Boxing’s Steroid Problem


When it happened to James Toney, it was funny. Not because people being juiced is somehow hilarious, but because the common perception if someone is taking steroids is that they should look like this instead of like this. That part was funny.

When it happened to Shane Mosley and later Fernando Vargas, it became curious. But the old-fashioned boxing trainers, the ones who will tell you that you don’t really need to train with weights because it makes you muscle-bound and slow had this one ace in the hole: The fights they had when they took steroids were maybe, the worst of their entire career.

Now it’s not as funny. Now it’s not past-their-prime veterans looking for one more day in the sun. Now it’s young fighters – prospects still in a few ways. The question is this: What is going to be done about it? Moreover, what can we learn?

First, the facts. Anabolic steroids are not just injectable anymore. In the age of the smartphone, the app and the MP3, we have certainly gotten to a place where to take steroids you do not need to shoot yourself up anymore. In addition, you do not need to have to be a member of a meathead bodybuilding gym, or be willing to travel to Mexico to get your hands on them. Steroids are easier to get now than they ever were and yet our understanding of strength and conditioning is slowly starting to catch up.

This is normally where people would refer to Manny Pacquiao, somehow seeking to prove that because he has come up in weight he is on the gas. Truthfully, what can happen, and what is easy to have happened, is this:

A: Manny Pacquiao was starving himself to make 112 pounds at the beginning of his career because he was never the darling of a big promoter in Asia as one has to be greatly successful. Because of that, once he got to America and was able to eat normal food, he quickly went up to 122 pounds.

B: If you know what you are doing and you know how to eat, you can conceivably grow the way Manny did. Also, keep in mind that Manny Pacquiao has personal chefs, food scales and access to the kind of supplements most of us can only dream of.

I say all of that to say this: Considering Manny Pacquiao sued Floyd Mayweather for libel for hinting that he was on something. I am not about to speculate about that.

Back to the question at hand. When Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson get pinched for being on the juice, it’s a problem. And like every problem, if you look hard enough, you can find a solution.
The solution: Every manager should mandate their fighter have a strength and conditioning coach. I am sure there will be some old trainers who cluck about how this isn’t the way we do things. Here is the funny part: The way people used to do things meant Sam Langford never got a title shot, among other things. It meant that when Michael Spinks hired Mackie Shilstone to help him bulk up to fight Larry Holmes, people acted the same way they are acting now. And would anyone now not hire Mackie Shilstone? Exactly.

Here is the point. We can fix this problem if we have the courage to work on it and to get away from old habits. The question is: Will we?

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