Manny Pacquiao's shoulder injury produces more questions than answers

May 4, 2015

The disappointing mega-bout between boxing stars Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather has taken on an unforeseen post-fight controversy that not only explains why the fight was so lackluster, but also sets up a potential rematch between the fighters.

At the post-fight press conference, Manny Pacquiao and promoter Bob Arum started to provide details to the media about a shoulder injury that Pacquiao had suffered during camp, and indicated that the Nevada State Athletic Commission had denied Pacquiao the use of pain medication on fight night.

After a strong fourth round in which Pacquiao appeared to stun Mayweather with a straight left, forcing Mayweather to cover up while Pacquiao landed another clean combination, Pacquiao then was uncharacteristically inactive for the remainder of the bout. Pacquiao claimed later to have re-injured his shoulder during the flurry.

Part of Pacquiao's subsequent low work rate had to do with Mayweather's counterpunching and greater reach, but not entirely, as Manny seemed to walk through the shots fairly easily.

Such passivity also seemed contrary to  Pacquiao's history as a fighter, as he has always been willing to come in aggressively and risk taking a shot just so he could land one of his own.  Effective counterpunching has never been much of a deterrent to Pacquiao in the past.

Top Rank and Team Pacquiao issued a joint statement addressing the situation more thoroughly, although their statement now raises additional questions:
"During training, Manny Pacquiao suffered a right shoulder injury.  Manny went to see world-class doctors, partners in the prestigious Kerlan Jobe Orthopedic Clinic,  who performed tests and, in consultation with Manny, his promoter, and his advisors, concluded that with short rest, treatments, and close monitoring, Manny could train and, on May 2, step into the ring against Floyd Mayweather.
Manny’s advisors notified the United States Anti-Doping Agency (“USADA”) of the shoulder injury and the treatments being proposed by the doctors during training and on fight night.  USADA spoke to Manny’s doctors twice, investigated, and confirmed in writing that the proposed treatments, if used, were completely allowed.  The medication approved for fight night was a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (Toradol).
Manny continued to train and his shoulder improved, though not 100%.  This is boxing, injuries happen, and Manny is a warrior.  Again, in consultation with his doctors, promoter and advisors, Manny decided to proceed with the fight anticipating that he could receive his pre-fight treatment.  That specific treatment had been approved by USADA in writing at least 5 days before the fight.  
On his pre-fight medical form filled out earlier in the week, Manny’s advisors listed the medications that Manny used in training and the medications that might be used on fight night.  A few hours before he was expected to step in the ring, when Manny’s doctors began the process, the Nevada Commission stopped the treatment because it said it was unaware of Manny’s shoulder injury.
This was disappointing to Team Pacquiao since they had disclosed the injury and treatment to USADA, USADA approved the treatments, and Manny had listed the medication on his pre-fight medical form.
Also, USADA had provided a copy of its contract with the fighters to the Commission.  An hour before the fight, Manny’s advisors asked the Commission to reconsider and the director of USADA advised the Commission that USADA had approved the fight-night treatment, but the Commission denied the request.
With the advice of his doctors, Manny still decided to proceed with the fight.  His shoulder wasn’t perfect but it had improved in training camp.
However, as Manny has said multiple times, he makes no excuses.  Manny gave it his best."

Often fighters make excuses after losses, or claim in the face of evidence to the contrary, that they should have won the fight.  However, Pacquiao has always been very willing to talk about his injuries, such as leg cramping, even after his wins.  When asked a question, he matter-of-factly will answer.

The true indicator of whether this indeed is a serious, rather than a mere nagging injury, will be known should Manny be required to have surgery.

If so, not only would he save face for a sub-par effort, but it could also give him an additional measure of admiration for trying to tough it out and compete.

Ironically, for Mayweather, the one thing he hoped to get from the victory, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, has been greatly tarnished because his victory was over a physically compromised, one-armed fighter.  As a result, we might be treated to a rematch, which still would be more interesting than a lot of the other potential opponents projected to fight Mayweather.

For the public, most of whom paid a pretty penny to watch this event, no satisfaction was gained. The fight was dull, and the question of who is better was not truly answered to the degree everyone hoped since it is now known that one fighter fought with just a left hand.

The real questions however, involve the powers-that-be in the fight: Top Rank, the Nevada Athletic Commission, and USADA.

If Pacquiao's management team was not capable of handling the situation properly, why then did Top Rank not step in and try to have the medical records on hand?

More importantly, why was the public not told of the injury by both promoters?

Why did USADA not provide full information to Nevada at an earlier time?

As for the Nevada Athletic Commission, if it was dealing with USADA and was aware that this third party was inextricably intertwined in the production of this massive event, why was it not more proactive in communicating with that body about the testing and medications being used?

When Nevada did get notice of the medications prior to fight day, why was there no inquiry at that time about the reason for the medications? Why would they assume that the same medications used prior to the fight, would not then be used on fight night?

For that matter, how much did Mayweather know, and is that the reason why his promotional company  took so ridiculously long to start selling tickets less than two weeks before the fight?

Nor should HBO and Showtime get off scot free. The behind-the-scenes pre-fight programming offered by both channels made no mention of any medical issue.

Already the spin and the denials are coming out by the second, as Nevada is trying to deflect blame by putting the onus on Pacquiao for refusing to disclose the injury on the form.  According to one report, Nevada could be investigating Pacquiao for perjury.

In truth, this is far too common in boxing, as this macho sport demands its athletes compete, hurt or not, lest someone else step in and seize away the opportunity.

The late Vernon Forrest claimed for years to have fought with a bad shoulder that eventually needed surgery.  Shane Mosley claimed he felt great in the weeks leading up to his fight with Manny Pacquiao, but then afterward said he rushed back from an Achilles surgery.

Floyd Mayweather himself said he competed with a bad shoulder during the first Jose Luis Castillo fight, explaining perhaps why that fight was so close.  A healthy Mayweather would dominate the rematch.

To blame the athlete is a bit of a copout, given all the pressure to perform -- even for a superstar like Pacquiao -- and the dollars involved.

The facts are still emerging in this mess, but at first blush, it appears that the sporting institutions, both private and official, indeed failed the sport.

By Mike Elliott
Editor for

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