LAS VEGAS - Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao was billed as the richest fight in boxing history, but when it was revealed after the fight that Pacquiao was suffering from a right shoulder injury and requested a painkilling injection that was denied hours before the fight, it was fair to ask if fans got full value for the price they paid.
Mayweather was upset that the tempest tainted the lopsided unanimous decision the judges awarded him. Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach said the Filipino fighter absolutely was compromised when the injury flared up in the third round, and Nevada State Athletic Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar disputed a claim by promoter Bob Arum that the commission was aware of the injury before a bout that was expected to generate well over $300 million in revenue.
Aguilar said he first learned of the injury at 6:08 PDT, just over two hours before the scheduled start of the fight, when Pacquiao's camp asked for permission to have a doctor administer an injection mixing three painkillers. With no time to investigate, Aguilar denied the request.
"To understand the situation and ask all the questions we needed to ask and have consultation with the commission doctor took time,'' Aguilar said. "It was too close to the fight. It doesn't even go to that question of the injection [and whether it is permissible]. What it goes to is what injury actually exists? I don't have an MRI.''
The last opportunity to request permission for medical treatment was at the Friday afternoon weigh-in, when fighters fill out paperwork before stepping on the scales.
"On that questionnaire,'' Aguilar said, "one question is: 'Do you have an injury in your shoulder?' He checked 'No.' Had he checked 'Yes,' our doctors could have followed up with additional questions. He could have shared the MRI with those doctors, and we could have figured out an opportunity for him to have the medication he claimed he needs."
Roach and Pacquiao indicated the injury occurred three weeks earlier in training camp. Arum compared it to a rotator-cuff tear that Lakers star Kobe Bryant played with and, in fact, he said Pacquiao was treated by Bryant's doctor. The medications given Pacquiao in camp were approved by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which did not inform the Nevada commission.
Pacquiao believes his injury improved after treatment during camp. But it was a different story in the fight.
"In the third round, I feel the pain in my shoulder,'' Pacquiao said. "I fought with one hand basically because my right hand is in pain. Only my left hand I can use it. It's hard to do the fight with one hand.''
Pacquiao still believes he won the fight, saying: "I thought I caught him many more times than he caught me. I was never hurt . . . I hurt him in the ninth. I hurt him three or four times.''
Mayweather brushed off Pacquiao's injury claim, saying he went into the fight with injuries to both hands and arms. "I found a way to win,'' he said.
According to Aguilar, both camps would have to agree to permit an injection before the fight, an unlikely scenario. "This is our business, and we know how to do it,'' Aguilar said. "When you try to screw with the process, we're going to take an active participation in that process.''
As for whether fans spending anywhere from $89.95 to $100 for the pay-per-view telecast were getting damaged goods, Arum said: "This is always the case in sports. A guy gets hurt in training, he thinks he conquered it and then he gets reinjured in the game. It happens in football.''
The problem, of course, is that in boxing, each team has only one player.