By Chris Robinson
Trainer Nacho Beristain entertained the media for over twenty minutes during a roundtable discussion interview with some members from the press inside of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Beristain leads his fighter, Juan Manuel Marquez, into battle this Saturday as the duo meet up with WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao for a third time.
The 67-year old Beristain has worked with some fine talent in his day, including the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricardo Lopez, and Jorge Arce, amongst others, but his bond with Marquez is very special. Having worked with Juan dating back to his amateur days, Beristain has experienced quite the ride with the Mexico City stalwart and their moments of triumph and heartache have both resonated loudly.
Now 38 years old, Marquez’s career seems to be on its last legs and no matter how much pride he has shown throughout his days as a prizefighter, I was curious as to how much the pursuit of money was a motive for him at this point, if at all. Beristain expounded on the lessons he instilled on Marquez during his early apprenticeship and offered up a clear answer.
“You know, as an amateur coach jumping into the pros, you do it because of the money,” said Beristain. “You don’t become a professional because you want to. You become a professional because you want to earn money. So obviously, ever since he’s been a kid, he’s always known that money’s there, but the most principal thing you learn in my gym is that you earn the victory first and then you get the purses. You are going to get all the money you want as long as you win.”
Beristain was asked about the recent drama surrounding Marquez’s strength and conditioning coach for this particular camp, Angel Hernandez, an admitted steroid dealer in years past who used to go by the name Angel 'Memo' Heredia. Beristain was almost tranquil with his delivery and pointed out that he knew deep down that his fighter never has and never would take anything illegal.
Following up on the question, I asked Beristain how heavily he believed performance-enhancing drugs did exist in the sport.
“Athletes make the decisions themselves on whatever they put in their body,” Beristain continued. “To me it’s just ignorant, to put something in your body, because you don’t know what you are putting in there, how long it is going to affect you in the long run. We saw it back in 64’ when we had the Olympic team. I went to Bulgaria and they were giving us all this stuff that they wanted us to buy and we just said ‘No. It’s not for us’. It has existed for a long time. It’s out there.”
Throwing one last salvo into the air before his time at the table had wrapped, Beristain let it be known that none of his fighters were ever guided in a malicious direction.
“You will never find a Mexican fighter that has any problems at all with this because we know the effect. We teach everyone the effect that you have in the long run if you take some of this stuff.”
It was a bit ironic hearing the esteemed trainer delving into the topic of steroids, as it has actually been Marquez’s opponent Pacquiao who had seen his name attached to the issue for the past few years, largely in part because of the disbelief of some in his outstanding ability of rising up in weight late in his career. Something definitely unexpected, but that’s often how things play out in our beloved sport.
[Reader's note: Anyone wanting an inside look at Wednesday's final presser can visit Behind the scenes at the final Pacquiao-Marquez presser ]