INSIDE SPORTS - PACQUIAO SHOULD LISTEN
By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Mon, 07 Jan 2013
The story that national boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is apparently showing early signs of Parkinson’s disease is a painful reminder of the hazards of the sport even as it hurts us beyond belief to even imagine that this debilitating disease may have affected the man we consider as the greatest Filipino champion of all-time.
The fact that the evaluation was made only by television footage where Manny is said to have shown signs of his hands twitching and slurred speech doesn’t minimize our collective concern because of the fact that the assessment was made by a neurologist – Dr. Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines who is obviously trained to detect signs of the progressive disorder of the nervous system.
It provides no comfort that Manny’s trainer Freddie Roach also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and that the man regarded as the greatest heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, is ravaged by the disease.
We have always maintained that the post-fight CTScan taken at a Las Vegas hospital as a requirement by the Nevada State Athletic Commission is at best perfunctory.
That is why we must commend Top Rank promoter Bob Arum who told us after Pacquiao’s crushing knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez last December 8 that he would suggest that Pacquiao undergo a thorough checkup at the Cleveland Medical Center’s Lou Ruvo brain center in Las Vegas which is regarded as the finest in the world.
Not only that, Arum told us then that if a planned fifth fight against Marquez takes place in September he would “insist” that both Pacquiao and Marquez undergo random drug testing prior to the fight.
This should please many people including boxing man, manager of two former world champions Luisito Espinosa and Morris East - veteran broadcaster Hermie Rivera who is concerned if not convinced that Marquez was juiced up for the Pacquiao fight since Angel “Memo” Heredia had worked with the Mexican legend for several months beginning some time prior to his third fight against Pacquiao.
Heredia was responsible for the use of performance enhancing drugs by Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones who was stripped of her gold medals and served a prison term for having lied about her use of performance enhancing drugs.
Heredia himself defended Marquez’ putting on muscle, bulking up and showing remarkable punching power in the Pacquiao fight, attributing it to an honest, rigorous strength and conditioning program which Pacquiao apparently abandoned for the Marquez fight.
But people like Rivera who knows his boxing for sure, don’t believe him. Rivera, in an email said “the entire boxing world was outrageously dumbfounded at his (Pacquiao’s) dethronement by way of a devilishly-contrived program, wickedly employed by JMM’s conditioning coach Angel Heredia, the wily Mexican nay an evil genius.”
Hermie said he couldn’t understand "why this was allowed in the wake of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s banishment after seven years of shocking abuse of power enhancing drugs" even as he mentioned that the Senate committee headed by “Gringo” Honasan would conduct a probe on the issue.
While there is not much such a probe can do to influence the various boxing commissions in the US as well as world organizations to demand that fighters at least in championship battles undergo mandatory random drug testing, it should at least put the world on notice that the Philippines is taking a stand on the use of illegal drugs by boxers.
WBO/Ring Magazine and WBC Diamond Belt champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire has set a fine example by voluntarily initiating random drug testing on himself by the Volunteer Anti-Doping Association headed by the respected Dr. Margaret Goodman who was formerly connected with the Nevada State Athletic Commission which to this day only carries out urine tests after a fight which cannot detect the use of PEDs since they could easily be washed out of a user’s system by fight time.
Significantly, Victor Conte who served a prison term for his Balco clinic peddling of steroids, helps Donaire in terms of his nutrition etc. By undergoing random drug tests Nonito has effectively shown the world that – as Heredia insisted – science shows us the way and we could use the knowledge either for good or evil even as he insisted he shunned any illegal remedies in the Marquez case.
He may be right . Interestingly Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza shares the same view, noting that the same accusations of using performance enhancing drugs were leveled at him and Pacquiao some years ago.
However, logically, the surge of power of Marquez as evidenced by his KO of Pacquiao is hard to explain since in their three previous fights he failed to drop Manny even once while Pacquiao dropped him four times in the first two fights and had him in deep trouble in their fourth showdown prior to the stunning right hand that sent Pacquiao crashing to the canvas face down where he lay motionless for some time.
It’s a tough call but in the absence of solid evidence, not circumstantial or speculative, Marquez and Heredia have to be given the benefit of the doubt.
More importantly however is Pacquiao’s physical condition. We fervently hope the neurologist’s assessment was wrong, but that should not prevent Manny from getting a complete brain checkup at the Cleveland Center. He owes it to himself, his family and fans who care for him deeply and continue to stand by him even as some of the leeches who bled him for years have abandoned him after his loss. If the specialists say its time to quit, Pacquiao must heed the call.
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