It has been said that when the big one comes, be it via nuclear holocaust, tsunami or what have you, for all of our sophistication, good manners and ability to communicate, the rough, hardy and indifferent cockroaches will be the only ones to survive amongst us all. In that vein, interestingly enough, it would seem to be the same with strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza and topflight fighters. Usually strength and conditioning coaches aren’t afforded much time in the press and don’t make much of a splash when they do get that sort of spotlight. They do a job and according to the results and the level of fighter to whom they remain attached, one assumes they are a positive influence. Not so cut and dried in the case of Mr. Ariza. He makes a big impression wherever he goes, usually with the deserved or undeserved flourish of the press equivalent of a belly flop upon exit. Just a cursory look at some of the barbs he has earned from team Pacquiao during MayPac pressers – and these are the folks who originally vaulted him to A list status from relative obscurity in the first place – are quite telling. Freddie Roach, predictably less than kind due to a very public physical altercation between he and Ariza when Ariza was a part of team Rios for Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38KOs) vs. Brandon Rios (33-2-1, 24KOs) had this to say about Ariza in Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s (47-0, 26KOs) camp vs. Pacquiao’s: “ I think it’s the best thing in the fucking world,” chortled Roach. “Wait until he starts trying to do the cutman’s job and everyone else’s job. It’s pretty funny actually. He wants to be the man so bad,” said Roach caustically, adding: “There’s nothing Alex Ariza knows about boxing.” Bob Arum wasn’t sparing either in affect or effect stating rather tersely on the matter, “ I would love to have two Arizas in Mayweather’s camp. That’s how much I think of Ariza.” Not exactly a rave review, but it’s antithesis. Even Justin Fortune, Pacquiao’s current strength and conditioning coach, couldn’t manage to spare Ariza much diplomacy though he did try. “Unfortunately nobody likes the guy,” relayed Fortune, continuing, “When he was in camp from what I was told, what I gathered from Manny it was a disruption… a really bad vibe.” Ouch.
So how does Ariza manage to stay in the game at such a high level? He seems to be everywhere yet nowhere in a long yet perplexing game of hot potato played by some of the brightest stars of the game – especially if they are preparing to go up against Pacquiao.
One could posit the idea that despite what must be somewhat anemic interpersonal skills, Ariza could be a window into the mental strategy and makeup of the highly successful yet highly insular Pacquiao/Roach working relationship. Following this reasonable Pacquiao opponent logic, one could intelligently gamble that Ariza, having been on the inside must have absorbed some of that Eddie Futch ring lineage via proximity to Roach, an undisputed seven time trainer of the year legend himself, and his star pupil in Manny. However upon training camp purchase and closer inspection, all the clues and evidence say probably not. Looking at Ariza’s high firing rate and Roach’s own retelling of his handling of Ariza during those “sunnier” days, definitely not: “ He (Ariza) stands in the corner with me, he asks questions and whatever he says I say ‘yeah’ cause I wasn’t interested in teaching him how to do it,” said Roach in explaining his protocol with Ariza during Ariza’s tenure with Team Pacquiao.
So then what might lead a smart winning guy like Floyd Mayweather Jr. to hire Ariza, seeing as Mayweather has that perfect record and Ariza does not? Indeed, if it ain’t broke why fix it with the guy who got the shaft from your Vegas odds underdog in Pacquiao? It’s got to be a finesse gamble that had hopes towards finding a “Roach” sponge in Ariza, but in missing that knows it already has a bird in the hand with regard to supreme annoyance. In other words, okay - maybe Ariza isn’t able to give you that inside key to the brain trust that is Roach and Pacquiao. However what you do have is that Ariza has gotten under Freddie Roach’s skin and by connection Manny Pacquiao’s in a big way. Yes, bygones may be bygones, but dollars to donuts every time Roach sees Ariza, Roach, a guy who naturally runs a little hot, must expend at least a little energy turning down the internal thermometer. Not the difference between winning or losing, but it’s something of use. Of course, that sort of thing can run both ways if Ariza is as hard to get along with as his reputation suggests and team Pacquiao claims. In other words, it’s safe to say that nothing comes easy with Ariza - like him, love him, hate him or tolerate him. It’s a bonus factor he brings. To whom that bonus is reaped has yet to be determined.
Indeed, Floyd Mayweather Sr., though given a tight press leash by Team “Money” Mayweather, said this when a microphone found him with regard to Ariza’s worth before the battle come May 2nd: “Strengthening him? That son of a bitch ain't strengthening nobody. He ain't nobody. He's in there, I can't say exactly what he's doing but he ain't strength training little Floyd,” said Mayweather Sr. in no uncertain terms, adding something extra that was an interesting touch of déjà vu: “He (Ariza) don't know anything about no damn boxing, I do know that,” finished Mayweather Sr.
Well isn’t that the irony of ironies? For once in this century, it would seem that on the precipice of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao Mayweather Sr. and Freddie Roach actually see eye to eye.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photos by Top Rank
May 1st 2015