[PHOTO - Manny Pacquiao (right) connects with a right straight in a fiery exchange with Juan Manuel Marquez during their WBO welterweight title showdown in Las Vegas. AP]

LOS ANGELES, NOVEMBER 18, 2011 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson  – There is talk that a disgruntled former member of Juan Manuel Marquez’ team is ready to come out in public and expose the WBC lightweight champion of taking steroids to bulk up for his fight against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last weekend.

A source said the ex-member was fired by Marquez, probably for cause, and is out for revenge. He supposedly sneaked into Marquez’ home and took an illegal drug from his refrigerator. The illegal drug is some kind of steroid or performance enhancer.

Marquez, 38, bulked up to 142 pounds to face Pacquiao for the fight that had a catchweight limit of 144. The Mexican also brought his weight up to 142 when he battled Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009 but couldn’t carry the extra weight and was badly outpointed. He hired Angel (Memo) Heredia, now Hernandez, as his strength and conditioning coach to prepare for his third meeting with Pacquiao.

Heredia, a Texas A&M University graduate, has a dubious reputation and was implicated in a drug scandal where he admitted to supplying track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with illegal substances. Heredia guaranteed before the Pacquiao fight that Marquez would be too strong for the Filipino and as the bout unfolded, it looked that way. He confessed to providing Jones with a blood-booster, growth hormone and insulin in 2000 at the request of her coach Trevor Graham. Heredia also sold banned drugs to other Olympians, including gold medalists Antonio Pettigrew, Jerome Young and Dennis Mitchell.

Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative which distributed anabolic steroids, said Heredia testified as the star witness for the government in exposing drug use in sports and got off the hook because of his cooperation with authorities.

But Heredia insisted he did nothing wrong in building up Marquez’ capacity to put up a stiff challenge to Pacquiao. The Nevada State Boxing Commission administered drug tests on both fighters before and after their bout. So far, no positive finding has been announced.

While Heredia has a history of distributing steroids to athletes, there is no evidence showing any hanky-panky in working with Marquez.

“A go-between has approached certain Filipinos involved in boxing asking if they’re interested to meet this former Team Marquez guy,” said the source. “He claims the steroid came from Marquez’ refrigerator in his house but who’s to know for sure? It could just be a lie to discredit or embarrass Marquez because the guy has an axe to grind and a hidden agenda. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has tests to determine if a fighter is on illegal drugs. So if Marquez doesn’t test positive, there’s no way to link him with this illegal drug supposedly from his refrigerator.”

The former Team Marquez staffer supposedly claims he has proof that the Mexican took steroids to bulk up for the Pacquiao fight. But presenting an illegal drug to the public and saying it came from Marquez’ refrigerator wouldn’t be enough to throw the book at the fighter. A link has to be established to prove usage and without it, any allegation wouldn’t be credible.

Surely, Marquez did something in training camp to beef up and bring his power to the next level. Heredia said it was all scientific training and hard work. Marquez had never looked so strong before. And Pacquiao felt the sting in his punches from the onset. Marquez’ upper body was never as muscular and sculpted.

If Marquez was on drugs, it’s more to Pacquiao’s credit that despite the steroids, the Mexican still couldn’t swing the decision to his favor. Pacquiao didn’t only throw more but also landed more shots.

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It wasn’t a case of dwindling finances that prompted WBC lightwelterweight champion Erik Morales to stage a ring comeback after a 2 1/2 year layoff.

Morales, 35, makes a good living out of a garbage collection contract with the Tijuana government. He’s now considering to invest in a land-fill project where his share of the multi-million dollar garbage business would considerably jack up by providing waste treatment and disposal services.

Aside from the garbage contract, Morales maintains a stable of 15 fighters. One of his top prospects is WBC youth superbantamweight titlist Oscar Gonzalez whose record is 14-1, with nine KOs.

“I wanted to prove something to myself that I could still become the first Mexican to win four world titles in four divisions,” said Morales during a dinner the other night in an Italian restaurant hosted by his good friend and Filipino businessman Hermie Esguerra here.

It took a lot of convincing for Morales to bring his father and trainer Jose back to his corner. “My father advised me to stay retired, to spend more time with my family,” he said. “My plan was to do three fights in Mexico before fighting in the US again. That’s exactly what I did. I won three fights in Mexico in 2010 then fought Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas. Nobody gave me a chance to beat Maidana. I lost a close majority decision and surprised the experts.”

When the WBC lightwelterweight title became vacant, Morales and unbeaten Pablo Cesar Cano were picked to dispute the throne. Morales stopped Cano in the 10th round last September.

Golden Boy chief executive officer Richard Schaefer recently asked Morales if he’d be open to fighting Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Morales replied, “Why not?” If it happens, Morales said he’ll do to Mayweather what he did to him in a sparring session in 2000.

“I was training for a fight in Texas and sparred three or four rounds with Mayweather,” he recalled. “Mayweather’s father Floyd Sr. was my trainer and got me to spar with his son. I had him groggy and reeling but he never went down.”

Morales’ recovery from the depths of his storybook boxing career is an inspiring lesson of courage, said Esguerra. Morales lost four in a row and wallowed in depression until staging his comeback. “I was with Erik after he lost to (David) Diaz, his fourth straight loss,” said Esguerra. “In the car, Erik was crying and there was blood trickling from a cut near his eye. I got out my handkerchief and wiped the tears and the blood. I wanted Erik to know that we, Filipinos, are friends in good and bad times. I never left his side.”

Morales said he will never forget saying “Wala kang katulad, Manny” in a 2006 TV commercial for San Miguel Beer and is thankful to San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang for the opportunity to appear with Pacquiao.

Forget a fourth fight SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star Updated November 16, 2011 12:00 AM 10 comments to this post

LOS ANGELES – Will fans pay to watch a fourth meeting between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez? That’s the big $22 Million question. Pacquiao was guaranteed $22 Million for taking on Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last weekend. In a theoretical fourth encounter, would promoter Bob Arum cough up the same guarantee?

Arum said if the fans want a fourth meeting, he’ll make it happen. Surely, Pacquiao wouldn’t back off. He’s not afraid to fight anyone – he’s said that time and time again.

But wait, Marquez said he’s thinking of retiring, citing family pressure. Marquez claimed he was robbed not once, not twice but thrice – nobody could be burdened with worse luck. It’s like he’s struck out so why bother with a fourth disappointment?

Nine different judges were involved in their three fights – five scored it for Pacquiao, two had it even and two saw it for Marquez. The five whose scorecards favored Pacquiao were John Stewart, Duane Ford, Tom Miller, Glenn Trowbridge and Dave Moretti, all experienced boxing judges.

Marquez is 38 although he didn’t look it against Pacquiao when the judges awarded the win to the Filipino on a majority 12-round verdict. He surprised everyone, including the Mexican press, by standing his ground and carrying the extra weight without difficulty – until the eighth round when his work-rate began to drop. Mexican boxing commentators Eduardo Lamazon and Marco Antonio Barrera didn’t give Marquez a ghost of a chance before the fight. Neither did oddsmakers who installed Pacquiao a whopping 9.5-1 favorite the day of the contest.

If ever they square off again, the outcome will be as debatable as in the three bouts. The first ended in a split draw in 2004. The second wound up with Pacquiao claiming a split decision in 2008. It’s because their styles neutralize each other’s. Pacquiao is a come-forward bomber while Marquez is a technician who likes to counterpunch. Pacquiao initiates, Marquez retaliates. Pacquiao is aggressive, Marquez passive. They’re like made for each other.

* * *

Freddie Roach admitted that Marquez has the key to unlock Pacquiao’s secrets. “He’s got Manny figured out, he has his number but still, Manny did enough to win their three fights,” said Roach who’ll agree to a fourth encounter if only to assure fans Pacquiao doesn’t run away from anyone.

But will a fourth fight prove anything? If it ends in another inconclusive ending, will there be a fifth? Every fight will be close but Pacquiao won’t be denied the slimmest of margins because of his style. He’s a volume puncher. Marquez is selective and picks his shots. In a bout that’s close, judges will always veer towards the more aggressive fighter. It’s a case of quantity over quality.

Last weekend, Marquez scored clearer punches but they were less than Pacquiao’s. Businessman Hermie Esguerra, watching the fight at ringside, suggested an analogy with basketball. “I agree that Marquez had more highlight hits – the kind that you like to see in slo-mo replays on TV,” he explained. “But Manny scored more punches as the statistics showed. It’s like in basketball. One team scores more points than the other and wins but isn’t as flashy. The winning team’s points come from ordinary layups, nothing spectacular. The loser scores less points but is flashy with a lot of dunks. The slo-mo replays, of course, will show the dunks. But in the end, what counts is how many points you score, never mind the dunks or spectacular plays. That’s how it was with Manny. Marquez landed impressive shots but Manny scored more points.”

* * *

In my view, a fourth fight is useless. I’m not sure if fans will want to pay for another debate. It’s like the trilogy between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. Ali was Superman in the eyes of millions of fans – at his peak – but Norton was his kryptonite like Marquez is to Pacquiao. Buboy Fernandez called it “contra pelo.”

In March 1973, Ali lost a split 12-round decision to Norton in San Diego. Referee-judge Frank Rustich scored it 7-4-1 in rounds, judge Hal Rickard 5-4-3, both for Norton, and judge Fred Hayes 6-5-1 for Ali. In September that year, Ali beat Norton by a split 12-round decision in Inglewood with referee-judge Dick Young scoring it 7-5 and judge John Thomas 6-5-1 for Ali and judge George Latka 6-5-1 for Norton. In the rubber match, Ali defeated Norton by a unanimous 15-round decision in New York but the scores were close as referee-judge Arthur Mercante scored it 8-6-1, judge Harold Lederman 8-7 and judge Barney Smith 8-7. By the way, Lederman was on the HBO TV panel scoring the Pacquiao-Marquez fight last weekend and scored it 8-4 in rounds for the Filipino.

Ali and Norton never figured in a fourth bout. It would’ve been an exercise in futility. Ali went on to log six more fights, losing thrice, before retiring in 1981. Norton had nine more bouts, also losing thrice, and retired in 1981. For the same reason why Ali and Norton didn’t bother to face off in a fourth meeting, Pacquiao and Marquez should forget about another encounter. There are more exciting opponents in line other than Marquez for Pacquiao – Floyd Mayweather, Andre Berto, Vyacheslav Senchenko and maybe even Amir Khan.

Marquez hasn’t beaten Pacquiao in three fights. It’s time for Pacquiao to move forward.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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