Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez’ mountain of muscle
Friday afternoon Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez stepped on the scale in Las Vegas, bringing us a step closer to (what we hope is) the final chapter in their career-defining series, and tying together several compelling storylines that have developed in the eight years since they first fought.
Can Marquez ever get a fair decision?
Can Pacquiao rekindle his aggressiveness while also solving Marquez’ counterpunching style?
And can anyone make sense of Marquez’ muscles?
Friday afternoon he removed his sweats to reveal a physique that could double as a suit of armour, and handed Pacquiao a rare loss in the pre-fight posedown.
In an era when every sports fan’s steroid radar is cranked up to 10, the puzzle of Marquez’ muscles seems easy to solve with a little arithmetic.
Late 30s athlete + a trainer with a shady past + a brand new mini Hercules physique = Steroids.
I doesn’t take Bob Beamon to leap to that conclusion. Three years ago Marquez thought drinking his own urine helped him recover between workouts, and now he’s muscular enough to make Pacquiao appear a touch soft by contrast.
Not so fast.
Tempting as it is to lob steroid accusations at Marquez as he heads into one more showdown with Pacquiao, there are some common-sense reasons to hold your fire.
1. THE MAN USED TO DRINK HIS OWN URINE…. !!!!
I repeat this fact not to gross you out but to provide you with a window in to the attitude Marquez held toward training, recovery and nutrition for at least the first 16 years of his pro boxing career. It’s pretty self-evident that the guy who thinks drinking urine will help him recover from training is at a competitive disadvantage compared to the guy who recovers with…well… anything other than urine.
If you train every day but switch from whey protein to hemp protein, you’ll see a difference in your physique. Same thing happens if you trade oatmeal for steel-cut oats.
So if Marquez ditches his post-workout glass of piss in favour of something with protein and carbs it makes perfect sense that his post-workout recovery will improve, as will the quality of his muscle. And if he trades a stone-age conditioning regimen for something more modern — like plyometrics… same stuff that helped transform Pacquiao’s build — then adding a few new layers of muscle is absolutely reasonable.
Even at 39.
2. MEMO: ONCE A CHEAT ALWAYS A CHEAT?
I’m not sure how to answer that question.
None of us is wrong to raise an eyebrow at Angel “Memo” Hernandez’ presence in camp. Nobody likes a drug cheat. Nobody likes a snitch.
Hernandez has been both, helping oversee the doping programs of athletes like Marion Jones and later earning immunity by testifying against disgraced coach Trevor Graham and others.
But I can’t say any of that equals cheating with Marquez until I figure out what makes Hernandez different from his former BALCO colleague Victor Conte, who has managed to work with several high profile fighters without arousing suspicions of doping.
When was the last time anybody attributed Andre Ward’s dominance to steroids?
If we can believe Conte has gone clean, and can offer athletes valuable expertise that has nothing to do with doping, why can’t we believe the same about Hernandez?
I’m not saying we have to.
Just wondering why we can’t.
3. POT, MEET KETTLE
Three years ago Floyd Mayweather implied incessantly Pacquiao’s transformation from wispy flyweight to power-punching welterweight owed to performance-enhancing drug use, and Pacquiao’s camp responded by filing a defamation suit.
Team Pacquiao has always maintained that Manny has relied on nothing more sinister than hard work, advanced training and a high-calorie diet to add slabs of muscle to his 5-foot-6 frame. And as we discussed above, the explanation is completely reasonable when dealing with people who need to stay fit for a living.
So you’d think that when steroid innuendo first started flying Marquez’ way Pacquiao’s camp, familiar with the sting of baseless accusations, would have pleaded for understanding, pointing to their man as an example of steroid-free improvement.
And you’d have thought wrong.
“If [his body] is natural, I will kiss his ass,” Roach told USA Today. “[Marquez] has gotten bigger and gained weight — it throws up a red flag. I’ve been accused so many times of my fighters being on steroids (that) I hate to accuse other people. But it is part of our life, part of the world we live in.”
For all of team Pacquiao’s strengths, empathy clearly isn’t one of them.
But if you’re trying to be objective it’s pretty clear.
Either it’s fair to accuse Pacquiao of doping for adding so much muscle late in his career, or its unfair to label Marquez a cheater for doing the same.
But it can’t be both.
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