It is billed as the Fight of the Decade but, in the space of a few interviews, the fourth showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Márquez here on Saturday night has descended into another shouting match about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, increasingly the scourge of the sport.
Pacquiao's straight-talking trainer, Freddie Roach, ignited the debate when he said that if the freshly chiselled physique of the 39-year-old Mexican was the result of natural training, he would, "kiss his ass". Roach has grown impatient with both rivals and colleagues recently, notably Pacquiao's own strength adviser, Alex Ariza, and describes the input of all conditioners and nutritionists as "bullshit".
His attack on Márquez prompted a swift reply from the fighter's controversial strength coach, Angel Hernández. "I think it's absurd, ridiculous, coming from a Hall of Famer," Hernández told USA Today Sports on Thursday. "You cannot speak without having any proof. It is a faulty allegation on his part. It's not Manny; he has been a gentleman. Perhaps [Roach] is scared about the fight."
Agitated would be a better description of Roach, whose Parkinson's Disease was cited as one of the reasons Amir Khan left him after his last stoppage defeat, against Danny García in the summer. Khan later denied that was the case and they remain close friends.
Nevertheless, Roach is not shy of saying what he thinks and his remarks are timely in a climate of heightened cynicism about the use of banned substances across all of sport, from the ostracising of Lance Armstrong in cycling, doubts about many athletes at the London Olympics and failed tests in boxing by Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto, Erik Morales and Julio César Chávez Jr in the past 12 months.
Peterson, caught for testosterone use, has not fought since beating Amir Khan last December; Berto (steroids) appealed successfully and fought again; the veteran Morales, all but finished anyway, last month was banned for two years for use of clenbuterol; and Chávez is serving an indefinite suspension after being fined $20,000 [£12,500] for traces of cannabis found at the time of his defeat by Sergio Mártinez in September.
Márquez has resorted to bizarre methods before ahead of big fights. In 2009, in preparing for Floyd Mayweather Jr, he proudly owned up to having tried urophagia, a stunt that invited plenty of cheap shots then, and more than a few this week.
For a man who once confessed to drinking his own urine, Márquez was laying himself open to ridicule in an argument that grows by the day. One of the reasons Roach is suspicious of Márquez's preparation is the continued presence in his camp of Hernández.
Hernández, a former Mexican national discus champion, was known as Angel Guillermo "Memo" Heredia when a chemist in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and was a key prosecution witness in the famous Balco case that exposed their supply of banned performance-enhancing drugs to a wide cross-section of prominent athletes in American sport. His testimony, under the court entry of "Source A", helped convict Olympic champions Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, CJ Hunter and Justin Gatlin.
Heredia gave interviews to the New York Times in 2008 detailing his activities ahead of his testimony in the case and, in a German documentary in 2009, he openly purchased banned drugs from pharmacies in Mexico City and injected himself on camera. However, reborn as Hernández, he is adamant his association with banned substances is history.
Hernández and Márquez maintain the veteran fighter's marked body improvement is the result solely of hard work. If so, he has worked extremely hard, going on the physical evidence over the 19 years of his illustrious career.
It is mildly ironic that Pacquiao should be painted as the saint this time, given the persistent allegations over several years by Mayweather and his camp that the Filipino was himself using performance-enhancing drugs.
Pacquiao, who denied the allegations, sued Mayweather and they settled out of court – although they have yet to settle their differences in the ring.
And that, in part, is where Saturday night's fight is leading. Should Pacquiao win, Mayweather would find it almost impossible to further delay their meeting. Pacquiao has agreed to take whatever test is demanded and is even prepared to take a slightly smaller slice of what would be a very large cake.
It is estimated the Márquez fight, with only the WBO taking a sanctioning fee, will earn Pacquaio $25m [£16m] in what ought to be the culmination of one of the sport's great rivalries. There has always been respect between them; now there is suspicion too.
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