Just when it looked like negotiations for the biggest fight of the decade were on the verge of collapsing, it appears the megafight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is inching closer as both sides continue to try and reach an agreement regarding drug testing policies for the bout. "We are OK to move off USADA," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer revealed earlier today to Dan Rafael of ESPN. The announcement comes on the heels of Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, declaring that the highly-anticipated bout was off.
Originally, Mayweather's camp requested Olympic-style random drug testing to be conducted by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Pacquiao's camp, however, objected. For days, the two sides have been at an impasse regarding the testing policy. In a press release distributed by Top Rank, Arum made it clear that the major issue revolved around the use of the USADA as the testing agency. According to their guidelines, random blood tests can be conducted as many times as possible all the way up to the day prior to the fight. Pacquiao was against the idea of random blood testing leading up to the fight, preferring to avoid any unnecessary harrassment during training camp. Given the unwillingness of the USADA to change their policies, Pacquiao's camp instead suggested that testing be conducted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission or any of the more flexible independent agencies that have worked with the NFL, the NBA or MLB.
Today's announcement by Schaefer is a small, but major step in the right direction to getting this fight back on track to becoming a reality. "What we're saying, and what is important to us, is four things: that the tests be random, that they include blood and urine and the time frame, meaning when do you stop the tests before the fight but know they will still be effective," Schaefer continued as he revealed details of the current status of negotiations. "Three of them we have agreed on: random, blood and urine. So now it is a matter of the two sides working out the specifics of the cutoff date to assure it will still be effective."
Although negotiations originally began between Bob Arum and Richard Schaefer, those duties have been handed over to Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank, and Bruce Binkow, a Golden Boy executive. According to Schaefer, with both sides agreeing to random blood and urine tests, the only issue left, the cutoff date, is currently being discussed. "Todd and Bruce are trying to work out the specifics of the cutoff to assure the tests are still effective because we know that 30 days before is not effective," Schaefer added. "We want to figure it out [the cutoff date] and I will give my recommendation to Team Mayweather, and they will be on board. USADA is the most recognized one, but if it's another one, like the Nevada commission, we don't really care. I don't care who performs the tests as long as they are performed. That's our position. If this fight doesn't happen it's not because of Team Mayweather."
Of course, now that Mayweather has backed off his original demands and is willing to work out an agreement, Bob Arum revealed that it may too late as it appears Pacquiao is now unwilling to perform any blood tests unless it's required by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who currently only tests urine samples. "If they go to the commission and they ask for blood tests and the commission says yes, we will do whatever the commission says. The commission says blood testing, we'll do blood testing. We're not going to help it or oppose it. We're not going to give any credence to this nonsense. They want to sign a contract under the rules of the commission, fine. We don't want the fight if it means Manny is going to be pushed around," Arum countered. "Let the commission tell us how many days in front they want blood. Let the commission pick a date to stop taking blood. We trust the commission. Blood testing we think is unnecessary, but fine, we'll do it. But let the commission set the parameters. Let Golden Boy approach the commission and say we want to take blood when he's walking into the ring. Whatever the commission wants to do we will support, but we won't take part in this exercise in nonsense, a procedure which is contrary to how boxing has been conducted in Nevada for 40 years."
Fortunately, despite Arum being extremely vocal about the fight being off, it appears that both sides are still working diligently to reach an agreement. Let's all cross our fingers and hope that the most highly-anticipated fight in recent years doesn't fall through because of a disagreement about a date.