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Articles of 2009

Brute 8: I Guess You Get A Few Days Off



The forthcoming book “Brute” follows two Sacramento boxers: Mike Simms, a cruiserweight who trained with the Olympic team in 2000, who when I found him had lost five successive fights; and Stan Martyniouk, a young, Estonian-born featherweight, who when I found him had just fought and won his professional debut by decision, despite breaking his right hand in the first round.

Over the next few months I look forward to sharing the stories of these two fighters with the readers of the Sweet Science, and I look forward to hearing from any and all of you. –KS

Between the third and fourth round, Eric Regan was in front of Simms swinging a towel to cool his fighter down, but the referee noticed it and yelled for Regan to quit. Simms looked exhausted, and when he stood up for the fourth he appeared, at least by how he moved on his failing legs, as if he'd taken the majority of the punches. And throughout the fourth he did take all the punches. For two and a half minutes he did not punch at Harmon once. At one point he had his back against the ropes, and I thought of Ali in Manila guarding his face and ribs in the third while Frazier tried to cut him in a half. But whereas Ali, the preeminent showman, was toying with Frazier and bounced off the ropes with a combination of punches that in my rosy memory numbers in the hundreds, Simms just stood and got hit. “Way to stall, baby!” someone yelled. I would have scored it ten-eight for Harmon if Simms looked as if he'd been hurt by anything. But at the bell he looked better than he had at the beginning of the round.

In the lull before the fifth Niavaroni was in the ring, screaming at Simms and slapping him on the thighs. An older woman with blond hair and a straw cowboy hat came over and introduced herself to Martyniouk. “I wanted to say hello,” she said. “I'm Karen. I know all the boys. Mike, Otis. All of them.” Martyniouk shook her hand politely and then she went on, “I'm with the cowboy over there.” She pointed into the crowd. I did not see a cowboy. She looked up at the ring. Niavaroni was yelling through the ropes at Simms. “I could kick his ass,” said Karen. She was quite drunk.

The fifth began with a soft clash of heads. The fighters tied up, and after the referee separated them Harmon threw a few glancing shots. “Come on, Mike,” said Martyniouk. “Let it go.” I was glad to see that Martyniouk was supporting Simms, but it did not bode well for Simms that he needed instruction from the gallery. Simms started attacking Harmon's midsection, but he left his head exposed. That inspired Harmon, as one might expect, to hit him there. A while later Simms was back on the ropes, head hidden behind his gloves, taking whatever Harmon had to give. One of the round girls passed in front of us on the floor. The four of us—myself, Martyniouk, Mehrad, and Gerrell—all stopped watching the bout for a moment. Martyniouk called to her, and she turned. “You're at Tokyo Fro's during the week, right?” he asked.

“I wait tables there,” she said.

“Angela, right?” asked Martyniouk.

“Right,” said Angela. She sat down, then glanced back over her shoulder at Martyniouk, smiling. We all looked at Martyniouk, and he nodded confidently.

The round had almost ended while we were distracted watching Angela, but it was clear we hadn't missed anything. Simms finished the fifth plodding in his slow circles, as if his legs, which before the fight were empty casts, had slowly filled with bronze. He finished hard, but he was throwing sloppy punches. Suspecting Simms hadn't done anything sublime while I was preoccupied, such as knock his opponent down again, I gave the round to Harmon. Therefore, I had Simms trailing by one and needing ten in the sixth to achieve a draw.

Regan and Niavaroni were both kneeling before Simms during the interval. I supposed they were telling him that he needed the last round if he wanted any chance at a decision. Harmon's corner must have told him the same thing, and when Harmon came out he tried to get inside with Simms. But he got little done there, and swallowed a straight right as he disengaged. Simms followed that with a myriad of punches, many of which landed, and I did not know what reserves he was tapping for this energy. Perhaps he had discovered something about recuperation while meditating in the fourth. His head movement was good, and he used his jab repeatedly to set up a cousin of the left that had knocked Harmon down in the first. But the lefts in the sixth were, by some reversal of maturity, less fledged than they had been earlier. Simms got hit a couple times, but since the first, it was the only round he'd clearly won.

At the bell there was nothing much to cheer. The decision promised to be a close one, which always keeps a sectarian crowd quiet, and for the few neutral observers in the room, after the first round, and until the sixth, the fight had not been an entertaining one, especially in comparison to the preceding bouts. On my card I had the thing a draw, 57-57, and when the announcer read the first judge's decision 57-56, I decided he must have given my even round to Simms. I expected, for some morbid reason, that the other two would move in favor of Harmon.

“The other judges both score the bout 58-55,” said the announcer, “for the winner, by unanimous decision, The Famous Mike Simms.”

I felt relieved. I would have thought I'd be elated, but for those who take competition seriously, for whom there is little qualitative difference between a man's victory in a boxing match and a political race, seeing your fighter win is tantamount to hearing from a doctor that your sore throat is bacterial and not viral. It is a small success because the pain of anticipation is still there unless the fighter is retiring that night with a glorious record. At such a point both the fighter and fan can sigh contentedly. Until then it is a chain of horrors.

I told Mehrad and Gerrell that I would return momentarily, and went back towards the dressing room to speak with Simms. As I walked I thought that the decision had gone Simms' way because we were in Sacramento, and if we'd been in Chicago or Germany or Russia, he would have lost 57-56, despite the knockdown. But we weren't in Asia or Europe or the Middle West, and Simms had scraped through. After the knockdown he'd fought almost irresolutely, showing less skill as a boxer, and more his ability to stand inside with an opponent, without fighting back, all the while without getting hurt. It was almost marvelous.

I found Simms in one of the small conference rooms that had been converted into dressing quarters for the fighters. He was on the floor, knees up, elbows on his knees, head between his thighs. “How are you doing?” I asked. I used the tone of voice I might have used to greet a friend's child who had spent the night in the hospital after losing his appendix. It was a patronizing tone, and I felt embarrassed to have used it.

“Dehydrated,” said Simms. “Cut weight too much at the last minute.”

“You got through it, though,” I said. “How do you feel? I mean, how did you feel in the fight?”

“I was feeling strong. At times I was feeling cramps, like I couldn't bend my legs the way I wanted to, to dig down.” That didn't sound particularly strong, but I didn't want to interrupt him. “In the fight I really wanted to focus on the body, as well as, you know, box. I knew going in I was gonna take one of those rounds off. And the round I did take off—”

“The fourth,” I interrupted.

“I think so,” he said. I had broken his train of thought and he did not get the cars re-coupled.

“At least in one judge's opinion,” I said, “coming out in the sixth round, and pushing like you did, was the difference in the fight. The others had it more in favor of you. But man, you were this close.” I put my left hand up with my index finger and thumb an inch apart to show, in linear terms, how far he'd been from knocking Harmon out. Simms nodded gravely. He would also have liked to skip the other five rounds. I went on, “You said you were gonna come out firing, and you almost had him in that first round. You dropped him.”

“I didn't think he was gonna get up,” said Simms.

“I don't think any of us did. We thought it was gonna be a three knockout night. Almost three first-round knockouts. There were three first-round knockdowns.”

“I hurt Harmon with a small, left uppercut to the midsection,” said Simms. “Right in the belly. And he went, 'Oooh.' But I didn't dig it. I just shot a quick little shot. Just touched him there.”

I wasn't sure what that comment was related to, but I could see how exhausted he was, and as if he'd just come out of anesthesia after surgery, I wanted to let him get back to sleep. “Well, Mike,” I said, “You got the win.”

“Yeah,” he said. He was exhausted. His hands were still wrapped from the fight.

“I guess you get a few days off from the gym.”

“Yeah,” he said, and at that he smiled.

I shook his hand and walked out of the dressing room. I was fatigued, much less, of course, than Simms, but tired from the week. Otis Griffin was still scheduled to fight, but I had little interest in that outcome. I went, nonetheless, into the ballroom, and stood waiting for the bell.

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva



Former champion Rashad Evans meets Brazil’s venerable Thiago Silva in a non-title belt that can lead to a return match with the current champ, but first things first.

Evans (15-1-1) and Silva (14-1) meet in Ultimate Fighting Championship 108 in a light heavyweight bout on Saturday Jan. 2, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A win by either fighter could result in a world title bid. The fight card is being shown on pay-per-view television.

Events can change quickly in the Octagon and anybody can beat anybody in the 205-pound weight division. Just ask Silva or Evans.

Silva and Evans are both experienced and can vouch firsthand about the capriciousness of fighting in MMA and especially as a light heavyweight. On one day this man can beat that man and on another day, that man can beat this man. It can make you absolutely daffy.

Evans, 30, is the former UFC light heavyweight world champion who only defended his title on one occasion and lost by vicious knockout to current champion Lyoto Machida of Brazil. It’s the only defeat on his record.

Silva, 27, is a well-rounded MMA fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil who is versed in jujitsu, Muy Thai and boxing. He can end a fight quickly in a choke hold just as easily as with a kick or a punch. His only loss came to who else: Machida.

Evans and Silva know a win can push open the door to a rematch with current UFC light heavyweight champion Machida.

“A win against Rashad would put me in the track against Lyoto,” said Silva, in a telephone conference call. “That's what – what I want to do.”

When Silva fought Machida the two Brazilians were both undefeated and feared in the MMA world. The fight took place in Las Vegas and with one second remaining in the first round a perfectly timed punch knocked Silva unconscious.

“I was humbled big time, man,” says Silva who fought Machida in January 2009. “I learned a lot from that fight.  I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight, not overlooking anything else right now, but just I want to get the chance to fight him again.”

For Evans it was a different circumstance. The upstate New Yorker held the UFC title and was defending it after stopping then champion Forrest Griffin by knockout. Still, many felt Machida was far too technically versed. Evans was stopped brutally in the second round.

“I've made it a point to not – to not get distracted on what I want to do, because you know Thiago (Silva) is a very hungry fighter,” said Evans who has not fought since losing the title to Machida last May. “My focus is just on Thiago so much.  You know I don't want to overlook him, you know, not even a little bit.”

Dana White, president of UFC, says the winner of this fight could conceivably fight Machida in the near future. Evans and especially Silva are motivated by the open window.

“I learned a lot from that fight. I think I can correct the mistakes from that fight,” says Silva. “Not overlooking anything else right now, but I just want to get the chance to fight him again.”

What a prize. The winner gets to face the man who beat him: Machida.

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Articles of 2009

No One Is Leaving This Stage Of Negotiations Looking GOLDEN



Early in his political career, the young Lyndon Baines Johnson served as a congressional aide to Rep. Richard Kleberg, the wealthy owner of the King Ranch who was elected to seven consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, at least in part because he often ran unopposed.

One year an upstart rival politician we'll call Joe Bob had the temerity to challenge Kleberg in the Democratic primary, resulting in the convocation of the Texas congressman's staff to plot an election strategy. Several ideas were kicked around before Kleberg himself came up with a brainstorm.

“Why don't we start a rumor that he [copulates with] sheep?” proposed the politician.

This was a bit over the top, even for Lyndon Johnson. The future president leapt to his feet and said, incredulously, “But you know Joe Bob don't [copulate with] sheep!”

“Yeah,” replied the congressman, “but watch what happens when the son of a bitch has to stand up and deny it!”


Events of the past week or two have seen the Floyd Mayweather camp adopt a similar tactic with regard to Manny Pacquiao.  But if introducing what would appear to be a red-herring issue — the debate over drug-testing procedures — to the negotiating process was intended as a negotiating ploy, it would appear for the moment to have backfired.  The idea might have been to force Pacquiao to go on the defensive, but Pac-Man instead responded with his stock in trade, the counterpunch — in this case the multi-million dollar defamation suit he filed against the Mayweathers, pere et fils,, with the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

In boxing even more than in life, you never say never, but you'd have to say that Pacquiao-Mayweather is a dead issue right now, at least in its March 13 incarnation. Bob Arum says Pacquiao is prepared to move along to another opponent, and Mayweather is supposedly looking at Matthew Hatton in England.

We'll believe that when we see it, for at least three reasons: (1) There would hardly seem to be enough money in that one to make it worth Floyd's time, (2) He's going to have to put so much into preparing a defense to this lawsuit that he mightn't have time to train and (3) He'd get a better workout if he stayed in Vegas and boxed one of Uncle Roger's girl opponents.


Colleagues on this site have already done a good job of dissecting this process. Ron Borges is absolutely correct in noting that in the midst of all the posturing that's gone on, you'd be a fool to accept at face value anything coming out of any of the parties' mouths. And Frank Lotierzo is spot on in noting that if you had absolutely no desire to actually get in the ring with Manny Pacquiao but were still looking to save face, you'd do pretty much exactly what Mayweather has done. Which is to say, talk tough while you get others to run interference with a series of actions seemingly calculated to ensure that the fight doesn't come off.

But left almost unscathed in all of this heretofore has been the convoluted role played by Golden Boy — by CEO Richard Schaefer, by the company's namesake Oscar the Blogger, GBP's subsidiary enterprise, The Ring, and at least a few of the lap-dogs and lackeys whose favor GPB has cultivated elsewhere in the media.

In late March of 2008, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah appeared at a New York press conference to announce a fight between them in Las Vegas two months later. As it happened, the BALCO trial had gotten underway out in California that week. That day I sat with Judah and his attorney Richard Shinefield as they explained that they intended to ask that both boxers agree to blood testing in the runup to the fight. Citing Mosley's history with BALCO and its products The Cream and The Clear (which Shane claimed Victor Conte had slipped him when he wasn't looking), Shinefield and Zab, noting that Nevada drug tests were limited to urinalysis, proposed that the supplementary tests be administered by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Want to know what Richard Schaefer's response to that was?

“Whatever tests [the NSAC] wants them to take, we will submit to, but we are not going to do other tests than the Nevada commission requires,” said Schaefer. “The fact is, Shane is not a cheater and he does not need to be treated like one.”

But the fact is that Mosley had a confirmed history as a cheater. Manny Pacquiao does not. Yet in the absence of a scintilla of evidence or probable cause, less than two years later Schaefer was howling that the very integrity of the sport would be at risk unless Pacquiao submitted to precisely the same sort of testing he had rejected for Mosley.

And you thought it was Arum who was famous for saying “Yeah, but yesterday I was lying. Today I'm telling the truth!”

Schaefer, by the way, defended his 180-degree turnabout by saying he is now better educated on the issue. He couldn't resist aiming a harpoon at the media by adding that many sportswriters “don't know the difference between blood and urine testing.”

Don't know how to break this to you, Richard, but sportswriters, who have had to deal with this stuff for the past twenty years, probably know more about drug-testing procedures than any other group you could name.


Now, the reasonable assumption would be that by assuming the role of the point man in this unseemly mess, Schaefer was insulating his boss (De La Hoya) and his fighter (PBF) by keeping their fingerprints off it while he made a fool of himself publicly conducting this snide little campaign.  

And yes, Money would have stayed out of the line of fire had not a two-month old, expletive-filled rant in which he described the Philippines as the world's foremost producer of performance-enhancing drugs not exploded on the internet at the most inopportune moment. That the lawsuit was filed less than 24 hours after “Floyd Meets the Rugged Man” overtook the Tiger Watch probably wasn't a coincidence.

And we're assuming that this Dan Petrocelli, the lawyer who filed Pacquiao's suit, knows what he's doing, because if there were an even one-zillionth chance that somebody could credibly link Manny to PEDs, then it was a pretty dumb thing to do. You could ask Roger Clemens about that.  Clemens' transformation from Hall of Famer-in-waiting to nationwide laughingstock didn't come from the Mitchell Report. It came from his wrongheaded decision to file a lawsuit against Brian McNamee, which in turn threw everything open to the discovery process.


De La Hoya, in the meantime, was playing both sides of the fence. He let Schaefer play Bad Cop as he distanced himself from the negotiating process, but simultaneously was sniping away at Pacquiao from his First Amendment-protected perch as a blogger.

“If Pacquiao, the toughest guy on the planet, is afraid of needles and having a few tablespoons of blood drawn from his system, then something is wrong…  I'm just saying that now people have to wonder: 'Why doesn't he want to do this?' Why is [blood testing] such a big deal?' wrote Oscar the Blogger. “A lot of eyebrows have been raised. And this is not good.”

Ask yourself this: Exactly what caused those eyebrows to be raised, other than the innuendo coming straight from Oscar's company?

Providing De La Hoya with a forum from which to dispense propaganda  only begins to illustrate the hopelessly compromised position from which The Ring continues to operate. They might as well give Schaefer a column, too, while they're at it.

Nearly seven months have elapsed since we last visited the Ring/Golden Boy relationship, and at the risk of winding Nigel up, it might be useful here to note that in the midst of last June's discourse, The Ring's editor offered a laundry list of the magazine's covers since the De La Hoya takeover as a demonstration of Golden Boy's restraint.

After listing them, Nigel Collins wrote “that's 28 covers over the course of 21 issues, of which Top Rank had 12 fighters, as opposed to eight for Golden Boy and eight for other promotional entities. Obviously, The Ring has shown no bias to Golden Boy when it comes to magazine covers.”

It had never even been suggested that the conflict of interest extended to the magazine playing favorites in choosing its cover subjects, but since Nigel brought it up it is probably worth noting now that of those eight covers given over to “other promotional entities,” two were of David Haye, whose promoter was properly listed as “Hayemaker,” but who had also signed a promotional deal with Golden Boy in May of 2008. (Just last month GBP issued a release in De La Hoya's name in which it described itself as “Golden Boy Promotions, the United States promoter of World Boxing Association Heavyweight World Champion David Haye.”)

And even more to the point, in four other issues Nigel Collins offered in evidence the cover subject was Floyd Mayweather (Independent), although what has transpired with regard to the Pacquiao fight doesn't make Money look very independent at all, does it?

We don't regularly keep track of these things, but in making sure we didn't misquote  Oscar's Blog we also came across a representation of the January 2010 issue on The Ring's website.  The picture on the cover of the Bible of Boxing is of the Golden Boy himself, and the cover story “De La Hoya: The Retirement Interview.”

Wow! Now there's a hot topic for crusading journalists.

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Articles of 2009

Paul Malignaggi Explains Why He Thinks Manny Has Used PEDs



In theory and in practice I am vehemently opposed to people tossing out unfounded allegations against someone. Supply evidence, then we can talk. But saying someone is using steroids, or EPO, or HGH, based on a theory, or your gut instinct….I have to consider, what if the allegation were thrown at me, and I was 100% innocent. I'd be mightily irked. And so too would you be.

Manny Pacquaio has been hammered from all sides with folks insinuating and coming right out with the contention that they think he's been cheating, that he's been using illegal performance enhancers to give him an edge in competition. Floyd Mayweather Sr, Paulie Malignaggi, Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron have either accused Manny, or insinuated that he's been using PEDs. One has to wonder, where's all this smoke coming from? Is it possible that there's fire lurking? That these folks aren't just lobbing unfounded barbs at Manny, that their allegations and hints aren't just sour grapes, or posturing, or a ploy to lure Manny into a fight?

By and large, there hasn't been much in the way of coverage from the standpoint of: what if Manny is using PEDs, or was using PEDs? I think that is rightly so; I'd be more comfortable if none of us trafficked in the innuendo and speculation, and worked within the realm of evidence, and facts. But it's out there, and a topic of conversation and speculation. Perhaps it's a symptom and sign of the times we live in…

TSS reached out to Malignaggi, just off a solid win in his Dec. 12 rematch with Juan Diaz. The Brooklyn-based pugilist has never been shy about speaking his peace (I picture him exiting his mom's womb and barking at the labor and delivery crew to get the room cleaned up, stat!), and he shared with TSS what he bases his allegations, which he's careful to label opinion, upon.

First off, Malignaggi is of the belief that if the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations are at a fatal impasse, Yuri Foreman, and not he, will get the coveted date with Pacquiao. Malignaggi has been mentioned as stand-in for Mayweather.

He started off by insisting that ” I have nothing against Pacquiao” but then went from mellow to madman in a 30 second span.

First off, the boxer wonders why Team Pacquiao isn't going after big-time newspapers, with deep pocketed owners, for libel, for insinuating that Pacquiao is drug cheat.

“If Pacquiao's so sue happy, why not sue the New York Daily News?” he asked. “Maybe they know the steroid allegations are true.”

By and large, Malignaggi thinks it is impossible, utterly impossible, for a boxer to put on 15 or more pounds between March 15, 2008, when he fought Juan Manuel Marquez and weighed 129 pounds at the weigh in, and Nov. 14, 2009 when he fought Miguel Cotto and was 144 pounds at the weigh in, and more on fight night.

“It's not natural looking,” Malignaggi said. But, I countered, what if Manny's supremely blessed, that unlike some other fighters who go up in weight, and look a bit bloated, and lack definition, he's just a special creature?

“He's not supremely blessed,” Maliganngi said. “I know body builders. They can't put on 17 or whatever pounds of muscle in a year. It's not doable, in my opinion. These are my speculations, my opinions based on certain factual evidence. Does his weight gain look normal to you? And his head looks like it has blown up in size, too.”

I offered to Malignaggi that perhaps we should be attacking the system, if we believe it to be lacking, rather than the individual.

“We can blame the system a little bit, but if you were Manny, wouldn't you want to leave no doubt? Or speculation?” said Maliganngi, who believes that by not agreeing to the terms set forth by Team Mayweather, and opposing a blood test within 30 days of the bout, Pacquaio appears guilty.

Pacquiao has agreed to take 3 blood tests: the first during the week of the kickoff news conference in early January, the second random test to be conducted no later than 30 days before the fight, and a final test after the bout. A video making the rounds from the HBO 24/7 series shows Pacquiao submitting to a blood test two or three weeks before he was due to fight Ricky Hatton, and that has cast doubt on Team Pacquiao's stance that Manny is disinclined to get a blood test too close to a bout, for fear he may be weakened. Originally, it was reported in error that that test was taken 14 days before the Hatton bout, but subsequent reports pegged the test as being taken 24 days before the scrap. Malignaggi feels Pacquiao has been caught lying, that the report from Team Pacquiao that he “has difficulty taking blood” is a cover story. “Why is he effing lying?” Malignaggi said, heatedly.

The New Yorker doesn't believe too many fighters in the lighter weight classes are using PEDs, but thinks usage isn't uncommon in the heavyweight division. “That's hard to do and make weight,” he said.

The question is asked of Malignaggi: why does the issue make him so steamed?

“I don't like cheaters,” he said. “This is not baseball. You're not just hitting home runs. You have to worry about peoples' lives. Miguel Cotto in my opinion has been beaten by two cheaters. Manny if he's cheating is taking away from guys who are doing things the right way. His team is reneging on their words.”

And what if you're wrong, Malignaggi? What if Manny is clean, and you are hurting his rep with these allegations?

“I bet everything I own that I'm not,” he said. “But we'll never find out. Hey, I would take the test in a heartbeat. I would want people to know I'm clean. He wants to leave doubts!?? His entire legacy is being questioned, he's willing to hurt his legacy and leave $40 million on the table?”

Maliganngi, after reminding TSS that he was correct in predicting he'd be gamed by judges in the first fight with Diaz, insisted that he isn't singling out Pacquiao for a personal vendetta. “”I've never had anything against him. But that's enough now. I call it like I see it.”

What about those who'd say he's just trying to anger Pacquiao, to lure him into a fight?

“No. I expected he'd take the random tests to get this fight. No way I thought he'd throw away everything. That blew me away. It was cool to have my name mentioned.”

Malignaggi thinks the boxing media has dropped the ball, and not exercised due diligence in examining the possibility that Manny has used PEDs.

“I understand most people like Manny, and not Floyd. Just cause that's the case doesn't mean Manny might not be cheating. It's nothing to do with him personally. But I call a spade a spade. Too many people avoid the possibilities because Manny's a likable person. He's got that front, his country loves him. That front works like crazy. Floyd plays the bad guy, but he's natural. Just don't downplay the fact that Manny might be cheating. You have to open your eyes and at least be willing to look at it. This is bigger than me. The fact that the fight is not being made, you have to question the integrity of Pacquiao.”

Malignaggi then offered an analogy to the Manny-refusing-to-be-subjected-to multiple-random-drug-tests prior-to-a-fight-with-Mayweather deal. “It reminds me of the drunk guy who's pulled over at 3 AM. He has a field sobriety test, the cop knows he's drunk, he looks and acts drunk. But he refuses a breathalyzer test. That don't mean the cop don't haul him to the police station.”

I reiterate…I don't think anyone should be casting aspersions based on circumstantial evidence. But with so many people ganging up on Manny, I think fight fans are owed some details on why people are accusing Pacman of using PEDs.

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