Doping claims overshadow Mayweather ‘finale’
Floyd Mayweather steps into the ring Saturday for what he says will be the last time, but the final defense of his welterweight world titles has been overshadowed by accusations he violated anti-doping rules. The unbeaten pound-for-pound king was forced onto the back foot Thursday after it emerged that he had received an injection of vitamins and minerals on the eve of his superfight with Manny Pacquiao in May, breaking World Anti-Doping Agency regulations. The United States Anti-Doping Agency leapt to Mayweather’s defense and the man himself said he was “very proud to be a clean athlete.”
Philippine boxer Manny Pacquiao called for punishment and a rematch Friday following the doping allegations.
Pacquiao questioned why USADA only informed the Nevada State Athletic Commission about the infusion three weeks after the bout, by which time Mayweather had already received a USADA exemption.
“Are they hiding something? For the sake of fairness and for the good of the sport, NSAC must be consistent,” he told reporters at his home in the southern Philippines.
“If needed, the NSAC should impose the appropriate sanction to sustain its credibility and to show the world they did not give preferential treatment to the Mayweather camp,” he added.
WADA guidelines say IV infusions are prohibited because they can be used to mask performance-enhancing drugs, increase plasma volume levels and distort the values of an athlete’s biological passport.
But a USADA source told AFP that because Mayweather obtained a therapeutic use exemption, no offense had been committed under WADA rules.
Pacquiao also said he was treated unfairly because the Nevada body refused to let him use a USADA-approved painkiller for the fight, when he was carrying a shoulder injury. “That is why I want a rematch. One without any injury and with fair play. No favoritism. Not one where the Mayweather camp gets to dictate all the terms and conditions,” he said.
It is hardly the buildup the American would have wanted for his showdown in Las Vegas against the unheralded Andre Berto, with Mayweather going for the magic 49-0 – equaling the record of heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano.
Mayweather, 38, the self-styled “TBE” (The Best Ever) is the heavy favorite for the bout at the MGM Grand – Berto has lost three of his last six fights.
Mayweather says that he wants to write his name in the history books before he hangs up his gloves – not that many believe he will really retire and there have been growing rumors of a rematch against Pacquiao.
Mayweather’s critics – and there are plenty of them – accuse the American of bigging up the quit talk to drum up interest in a fight against Berto that has threatened to become a box-office flop: there were still hundreds of tickets available Thursday. The claims of doping will only give Mayweather’s critics more ammunition.
Mayweather, the highest-earning sportsman in the world, insists this is it and told reporters in the build-up to the weekend showdown that he would be going for a knockout win – something he has not done since 2011.
“You have fighters that may be faster than me, there are fighters that may hit harder than me, you have fighters who are very athletic, but you don’t have a fighter who can make adjustments like me,” he told the final pre-fight press conference.
“It’s never personal for me, it’s always business. Everyone fights for what they fight for. My thing is this: I keep my eyes on the prize. I don’t focus on things outside the ring. I focus on the guy in front of me.”
He added: “I want my legacy to be of a remarkable fighter inside the ring and a great businessman outside of it.”
Virgil Hunter, Berto’s respected coach, talked of “personal stuff” between the two fighters.
But there has been a noticeable lack of trash talking between the pair and their press conference was notable for the absence of rancor – though they attempted to inject a bit with an old-fashioned faceoff.
Mayweather’s critics have rubbished the fight – for which Berto will pocket $4 million – as just another example of him dodging the best opponents in a packed welterweight division where quality is not in short supply simply to embellish his record.
His fans counter that as the best boxer of his generation and one of the best defensively of all time Mayweather has earned the right to pick exactly who he chooses.