting both human growth hormone and insulin. The secretive acts started two years ago, prior to Pacquiao’s fight with Ricky Hatton, the article said.
It was absolute hogwash, of course. A hoax.
Of course that didn’t matter to many. They latched on to baseless suspicions, inflammatory accusations, unproven charges and controversial comments.
This is an era when faked documents can lead to national news reports about a president’s military service. This is also an era in which no manner of evidence can change the minds of those who were long ago convinced otherwise.
We are too easily swayed by falsities and too easily skeptical of the truth.
This wasn’t “Anonymous” publishing “Primary Colors” as a barely veiled depiction of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign.
This was proof that anyone can say anything and it can end up everywhere, talked about by everyone.
The conspiracy started a year-and-a-half ago with Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s insistence that Manny Pacquiao take additional drug tests beyond what is already mandated of them were they ever to face each other in a boxing match. It continued with interviews, with others questioning what Pacquiao had done in the ring and saying he only could have done it with illicit help outside of the ropes.
The conspiracy isn’t one that’s going to go away, no matter how many drug tests Pacquiao passes (and no matter what kind of tests they are).
The conspiracy theories aren’t going to go away, even though there is no evidence, no witnesses or paper trail along the lines of what brought down Barry Bonds, no testimony such as that which implicated Roger Clemens, no named accusers such as those who’ve taken the campaign against Lance Armstrong beyond whispers and suspicions.
The conspiracy theories aren’t going to go away, but this so-called article could have had a short shelf life – if not for Shane Mosley.
Mosley – a fighter whose reputation was besmirched years ago in the BALCO scandal that had Bonds and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones as its most famous downed stars – linked on Twitter on Thursday afternoon to the so-called article. Floyd Mayweather Jr. later did the same.
Mosley caught flak immediately, lambasted for being a sore loser who, just days before, had given Pacquiao credit for beating him on May 7. “These are not my words,” Mosley wrote. “It comes from a article and his sparring partner but if it is true!!!!!”
As with so many others, he’d endorsed the article by linking to it.
It didn’t matter that the few other articles under the name of “mikejohnson313” were pieces such as “Discover Out About Exciting NFL Scores” and “Ways to Make Baseball Picks.” It didn’t matter that the first sentence of his most recent piece was “NFL scores are quite significant pieces of facts for sports fans. America is in really like with the game of football.”
It didn’t matter, because rumors had become ruckus, and ruckus was suddenly news. Manny Pacquiao’s publicist issued a statement later that evening. Granted, the language in it probably belonged more to the publicist than to Pacquiao, but the message within was clear:
“An anonymous post on an Internet forum claims an unidentified former Filipino sparring partner injected me with steroids before my fight with Oscar De La Hoya and in subsequent fights. This is completely false, totally fabricated, and, not surprisingly, leveled by someone who will not even identify himself. I did not even have a Filipino sparring partner during my training for the fight against De La Hoya or for any fight since then.
“I have never taken steroids, HGH, or any banned performance-enhancing drug. Period. My success in the ring is due to hard work, belief in God, and the support of my fans. Like every boxer, I am required to take drug tests in connection with every professional fight in the United States. I have passed every one, including my fight against De La Hoya and my most recent victory against Shane Mosley.
“I will fight to protect my hard-earned good name and reputation.”
This was how the most connected of boxing fans spent their Thursday, talking about Pacquiao but not about the fight he’d just had, not talking about the important super-middleweight fight between Andre Ward and Arthur Abraham that was to come just a few days from then, not talking about the important light heavyweight fight between Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins that was to come a little more than a week from then, and not talking about the huge heavyweight unification bout between Wladimir Klitscko and David Haye that is to come in less than two months.
Those are the most connected of fans. For the more casual followers of boxing, they get but snippets of the conversation. They are more likely to be swayed by falsities, by the suspicions, accusations, charges and comments.
This fight game has its history of conspiracies, from fixed bouts and phantom punches to tampered gloves and judging scandals. But some of those either have confirmation or have become possibilities that are now included as part of lore.
There is a love of scandal in this sport. It makes the characters even more colorful, the drama even more suspenseful.
There will still be actual conspiracies and controversies, Shane Mosley’s performance enhancing drugs and Antonio Margarito’s tampered hand wraps being two of the more recent and most notable.
There will be accusers motivated by their dislike of the fighters in question, and there will be defenders driven by their fandom.
The deeper into the rabbit hole believers on both sides get, the more impassioned their beliefs become. Nothing will sway them. Nothing will stop them.
But much of this insanity should be kept in quarantine, at a safe distance from those of us with common sense and rational conclusions.
To allow this hogwash to perpetuate in turn allows for more hoaxes to propagate.
To allow for rumors to become ruckus in turns allows for ruckus to become news.
And to allow unproven charges to go unchallenged is to allow a fighter who has earned his acclaim in the ring to instead be overwritten by the accusations coming from outside of it.
The 10 Count
1. “I have never taken steroids, HGH or any banned performance-enhancing drug. Period.”
Manny Pacquiao’s publicist-written statement could’ve picked better phrasing than that sentence – not because of what it says, but because of what it reminds me of.
Rafael Palmeiro, March 17, 2005, testifying before Congress: “Let me start by telling you this. I have never used steroids. Period.”
The Washington Post, Aug. 2, 2005: “Palmeiro Suspended For Steroid Violation.”
2. If you’re keeping track of the mounting number of legal cases against Floyd Mayweather – and, admittedly, it’s getting harder and harder each week to keep them all straight – then you added another to the list this past week.
It should be noted, however, that the latest charges against Mayweather are in the form of a civil lawsuit rather than a criminal case. Take that for what you will. Here are the details:
Mayweather and a bodyguard of his have been sued over an alleged assault at a Las Vegas nightclub in January, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
The plaintiff is a security guard at the club; he claims he had asked Mayweather and people with him for identification when the bodyguard (whose name is not included in the lawsuit) grabbed him and choked him, the Sun reported.
The security guard says he “suffered injuries to his head and neck that may be permanent as well as ‘extreme and severe mental anguish,’ ” the article said. He is seeking “unspecified general and punitive damages, reimbursement of medical expenses and reimbursement of past and present lost earnings.”
This civil suit brings to mind the December incident caught on video and aired on TMZ in which Mayweather yelled at a security guard at his housing development
There are three criminal cases currently ongoing against Mayweather.
He has been charged with misdemeanor harassment after allegedly threatening security guards at his housing development after they wrote up parking citations for some of his vehicles.
He has a misdemeanor battery case in which he is accused of poking the face of a security guard who left parking tickets on one of his vehicles
And he has several felony and misdemeanor charges against him for an incident in which he allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend and threatened their sons.
3. Parking citations? Not for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Showing your ID? Not for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Paying taxes on time? Not for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
This is the same Mayweather who insists that Manny Pacquiao should take additional drug tests without complaining about the not-so-subtle accusations behind them.
4. Is it possible that a 2011 in which Manny Pacquiao could wind up beating both Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez might actually be less impressive than a 2010 in which Pacquiao beat both Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito?
5. After his big upset win over Mikkel Kessler at the start of Showtime’s “Super Six” super-middleweight tournament, Andre Ward’s had three straight opponents whose performances or styles (Allan Green, Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham) made them tough to look good against.
Ward has nevertheless shown himself to be among the cream of the crop at 168 pounds, an impression he needed to make after several years of moving along at what seemed far too deliberate a pace for an Olympic gold medalist.
And Ward can take consolation in knowing that the winner of the remaining semifinal – Carl Froch vs. Glen Johnson – will deliver him an opponent with a come-forward style and a willingness to take punches in order to land them.
6. I’d love to see the Showtime ratings following the first hour of its broadcast Saturday, an hour that was dedicated to the re-airing of the previous week’s Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley pay-per-view bout.
Did the ratings go down after people slogged through Pacquiao-Mosley? Or did the ratings go up with people tuning in at a later time, coming back to the broadcast after they knew Pacquiao-Mosley would be over?
7. Arthur Abraham punches like that little spinning drum toy from The Karate Kid.
8. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: A Californian fighter named Ronald Hurley Jr. has been arrested in a sickening case – what police describe as three family members regularly molesting four kids, according to The (Riverside, Calif.) Press-Enterprise.
Hurley Jr., 22, was taken into police custody “on suspicion of lewd acts with a child, continual sexual abuse and forced penetration,” the newspaper said.
Also arrested were Hurley’s father, Ronald Hurley Sr., and his wife, a woman named Monica Silva. The victims are aged 3 to 10.
Hurley last fought in December. His record is 5-5-2.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: A retired British fighter named Paul Mitchell has been sentenced to nine years in prison for his part in a home invasion, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Mitchell and an accomplice attacked a family and robbed them of 80,000 pounds’ (more than $129,000) worth of jewelry and 4,000 pounds in money (more than $6,400).
The 50-year-old fought from 1982 to 1989, going 12-14 with three knockouts.
10. So, Wladimir Klitschko (6-foot-6) and actress Hayden Panettiere (5-foot-1) have split up.
Guessing they just didn’t see eye-to-eye in their relationship…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]