Thanks to Deflate-gate, Manny Pacquiao’s Shoulder-gate Shoved off Sports Page


By Ivan G. Goldman

The perpetrators of Shoulder-gate should send a thank-you bouquet to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose Deflate-gate scandal flared up again just in time to save the fight fiasco from getting the full attention it so richly deserves.

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The NFL released a report Wednesday that strongly implicated Brady in a conspiracy to supply him with tampered footballs for the playoffs. It hit the media while we were still trying to peel layers off the sorry tale of a super-fight that was wrecked through the ineptitude, greed, and foolishness of a large cast of players, some of whom are far more guilty than others.

Pacquiao, beset with a torn rotator cuff, was forbidden an injection of a medication that had been approved earlier by USADA, the agency entrusted with monitoring all chemicals administered to the participants.

Meanwhile over in the NFL, the blockbuster report, released four days after the “fight of the century” fizzled, said Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” of the team’s equipment custodians. In America, a good NFL scandal can wipe just about any sports story off the media spectrum. The Brady & company misconduct had the added allure of being simple to understand.

Shoulder-gate, on the other hand, is complicated, involving USADA, the Nevada commission, various members of the Pacquiao team, and others. Their bumbling, dishonest interactions with each other all contributed to the world seeing a crummy contest that Floyd Mayweather won easily and deserved to win.

The NFL report, sappy and less than thorough, arrived four months after the football event. But we may never get a full report on Shoulder-gate because prizefighting has no equivalent to the league office that governs the NFL.

Pro boxing is a Balkan-like configuration of feuding entities that includes fight teams, alphabet profiteers, state commissions, promoters, dope monitors, and so on. When something goes wrong they all point fingers at each other and sometimes sue each other.

Team Pacquiao should have checked the right box on the Nevada commission form and revealed the shoulder injury, which apparently occurred about a month before the fight. However, there were extenuating circumstances. Pacquiao and his people feared the Mayweather team would find out, and they apparently had good reason to be suspicious.

It’s not unusual for camps to spy on each other, and Freddie Roach claims Floyd’s promoter Al Haymon had actively interfered with training by communicating with Pacquiao’s potential sparring partners. What does Haymon say?

Nothing, of course. He hides from press and public like a beetle under a ton of gold bricks.

The Nevada commission and USADA should have cooperated closely with each other and shared information. Apparently Team Pacquiao informed USADA of the shoulder injury, although that’s not completely clear.

In my preliminary analysis I find the Nevada commission to be the chief saboteur. It retaliated against Pacquiao by refusing him an injection of a non-banned substance that he’d been using for a month and reporting all along to USADA. But I may change my mind as this sorry tale unravels further. We don’t have all the necessary facts.

Pacquiao went under the surgeon’s knife Thursday to repair the shoulder. It will be many months, possibly a year or longer before he can fight again. If he does fight again. After all, he’s 36.

There is an amusing part to this sad spectacle — the imbecilic call for a rematch. I guarantee you there was nothing amusing about any of this to bettors who placed money on Pacquiao assuming they would get a fair contest between two reasonably healthy fighters. I’ll probably have more to say on these topics at another time.

I attended an amateur card this weekend in Carson, California for five bucks. A coach there pointed out we were seeing a better show than viewers paid $100 to watch on pay-per-view the previous Saturday night. Neither of us had much sympathy for the rich schmoes who, caught up in a buyers’ panic, spent $150,000 in the ticket-scalping bazaar so they could sit close to the ring at the MGM Grand.

No matter how you slice it, the Mayweather-Pacquiao super-fight, promising us the greatest meal ever, delivered a lukewarm pizza that came five years late. Yet somehow the delivery guys walked away with a $500 million tip.

As Don King likes to say, only in America.

Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available now from Permanent Press wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.

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