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Boxing’s biggest problem needs Bob Arum’s help


"Peak performances without doping are a fairytale, my friend.” -Angel “Memo” Heredia in 2009


What a difference a year makes.


Last November, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum had a problem. In the lead-up to Pacquiao-Marquez 3, HBO’s Pay-Per-View infomercial “24/7” featured Marquez’ strength and conditioning coach, Angel Hernandez in an episode illustrating Marquez’ new conditioning approach. At age 38 and with titles at 126 and 135 pounds, Marquez would be challenging Pacquiao in a 147 pound bout. At the helm of his conditioning team was Angel Hernandez. And therein lay Bob Arum’s problem.


“Angel Hernandez” is really Angel Heredia, the son of a chemist who became a top shelf steroids dealer. After he was caught in 2006, Heredia exchanged leniency for testimony against the very people he supplied performance enhancing drugs to. According to Heredia, he remains a star witness in several ongoing cases.

Heredia’s true identity broke last November when BALCO-founder turned anti-doping advocate Victor Conte, saw the show and outed him on twitter.


In a fight promotion bereft of anything original to say, the Heredia’s true identity emerging on the Pacquiao-Marquez 3 scene was all the media and Arum needed heading down the stretch towards the fight.


The following week an international conference call to promote Pacquiao/Marquez 3 became so heated regarding the issue of drug testing and performance enhancing drugs in boxing, this reporter was removed from the call at Arum’s request.


Following the move, Arum said to the remaining press corps, “Many of you are really behind the times. Conte and Hernandez were implicated in the use of steroids in the so-called BALCO case. The two of them are the least to be involved in steroids since they have learned their lesson. Secondly, people who understand getting athletes ready know now that you don’t use steroids, not because [athletes] are good guys but because naturally, supplements, used correctly, have the same effect of steroids without the bad part- without the rage and the future health concerns. So the conditioners who know what they are doing wouldn’t touch steroids because they are not as effective as the natural substances and the sophisticated training methods now used. You are talking about things that existed five or ten years ago that are not currently being used.”


In Pacquiao’s camp there was turmoil as well. Beyond Pacquiao’s usual distraction that come with superstar status, his promoter, Bob Arum and his strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza were at odds. In a November 24th, two-part interview on, Ariza declared Arum “a greedy pig” and intimated Arum was trying to oust him from both Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez’ camps.


“That’s a very, very unhealthy move to try to f*ck with somebody’s livelihood,” Ariza stated in Part Two regarding the 80 year old Arum. “That can be really bad for your health, you know? I don’t care how old you are.”


Ultimately the fight went off as planned and was largely a success. Pacquiao won yet another close decision over Marquez in a fight many argued he lost. Arum’s problem in spinning Heredia’s presence would be a blip in the promotional road to Pay-Per-View millions.


Fast forward a year.


The promotion is now Pacquiao-Marquez 4. Everything is virtually the same. Heredia is now in his third go round as Marquez’ strength and conditioning guru, Pacquiao’s camp is in business-as usual turmoil with strength coach Alex Ariza and trainer Freddie Roach taking not so-veiled shots at each other in media day interviews and Bob Arum is effortlessly promoting a fight many didn’t ask for.


As for boxing’s extinct steroid problem?


In between the time Arum declared steroids a thing of the past and early spring of 2012, one of the most turbulent periods in modern boxing history began. In subsequent weeks, top boxers Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto, and Antonio Tarver tested positive for synthetic testosterone and traces amounts of Nandrolone and Drostanolone metabolites respectively within a matter of weeks.


MMA saw Alistair Overeem, Chris Cyborg and Rafael Cavalcante among others test positive for various substances ranging from synthetic testosterone to stanozolol in a year that has seen combat sports average over a person a month testing positive for something on the banned substances list.


Nevada gave out therapeutic use exemptions for synthetic testosterone at a record rate as testosterone replacement therapy became a hot button issue in combat sports throughout 2012.


There was a glimmer of hope.


Soon after the rash of positive drug tests, super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire declared himself a clean athlete with “nothing to hide, everything to prove” and enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s 365/24/7 random drug testing program. The statement was to his fans who Donaire says deserve a clean athlete. An active tweeter, Donaire tweets snapshots of him giving his samples to the World Anti-Doping-approved sample collectors.


In October of this year, it was reported Mexican legend Erik Morales possibly had two sample sets test positive for Clenbuterol just days before his lucrative rematch with Danny Garcia. Incredibly, the bout went on as planned when a third sample set tested negative.


Despite Arum’s declaration, performance enhancing drugs were going stronger than ever in 2012.


As for Marquez, his 39 year old frame appears filled with muscle and very little fat. His shoulders bulge and his traps surge. Marquez’ physique barely resembles the man who competed at 126 and 135 pounds deep into his thirties. It certainly bears no resemblance to the chubby around the edges fighter who was dominated by Floyd Mayweather in his 147 pound debut back in 2009.


Another change is the relationship of Alex Ariza and Bob Arum, at least publicly. Instead of Arum and Ariza fighting in the press, Arum told this reporter it was Ariza’s seal of approval that allows him to have no trepidation in pitting his fighter against a Memo Heredia client.


“Alex told me he has been working with Heredia and he says everything is by the book,” Arum told this reporter earlier this week at the media day for Pacquiao at the Wild Card boxing club in Hollywood, CA.


“Alex is working with Heredia? Since when?” I asked.


“You’d have to ask him” said Arum.


[Writer’s note: About 30 minutes prior to the Arum interview, Alex Ariza pursued this reporter through the Wild Card parking lot for about 2-3 minutes, citing “I want everyone to see what I am going to do to you” due to an issue he had with a question pertaining to an interview I conducted with a subject regarding Ariza. The altercation was broken up by Wild card security Rob Peters. I passed on asking Ariza anything further that day].


Last year, Ariza had little knowledge of Heredia and declared that not even God could help him beat Pacquiao.


This year? Ariza has declared Heredia “brilliant” while being relegated to only stretching Pacquiao before and after his workouts. Ariza all but predicted a Marquez win in an interview with stating Pacquiao is not following his conditioning program.


[Writer’s note: This interview was conducted approximately five minutes after our altercation in the parking lot].


Likely the biggest change from last year is the way Heredia is presenting himself to the press.


Last year, Heredia was threatening to sue Alex Ariza and Victor Conte for insinuating his methods were less than legal.


This year, Heredia is claiming he is going to sue Victor Conte and Freddie Roach for insinuating his methods are less than legal.


Last year, Heredia appeared to only have Marquez in his stable. In a recent interview conducted by Ben Jacobs and printed this week, Heredia claims to be working with 9 current world champions yet is evasive in naming them.


Last year, Heredia declared his past behind him and pure science in front of him.


This year, Heredia met in Los Angeles this past week to discuss “what was going on in boxing” with FDA investigator Jeff Novitzky, of the BALCO and Lance Armstrong cases fame. To be clear, Novitzky, known in some circles as “the Steroid Cop” most likely is not discussing how to implement better testing in boxing. He is likely talking to his key witness about where the drugs in boxing might be.


In several interviews this week, Heredia also claimed after this fight, all of his fighters would be required to be tested according to WADA code year round testing. Which begs the questions: “Required by who? Memo? Novitzky? The terms of his leniency deal?”


When it comes to understanding Heredia, perhaps looking back one year is not enough.


In 2009, while Marquez was getting beaten to the punch by Mayweather, a German documentary featuring Heredia was released. In the documentary, Heredia displayed how easy it is in to procure EPO in Mexico, where many PEDs such as EPO and testosterone, are legal.  Heredia entered a Mexico City pharmacy, bought EPO and injected it on camera into his own stomach.


“I’ve created 20 different drugs that are still undetectable for the doping testers," said Heredia in the documentary.


That’s a particularly chilling statement when you consider since 2009, performance enhancing drug testing hasn’t exactly made significant leaps and bounds.


"The only difference is the quality of the doping,” Heredia explained of how illegal undetectable doping is bought and paid for, with poorer athletes taking their chances and elite stars buying designer undetectable. “The very best invest $100,000 dollars. I’ll then build you a designer drug that can’t be detected.”


The former steroids dealer declared some sports as rife with drugs as to be beyond saving.


"Track and field, swimming, cross-country skiing and cycling can no longer be saved. Golf? Not clean either. Soccer? Soccer players come to me and say they have to be able to run up and down the touchline without becoming tired, and they have to play every three days. Basketball players take fat burners, amphetamines, ephedrin. Baseball? Steroids in pre-season, amphetamines during the games. Even archers take downers so that their arm remains steady. Everyone dopes,” he declared.


Heredia went further, stating he believed certain PEDs should be legal.


"I believe we should authorize the use of EPO, IGF and testosterone, as well as adrenaline and epitestosterone – substances that the body produces itself,” said Heredia who offered “Simply for pragmatic reasons, because it is impossible to detect them, and also because of the fairness aspect" as justification.


Heredia spoke to the media this Tuesday and Wednesday, declaring his chemistry crimes a thing of the past. He told several news outlets including ESPN Deportes’, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo!Sports that he had met with federal investigators last week and told them to look into comments made by Freddie Roach regarding Marquez’ condition.


This sudden turnaround begs the question: How did this change in philosophy occur? Heredia was already exchanging leniency for testimony by 2009. He was barely two years away from becoming Marquez coach. What event transpired to change Memo Heredia from an advocate of legal doping to an anti-doping crusader?


While Heredia maintains the legality of his work, it largely is taking place in Mexico where EPO and testosterone, two of the more popular PEDs on Earth, are legal. When Heredia declares his methods legal, one has to wonder in which country he is referring.


Last year, we wondered why Memo Heredia changed his name to Angel Hernandez.


This year, media outlets are simply using the new brand name without questioning the change.


But with all that has changed since November 2011, two things remain the same.


Last year, Heredia’s presence drew suspicion and Marquez declared that he would take any test, blood, urine or both, anyone wanted him to take.


This year, Heredia’s presence has drawn suspicion and once again, Marquez said he would do any type of testing anyone asked. Heredia told members of the press that Marquez would be undergoing blood and urine testing this Thursday. That remains to be seen.


As it stands, this year will be as the last, with both Marquez and Pacquiao undergoing the same outdated and easy to beat testing Memo Heredia openly mocked in 2009.


"What’s happening now is laughable,” said Heredia of modern testing in 2009. “It’s a token. They should save their money or give it to me. I’ll give it to the orphans of Mexico! There will be doping for as long as there is commercial sports, performance-related shoe contracts and television."


Is Memo Heredia a man reformed by his time as a federal witness? Are his methods pure science? Or are we about to see one of the “20 different drugs that are still undetectable for the doping testers” created by Heredia at work on the largest of stages?


Will Pacquiao-Marquez 4, a battle between aging rivals, go down as sweet science or chemical warfare of the highest order?


Perhaps investigator Jeff Novitzky will take more than a casual interest in our sport and find the answers.


Last year, Bob Arum had to spin the presence of memo Heredia.


This year, the spin might have spun out of his control.

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