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Articles of 2009

He Was More Than A Contender

George Kimball

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NEW YORK — It began with Archie McBride, the heavyweight contender Budd Schulberg managed almost sixty years ago, tolling the final 10-count, and ended with a solo from the great jazz trumpeter Jon Faddis while behind him on the stage, a slide show provided vignettes depicting Budd Schulberg's remarkable 95-year life. Several hundred relatives, friends, and admirers gathered at the Society for Ethical Culture in New York on Saturday to say their final goodbye to the Boxing Hall of Famer, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, and acclaimed novelist who had passed away on August 5.

Budd's son Benn served as the promoter and ring announcer for his father's final main event, while a succession of heavyweights from the worlds of boxing, literature, film, and drama, whose tributes were interspersed with television clips depicting seminal moments in Schulberg's career(s), provided the undercard for the three-hour event.

Just as his first novel WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN had rendered Budd persona non grata in Hollywood circles in 1941, the 1947 publication of THE HARDER THEY FALL guaranteed a frosty reception in certain ringside circles. It was along about this time that Schulberg, having already made the transition from lifelong fight fan to boxing writer, took on his first and only hands-on involvement in the sport he had recently scourged by agreeing to manage McBride, at the time an up-and-coming heavyweight from Trenton, whom at one point Budd got to 19-2 and a position in the heavyweight rankings.

Schulberg had had a ring erected in the barn of his country home in Pennsylvania which he converted into a training camp. What he had not foreseen was that the remote location would occasionally discourage the usual suspects from traveling from the busy gyms in Philadelphia and New York to box with McBride. One such occurrence came at a critical stage in McBride's career — on the eve of Archie's 1955 fight against Floyd Patterson, and in the absence of other sparring partners, Budd had to put on the gloves himself. The sparring session ended predictably, with the fighter bloodying his manager's nose. A few nights later Patterson would bloody Archie's, knocking him down three times on the way to a seventh-round stoppage.

The TKO to McBride was a rare loss for Budd, who was 2-0 in bouts with Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer, but Benn Schulberg provided an account of another. From the time he was old enough to stand, the Schulbergs pere et fils had engaged in family sparring sessions at their Long Island home, with Benn flailing away at his father, who was obliged not only to fight while on his knees, but to simultaneously provide a blow-by-blow narration of the bout in progress. The tradition continued for several years, by which time Benn had not only somewhat improved his boxing technique, but advanced through several weight classes. One morning, Benn related, he cut loose with a left to the body followed by a right that knocked his surprised father, by then well into his 70s, ass over teakettle, producing divergent responses from his parents.

“Gee, Benn, I think you just broke my jaw,” said his father.

“That's it. No more fighting!” ordered Betsy Schulberg, whose word was law.

ON THE WATERFRONT, for which Budd received the Academy Award, might not have been in the strictest sense a “boxing movie,” but Marlon Brando's character Terry Malloy is the ex-pug who “coulda been a contender,” and at Budd's insistence, a trio of charter members of the Bum of the Month Club —  Two-Ton Tony Galento, Tami Mauriello, and Abe Simon — were cast as burly longshoremen in the film. One highlight of the program was the telecast of the 1954 Oscar ceremony, when, after director Elia Kazan and Brando had already won their statuettes, Bob Hope and Brando opened the 'Best Screenplay' envelope and summoned Budd from the audience to receive his. (And let history record that he didn't even try to look surprised. He knew what he'd done.)

Pete Hamill recalled having first met Budd at the 1962 Sonny Liston-Floyd Patterson fight in Chicago, an occasion far more memorable for the press room cast publicist Harold Conrad had assembled than for the barely two minutes of action in the ring. “You'd look in one direction and there would be Norman Mailer and A.J. Liebling,” recalled Hamill, then just in his second year as a newspaperman, “and you'd look the other way and there would be Nelson Algren and James Baldwin and Budd Schulberg.”

(Liebling, recounting the same scene in the New Yorker, wrote that “the press gatherings before this fight sometimes resembled those highly intellectual pour-parlers on some Mediterranean island; placed before typewriters, the accumulated novelists could have produced a copy of the Paris Review in forty-two minutes.”)

Hamill also recalled that on the evening of June 6, 1968, he and his brother Brian had driven across Los Angeles to pick up Budd in their rental car, and driven from there to the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy would be speaking once the returns were in from that day's California primary. Budd, said Hamill, remembered the hotel from his youth as the scene of some memorable Hollywood debauchery. Both Hamill and Schulberg were waiting in the kitchen that night when Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy. Hours later, once the east coast deadlines had passed, everyone reconnoitered, still battered by the shocking assassination. Everyone was grieving, but Schulberg made it his particular point that night to console Hamill, who he knew had lost a close personal friend.

The poet (and Miles Davis biographer) Quincy Troupe, as it turned out, had another memory of Budd and RFK's final days. Two days before the candidate was killed, Budd had brought the candidate by 9807 B Street to visit Watts 13, a byproduct of the Watts Writers Workshop Budd had founded in response to the 1965 Watts riots. The premises consisted of a modest inner-city house, fronted by what Troupe, perhaps the most prominent product of Schulberg's Watts initiative, described as “a really tiny lawn.”  The poet Jimmie Sherman, another workshop member, had made the cultivation of the lawn his personal project.

“It was his pride and joy,” said Troupe. On the day of the visit Schulberg and Sen. Kennedy stepped out of a large black sedan. Budd, aware of Jimmy Sherman's vested interest was careful to go around by the walkway. RFK decided to short-cut across the lawn.

“What the hell do you think you're doing?” thundered Jimmy Sherman. “Get off the goddamn grass!”

The presidential candidate, remembers Troupe, “jumped.

“But he when he came inside he talked with all of us, and more important, he seemed to listen.”   Budd recalled that later that day in Kennedy's hotel suite he spoke of initiating a federally-sponsored program based on Schulberg's concept in Watts.

Gene Kilroy, Muhammad Ali's old camp facilitator, noted that although Howard Cosell and others climbed on the bandwagon later, Budd Schulberg had been Ali's first and most prominent defender, railing against the injustice when the champion was stripped of his title and his boxing license for his stance against the Vietnam War.  And Bert Sugar recalled attending a fight at Foxwoods a few years ago, when Budd arrived to discover that there were no remaining seats in the press section. There were, however, a dozen empty seats in an immediately adjacent ringside area.  Upon inquiry, a spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequod tribal nation explained that the seats had been reserved for “The Elders.”

“Elder? Show me somebody who's more elder than Budd,” replied Sugar, and the 92 year-old Elder got his seat.

There was also a film clip of a Budd's appearance on “Person-to-Person” with Edward R. Murrow. Watching Murrow conduct the entire interview while puffing on his trademark smoke, I found myself thinking that modern-day New York laws probably would have ordered Murrow's cigarette to be airbrushed out of the picture.

My turn to speak immediately followed the Murrow interview. “Does Bloomberg know about this?” I asked.

Budd, who had stayed busy right up to the end, was involved in recent years in a couple of intriguing projects that never quite got off the ground — Spike Lee's documentary on Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, based on a screenplay Budd had written, and a film version of WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN, which Ben Stiller had optioned more than a dozen years ago. Both Lee and Stiller recalled that, although no one was more aware of the Purgatory in which Hollywood scripts can reside for years, there were regular phone calls asking about the status of the films. And both seemed equally contrite that the projects didn't come to fruition in Budd's lifetime.

When they showed up for their first story conference in Hollywood, Stiller recalled, the retyped script circulating around the table had somehow omitted the title page notation “based on the novel by Budd Schulberg,” which didn't exactly get the relationship off to a flying start.

“Ben Stiller, fresh off 'The Cable Guy.” Jerry Stahl, fresh off a park bench in MacArthur Park,” Stahl, Stiller's writing partner on the SAMMY project,” recreated the scene at Budd's memorial. “I in retrospect, I can imagine how thrilled Budd Schulberg, the man who wrote ON THE WATERFRONT, must have been to have a couple of giants adapting the greatest work of his lifetime.”

“But still, we stayed in touch, years after there was any real talk of mounting the movie,” said Stiller. “Whenever I’d re-connect with Budd, he’d look at me with those alarmingly blue eyes. “Well…?”

“And I’d just sigh and say 'Not yet, Budd, not yet.”'  I had to get over the feeling that every time we saw each other we were both reminding ourselves of the unfinished business between us, and the frustration we both felt. I don’t know if I ever did.

“I gave him an award a couple of years back at a film festival in Culver City,” added Stiller. “I dropped it off the podium, of course, and Budd just laughed. At some point he really could have just said, 'Enough of you Stiller, and your pseudo Sammy crusade. You had my baby, and you didn’t get it done!!' It would have been easy, even expected. But he didn’t. Never. He always asked how my dad was, or how the project I was working on was going.”

Spike Lee, who expressed similar remorse over having to repeatedly offer similar responses when Budd asked about their project, recalled that it was only after committing himself to the Louis-Schmeling film that he fully realized that he'd be working with a living piece of both boxing and Hollywood history.

“Budd knew Joe Louis. He knew Max Schmeling,” said the filmmaker. “That was impressive, but then when I found out he'd personally arrested Leni Riefenstahl, wow!”

(The apprehension of Hitler's favorite filmmaker came in connection with Schulberg's naval service in World War II and its aftermath, when he was charged with compiling the photographic evidence presented at the Nuremberg Trials.)

Steven Berkoff, the British director of the stage version of ON THE WATERFRONT that played to rave reviews in London's West End earlier this year, announced his pride at having “directed the first production of ON THE WATERFRONT performed in English.  When that one sailed right over the heads of pretty much the entire audience, Berkoff (who also played Johnny Friendly in the London production) had to lapse into Hobokenese to explain the joke.

There were messages from Hugh McIlvanney, the Boxing Bard of Scotland, from Andy Griffith (whose first starring role had come when he played Lonesome Rhodes in Budd's A FACE IN THE CROWD), and from Christopher Plummer,  whose film debut had come when he was cast in Budd's WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES. (Plummer recalled his astonishment at Budd's capacity for alcohol, and his own performance by saying “Burl Ives was great, I was terrible.”)

Nephew K.C. Schulberg recalled last February's trip with Budd and Betsy from London to Paris — the morning after opening night for the London WATERFRONT play, which had been followed by an all-night piss-up with Berkoff and the cast. And Budd's niece, Chris O'Sullivan, read a heartfelt message from Budd's younger sister Sonya at the New York memorial.

Dr. Nicholas Beck, who authored a 2001 biography of Schulberg, recalled that in its first incarnation when it was written as a short story for Liberty magazine, WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN had been entitled WHAT MAKES MANNY RUN. It was changed at the suggestion of Budd's father B.P. Schulberg, who feared that Emanuel “Manny” Cohen, the man who had replaced him when he was dumped as head of Paramount Studios, might interpret it as “an act of petty revenge.”

So Manny became Sammy, but the name change backfired in the end anyway. By the time SAMMY came out as a book, Budd was working for as an in-house screenwriter for Samuel Goldwyn.  An underling, pointing out that Sammy Glick's initials were also SG, convinced Goldwyn that Sammy had been based on him, and Budd was fired and ordered off the MGM lot before he even knew of the accusation.

Ivan R. Dee, the Chicago publisher who in recent years reissued THE HARDER THEY FALL and published several collections of Schulberg's boxing pieces, said that to appreciate how good a writer he was one had only to compare his work to that of the other, “supposedly respected” boxing writers, whose work he described, I believe, as uniformly vapid. Dee presumably thought he was doing a service to Budd's memory, but it wasn't a very smart thing to say in a room full of boxing writers.

In the late 1960s the Broadway composer Frank Loesser had written the score for a Broadway adaptation (SENOR DISCRETION HIMSELF) of a short story by Budd, but Loesser (GUYS AND DOLLS; HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING; THE MOST HAPPY FELLA) died in 1969 before it could be finished, Jo Sullivan and Emily Loesser, the composer's widow and daughter, performed a moving duet of the play's show-stopper, “You Understand Me.'

SENIOR DISCRETION HIMSELF was revived five years ago at the Arena Stage in Washington, under the direction of Charles Randolph Wright, who suggested engaging the Los Angeles-based Chicano ensemble Culture Clash to complete Loesser's unfinished book and libretto. Culture Clash co-founder Richard Montoya came East to confer on he project, and met with Wright and Schulberg at one of those swank restaurants in the Hamptons.  The trio was standing near the front door when one of those celebrity wannabes who flock to the Hamptons each summer pulled up in to the front door in his Mercedes. Assuming that the Mexican-American standing beside the African-American must be a valet parking attendant, he wordlessly tossed his car keys to Montoya and rushed inside.

Wright said that Budd, having watched this exercise in profiling unfold before his eyes, turned to Montoya with what sounded more like an order than a suggestion.

“He looked at Richie and said, “Keep them!”

Articles of 2009

UFC 108 Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva

David A. Avila

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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

George Kimball

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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!”

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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 Ring.com 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

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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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