As the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps hit the halfway mark, some interesting story lines are starting to materialize. Fans have been deluged with a range of Money/Pac articles that run from the very serious to the frivolous. Journalists continue to look under every rock to find something compelling to talk about. As it turns out, nothing sells quite like a good Money May and Pacman article. Of late, Freddie Roach and his ongoing smack talk has been contrasted with Floyd Sr.’s uncharacteristic, relative silence. It looks like Mayweather Sr. is poised to ride into the sunset with his son, and all things being equal, feels like his hall of fame career has run its course. He seems happy, content, and more importantly, at peace. Roach, on the other hand, as he blasts Mayweather with a PED accusation, appears increasingly unhinged and angry.
This curious role reversal has many scratching their heads. While Roach has made a habit of mean-spirited, bully-talk and of thinking out loud and perhaps saying things he later regretted (e.g. implying that Alex Ariza was putting something illegal in Pacquiao’s drinks), he appears to have pushed the envelope a bit far even by his liberal standards. In a post-press conference interview, and later in camp, Roach not-so-subtly implied that Mayweather was on some form of PEDs, saying, “Well, sometimes I see pimples on [Mayweather’s] back and I wonder why. . . if someone needs to cheat to win, it’s not worth it.” For those who know PED-talk, these are fighting words.
On the relative heels of the Pacquiao lawsuit against the Mayweathers and the subsequent settlement for their apparent suggestion that Pac was on PEDs, one would think that Roach would tread lightly. Not being one who is overly sensitive to others’ feelings or learned in the details of political correctness, Roach let the implication fly without so much as an afterthought. Few people picked up on the observation, much less made an issue of it, including the Mayweather camp. While the issue appears to be a non-issue to some, what is an emerging issue is Roach’s flair for ridicule, mean-spirited bombast, and over-the-top accusations. As Roach continues to agitate, objective observers note the apparent incongruency with the calm, relative poise, and even overt compassion as well as kindness of his main charge, Pacquiao.
Before the press conference announcing the fight, Pac encouraged his lead trainer to be nice, as did Bob Arum. With Pac’s urging ringing in his ears, Roach dutifully went to the dais and announced that Pac was going to “kick his *ss.” While it came off as funny at the time, what has followed is perhaps less so. In the immediate aftermath of the press conference, Roach blasted Mayweather with the PED accusation, and then offered up a range of Mayweather camp-induced conspiracies to undo Pac’s training camp. The comment and venom that followed, though not having the desired or intended effect, perhaps communicates less about Mayweather than it does about Roach and the mentality he brings to the fight.
The accusation that Mayweather is in any way, shape, or form involved with PEDs is absurd and unworthy of serious response. What is worthy of response, however, is if not the actual attempt to associate Mayweather with PEDs, the mentality and curious hypocrisy behind it. It is clearly one thing to amp up a fight in order to drive up interest and pay-per-view buys, but it is quite another to engage in a quality of rhetoric that is designed to impugn the integrity of another, without any offering of evidence. In the end, there is literally no difference between what the Mayweathers were accusing Pacquiao of doing and what Roach is currently implying about Mayweather.
This is not the first time Roach has played the PEDs card. Roach is currently being sued by Ariza for suggesting that the erstwhile strength and conditioning coach was putting something funny in drinks he prepared for Pacquiao while he was a part of Pac’s training team. For all of the character issues surrounding Ariza, he is surely not about the business of supplying anyone with PEDs. He may be rude, prideful, and unforgiving, but he is not stupid and knows that supplying a high-profile athlete with PEDs would be committing professional suicide. He was not about to sit idly by and watch his reputation sullied, so he executed a defamation suit against Roach, which will run its course in appropriate legal courts. The court of public opinion, however, is quite another matter–one in which it is impossible to win if said court becomes convinced of a person’s guilt, regardless of the facts involved.
A curious side note is that Ariza was also accused by the Mayweather camp of supplying PEDs to Pac when he was in his charge, so it is a bit ironic that the Mayweather camp would then employ his services against Pac. That issue notwithstanding, Roach should be held to account for his wanton and apparently reckless talk. It is one thing to sell a fight; it is quite another to sell an innocent man down the river and not be held to account. As Pacquiao’s lead trainer blasts Mayweather with a new and out-of-left-field PED accusation clearly calculated to destabilize and upset the latter, Roach needs to better understand and appreciate that there are legal, not to mention public relations, consequences to such malice. Pacquiao deserves better.
Opinion By Matthew R. Fellows