Pacquiao vs Marquez: The Slippery Slope of Angel Heredia and Team Pacquiao's Need to Respond

Manny Pacquiao and his team need to address the brewing controversy coming from Juan Manuel Marquez's camp. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Of course we couldn't have just one major fight without some kind of "story" coming along. Not now, not ever. It's a world where controversy and intrigue sells greater than boxing acumen or a great matchup, even better than the history of two great fighters who have gone almost dead even over 24 thrilling rounds.

But this one is a little different, and it's more because of the messages that could be sent from the other side -- if there's any true reaction from them at all.

Most of you have by now read about Juan Manuel Marquez employing a man named Angel "Memo" Heredia as his strength and conditioning coach, a claim brought forth by Victor Conte. Heredia has gone under the surname "Hernandez" on HBO 24/7, leading most to believe that he was obviously attempting to conceal his identity, as he's a known dealer of performance-enhancing drugs, and a former government witness.

Ryan Maquiñana of BoxingScene.com got further thoughts from Conte on the matter, and the once-imprisoned ex-BALCO leader pushed again for tougher drug testing in boxing, which is something I think all fans desire, too:

"Angel was at the top of the food chain in the drug distribution case against Jones' coach Trevor Graham. The feds rolled him over on everybody involved in the case including several world champions and Olympic medalists. Bottom line. We both know people from the dark side of sport and I'm certainly suspicious of his current activities. I also understand that many may feel the same way about me."

... "I believe the use of PEDs in boxing is only going to get worse as time goes on unless a more effective drug testing program is made available.  The real question is whether or not there is actually a genuine interest in reducing the use of drugs in the sport. I'm not so sure there is at this point."

Whether you cringe whenever his name is mentioned in connection with boxing or not, it's hard to argue Victor Conte's ultimate point here: Boxing's drug testing is woefully behind the curve, and no one seems in any rush to change that.

Which brings us to something else that Conte says in the article, that Alex Ariza, the strength and conditioning coach for Manny Pacquiao, does not agree that boxing needs better drug testing.

Oh boy.

Listen, before anyone has a heart attack, I'm not saying that Manny Pacquiao is on steroids, HGH, spinach, or "power pellets." I don't know if he is or isn't, to be quite honest, and I don't think anybody who is not directly involved with his career does, either. If you say he is and you're not in his inner circle, you're speculating. But the flat truth is that if you say that he isn't and you're not in his inner circle, you're still speculating.

Team Pacquiao needs to respond here, for the sake of their own public image. Enough people are already doubters. It's 2011 and performance-enhancing drug use is a problem in all sports. All of them, boxing included. If Pacquiao's team doesn't make some concrete, serious statements about this, more are going to wonder if maybe the Mayweather clan isn't right.

I'm not saying that's the proper thing to do. I'm not saying it's fair. I'm saying it'll happen.

If Pacquiao and his team try to just skirt the issue, it's going to look bad. And if Alex Ariza or anyone else really thinks that boxing's drug testing is good enough, they're crazy, or they're in denial, or they're inviting further skepticism for whatever reason.

This could go a very long way down a road I don't think anyone really wants to travel.

To his credit, Marquez has said he's willing to take any tests. Perhaps Heredia is reformed, as Conte insists that he himself is these days. It's not as if these guys don't have the knowledge to be effective legally.

One thing you can't argue: Marquez looks fit, Marquez looks strong, and Marquez doesn't look like the guy who fought around this weight against Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2009. What you make of that is up to you -- a legit strength and conditioning coach can do that for any fighter, especially one as hard-working and determined as Juan Manuel Marquez.

But if we're all being honest, is anyone's first thought really the legitimate side of things anymore?

Manny and his team didn't do this to themselves. It's Marquez's coach who is under fire, it's Marquez's decision to work with him that is being questioned. But Pacquiao is fighting him, and when Manny fights, the world revolves around what he and his team do. It may have been thrust upon them, but they have to respond. They have to do something.

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