Irony reigns if Pacquiao-Malignaggi is made
It is the most bizarre of sagas, a spasmodically woven tale of speculation, innuendo, litigation and public feuding, and boxing awaits its outcome with feverish anticipation. The political, legal and tactical wrangling that has overshadowed what is supposed to be 2010’s greatest battle, Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao, has often been so outlandish that it could not have been scripted.
Yet the emergence of Paulie Malignaggi as Pacquiao’s proposed next opponent, as the Filipino’s promoter, Bob Arum tries to take a step back from what is rapidly degenerating into a twisted mess with Mayweather, is merely serving to provide the greatest contradiction and irony of the entire story.
It was late on Christmas Eve that Pacquiao’s publicist revealed his client would seek legal action against Mayweather and Mayweather’s father Floyd Sr. for actions and comments which suggested Pacquiao had used performance-enhancing drugs.
Hours earlier, Arum had already instigated moves for a substitute bout for his star, assuming that his group and Mayweather’s would never reach common ground on the type of drug testing to be implemented for the proposed March 13 showdown.
The choice of Malignaggi, however, is the ultimate paradox in this extraordinary situation, one which looks increasingly likely to rob the sport of a once-in-a-generation contest between the men widely acclaimed as the finest two pound-for-pound boxers on the planet.
Malignaggi, who re-entered the world title picture by defeating Juan Diaz in a rematch earlier this month, spoke out vigorously recently, using an interview with Boxing Truth Radio to publicly insinuate that Pacquiao had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
“Look at what Manny is doing,” said Malignaggi on the program. “He is absolutely crushing world-class killers. And here he is, this little midget.
“He gets a broken eardrum and he is walking around afterwards like he was dodging spitballs. There are things out there that can do that.
“You are hiding under a rock if you can’t see what I am talking about. This is a guy who was life and death with Juan Manuel Marquez at 120 pounds, and now he has got 15 -17 pounds of muscle on him. Look at how short he is. He didn’t get taller, did he?”
With the chance to make millions by fighting Pacquiao now on the table, it is highly unlikely Malignaggi will be so outspoken in the future.
But, in a telephone interview with Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday, the 29-year-old reiterated his position on the subject.
At that time, Pacquiao had not yet issued his legal writ and despite the ongoing dispute, it still appeared the Mayweather fight would probably be made.
When I questioned him about the response his initial comments during the radio interview had generated, Malignaggi responded emphatically.
“Money generates greed,” he said. “Manny Pacquiao makes a lot of money for a lot of people. This is an issue that people don’t address because there is too much money to be made.” When discussions turned to how rumors that linked Pacquiao with drugs had started because of the way the pound-for-pound king had retained his power while climbing through the weight divisions, Malignaggi said: “I think it is pretty obvious.
“People don’t like what I said, but I tried to educate people. But they don’t want to hear it.
“People get killed in boxing, literally not symbolically, so this is an issue that has to be taken seriously. Records are getting destroyed.
“I never knew people could be so stupid. I say what people are scared to say. Why doesn’t boxing want to talk about this?
“Instead I get people coming after me for it, vilifying me, asking why I am doing this. Money always talks. But this is something we should be talking about as well.”
The argument between Pacquiao and Mayweather has centered upon the drug-testing methods to be used in the lead-up to the fight.
Mayweather’s team demanded Olympic-style United States Anti-Doping Agency guidelines that would allow for random blood testing up until two days before the bout.
Pacquiao’s advisors agreed to unlimited urine tests, but did not want blood testing within a month of the fight for fear it would weaken their boxer – who is also said to be frightened of needles.
Malignaggi spoke of a “cover up” and likened the way Pacquiao has remained clear of implication to the Major League Baseball scandal of the late 1990s.
“Major League Baseball knew that more home runs equaled more fans,” said Malignaggi. “Boxing knows Manny Pacquiao destroying bigger guys is a phenomenon. But it is too good to be true, like all those home runs were.
“So it is all covered up and it won’t be addressed.”
We probably won’t hear too much more from Malignaggi on the topic of drugs, not unless he wants to risk legal action and the collapse of what would be the biggest payday of his career.
Yet as the latest chapter of boxing’s biggest drama passes, more twists and turns will surely follow.
Whether each jagged development is merely a precursor to an eventual resolution between Pacquiao and Mayweather and the biggest fight in recent memory, or the latest example of the sport shooting itself in the foot, only time will tell.