LAS VEGAS, USA – Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett says that he does not know of any situation in the last 15 years where a fighter had a pain killer injected into their shoulder on fight night.
But that’s not to say that it couldn’t have happened.
Speaking with Rappler on Tuesday afternoon, May 5, Bennett says that had Manny Pacquiao and his promoter Top Rank informed the commission about an injury in training before his May 2 fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr, a “win-win for both parties” could have been negotiated.
On Pacquiao’s pre-fight medical questionnaire which was completed before Friday’s weigh-in, Pacquiao’s use of lidocaine, bupivicaine, celestone, plasma replacement therapy (PRP) and Toradol were disclosed, but did not disclose the torn right rotator cuff he suffered in a sparring session less than a month before the fight.
The questionnaire was filled out by Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz, Koncz told the New York Daily News, with both Pacquiao and Koncz signing it. Technically, the camp could face perjury charges for the non-disclosure.
Pacquiao claims a formal request had been filed with the commission two weeks before the fight, while Arum claimed at the post-fight press conference that the commission knew of the injury beforehand.
NAC commissioner Francisco Aguilar said at the post-fight press conference that they had only been informed of an intent to use the numbing agents less than two hours before the first bell was scheduled to ring.
Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 knockouts) lost a unanimous decision in what was the most financially lucrative fight in boxing history.
“He was on this medication which we all know is not a performance enhancing drug and he didn’t need a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE),” Bennett tells Rappler.
But Bennett says that lidocaine, and particularly the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Toradol, could act as a pain killer that would numb Pacquiao to the effect of Mayweather’s punches.
“Conversely, you have somebody like Mr Mayweather who is fighting and he throws a punch and it doesn’t have its full effect because Manny is on a pain killer, so I mean you really have to look at it from both parties,” said Bennett, who added that he is not a doctor and had not consulted one in preparation for the interview.
When asked if the substances would’ve shown up on a post-fight urine test administered by the State, Bennett said they would not to his knowledge.
“Out of competition testing, they’re very difficult to detect,” Bennett added.
A report in the Philippines cited an unnamed member of Team Pacquiao saying that he had knowledge that Mayweather, who is known to have had chronic hand injuries throughout his career, had injected substances into his hands. Bennett said he did not know of any fighter who had done so since he assumed his post.
“There’ve been speculations on a number of different fighters doing a number of different things that have not been proven,” said Bennett. “And I’m not speaking specifically about Mayweather because the situation didn’t come up with Floyd; it came up with Manny. So has this come up before with other fighters? Not in the last year that I’ve been here has it been brought to my attention.”
Bennett was also asked if Mayweather would’ve been informed of Pacquiao’s injury had it been disclosed, as informing the opponent of a potential vulnerability would have been a disadvantage.
Bennett said it would be up to the chairman and commission doctors to decide how to proceed.
“If the doctors first discussed it and there was doctor/patient confidentiality and they didn’t want it released, the chairman wouldn’t have been a part of it. But once it became public information, that would be up to the chairman and the commissioners to negotiate as to whether or not the opponent would be notified,” said Bennett.
A joint statement from Team Pacquiao and Top Rank said that they had informed USADA of the injury and were cleared to use the medications.
“Manny’s advisors notified the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) of the shoulder injury and 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 report read.
Travis Tygart, CEO of USADA, told Associated Press that his third party agency “had no medical information, no MRIs, no documents,” adding that Pacquiao’s team either “made a terrible mistake to not follow the rules or they were not trying to give information to the other side.”
Koncz called the incident “just an inadvertent mistake,” but also placed blame on the commission.
“Wouldn’t you ask a question about all these medications (on the questionnaire)?” Koncz said.
Pacquiao, 36, will have surgery to repair the injury this week. Koncz told Rappler that the boxer would be out of action from 4 to 6 months, while Dr Neal ElAttrache informed ESPN that Pacquiao could be out of action for 9 to 12 months.
Mayweather (48-0, 26 KOs) told ESPN host Stephen A. Smith that he would face Pacquiao in a rematch next year after he undergoes surgery despite saying after the fight that he would retire after a final fight in September.
Bennett said that while Pacquiao could face penalties under Nevada Administrative Code 467.885 for not disclosing the injury, the commission is still gathering statements and information.
“If they are in that point in time upon doing a comprehensive investigation, we’ll determine what our options are and if Manny or any one else from Top Rank should be brought before the commission,” said Bennett.
Bennett said that it had been brought to the commission’s attention that it was Koncz and not Pacquiao who filled out the form, adding that the commission held no ill will towards the 8-division champion for what has transpired.
“Naturally, we wish Manny well. We’re not fans, we’re strictly regulators. We regulate the sport without any prejudice or bias and Manny’s been a great asset as a fighter,” said Bennett.
“It’s a pleasure having Manny here and it’s an unfortunate situation that came up.” – Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia