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LAS VEGAS -- If Manny Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, is trying to mentally distract Juan Manuel Marquez by implying that the Mexican four-division titlewinner is taking performance enhancing drugs, it won't work, said Marquez during a Tuesday interview with reporters in advance of Saturday night's clash with Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
"I feel very focused on this fight," said Marquez, 39, before a cluster of reporters in a tiny room at the MGM. "The Pacquiao team can say anything. I feel very focused in this fight, and nothing else matters."
Although Marquez lost a disputed decision to Pacquiao in November, this, after having battled through a draw and a split-decision lost to Pacquiao in the past, he was much stronger and more stable than he had been during their previous meetings.
Pacquiao floored Marquez three times in the first round of their initial meeting as featherweights in May of 2004, and dropped him once in the third round of their second as junior lightweights in March of 2008.
For their last fight, Marquez sparked controversy and came under scrutiny for hiring controversial strength guru Angel Hernandez for his last fight against Pacquiao, since Hernandez had been widely known to have a history of being involved in performance-enhancing activities.
A graduate of Texas A&M's exercise science program, Hernandez was known as Angel Heredia, in May of 2008 when he testified in a San Francisco Court that he supplied former track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with illegal substances.
Hernandez never was convicted of any crimes, although he admitted to giving the blood-booster EPO, growth hormone and insulin to Jones in 2000 at the request of her then-coach Trevor Graham, who was on trial. Heredia also sold banned substances to Montgomery.
Hernandez was hired by Marquez in order to achieve better results than he did in his welterweight debut, a one-sided unanimous decision loss to Mayweather in September of 2009, and has insisted that his state-of-the-art techniques helped Marquez to gain strength and weight for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao had been similarly targeted by Floyd Mayweather Jr., his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., and his uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather before reaching an out-of-court settlement resolving Pacquiao's Las Vegas-based defamation lawsuit.
During a national media conference last week, Marquez was asked by USA Today's Jon Saracino what he was doing "specifically in training camp with" Heredia, and also what he thought "about people suggesting that your body looks so different that you must be using steroids or some other banned substance."
Marquez was clearly offended on Tuesday, when the subject was broached, yet again.
"Before the last fight in November, there had been accusations about him. People were saying things about him, and we didn't care. We never brought it up, and we did not' know anything and we didn't think that it was something. So we didn't bring it up. They never brought it up, and we never did anything about it," said Marquez, adding that he walks around at "around 144 or 145 pounds" and has to eat to keep the weight on.
"For this fight, all of a sudden in the past couple of weeks, it has started. They're the ones who are attacking me. Now, that's why I'm saying do it now. I think that you can say anything that you want, but you don't have any proof, so what does that mean? It means nothing. But I've told them, that I'm willing to take any exam that they want, and let's go together and we can both do it together."
Pacquiao did not want to address the issue during his turn with reporters.
"Honestly, I don't want to comment about that," said Pacquiao. "My mind is really focused on the fight on Saturday, and I want to be 100 percent focused in my mind, only on the fight until Saturday."
Asked if he thought Marquez was dirty, Pacquiao appeared to be vague in his response.
"I want to put that out of my mind and give him credit for working hard and, and if you work hard, it's not about the size," said Pacquiao. "This is not about the size. I've been fighting the bigger guys, guys bigger than me, so it's about how you punch in the ring."
Hernandez said that he will continue to work with fighters, requiring them to submit to year-round random drug testing of blood and urine.
"I don't want to tell what I do, because I don't want people to copy cat my secrets, but it's all legal, and it's all within the law, and it's not illegal stuff," said Hernandez.
"You have to understand that I'm a scientist, and not just a strength coach. Weight training has changed and lot and evolved, and in the past, you would not see strength coaches around boxers."
Hernandez said he has met with federal authorities including high-profile investigator, Jeff Novitzky, one of the men who helped to bring down Lance Armstrong.
"I met with federal authorities, like Jeff Novitzky and the World Anti-Doping Agency's chief investigator, and I requested that because of the allegations that have been implemented on my client," said Hernandez.
"I think that it's unfair, and I think that it's illogical for someone like this Hall of Famer [Roach] to come out and say something like that. So I met with the authorities, and we are going to move forward, and they're probably going to be here on Thursday."
Hernandez said Marquez will be tested on Thursday, and that if Pacquiao wanted to do it as well, he could. Hernandez also implied that he might take legal action against Roach, who denied implying that Marquez had done anything illegal.
"I said that his body doesn't look natural," said Roach. "We're getting lawsuit because of that? Whatever he brings, we're ready for."
Photo by Rafael Soto, Top Rank
Photo by Chris Robinson
Photo by Rafael Soto, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com