Word out of Vegas this week is that the long awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is on the verge of being signed then announced. Sam Watson, an Al Haymon associate indicated that the final touches are being put on what many suggest will be the richest fight in boxing history. Many are asking why the fight has taken so long to materialize and what may be behind Mayweather’s apparent change of heart. Enter boxing’s modern day Brutus, Alex Ariza, eager to insert himself as pimp du jour in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
Ariza, Pacquiao’s former strength and conditioning coach was unceremoniously fired by head trainer Freddie Roach in August of 2013 after which he was hired by Robert Garcia to condition his stable of boxers at Garcia’s Boxing Academy. Garcia then fired him in June of 2014 for unspecified reasons. Whatever problems Roach had with the controversial conditioning coach clearly followed him into the Garcia gym as he quickly made himself persona non grata. After being forced out by Garcia, Ariza curiously found himself courted by the Mayweather camp and in September of 2014 he signed a two-year contract as Mayweather’s new strength and conditioning coach.
The soap opera aspects of this stunning turn of events is best understood in context with the life and death hatred Roach and the erstwhile strength and conditioning coach have for each other. Back when the Mayweather-Pacquiao rivalry first started and there was talk of the two pound-for-pound greats fighting each other Ariza was serving as Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach. Mayweather and his camp, including his father Floyd Sr. and his uncle Roger were openly accusing Pacquiao of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). This drew a legal response and the Mayweathers were directed by the courts to retract their accusations.
With the signing of the conditioning expert to the Mayweather camp these accusations however are now resurfacing not in explicit terms but in implied terms. At Ariza’s signing Floyd Jr. was quoted as saying that everything that the Mayweathers had said about Pacquiao they could now confirm was true. That is, without actually saying it the obvious implication was that now that the former Pacquiao conditioning coach was on board they had gotten firsthand knowledge, right from the horse’s mouth, as it were, that Pacquiao was indeed, during those years he terrorized his opposition, on PEDs.
Ariza, in his eagerness to get a job and fraternize with Money-May, has put himself in a precarious position. If indeed what Mayweather is now implying is true or even perceived to be true it would suggest that Ariza has essentially made his mea culpa and spilt the beans on his own involvement in supplying Pacquiao with PEDs. When the Mayweathers had initially accused Pac of steroid use Ariza was accused of being his drug supplier. Ariza had always taken umbrage at the accusation claiming that Pac was always, in every instance, drug free. Now it would appear, for the sake of financial security Alex Ariza has made himself pimp du jour for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and in so doing unwittingly made himself vulnerable to the obvious accusation, curiously coming from his own Mayweather camp, that he was indeed everything not only they had accused him of being, but also his enemy Roach suggested about him. Apparently Floyd Mayweather Jr. has no compunctions about signing Ariza then immediately throwing him under the bus.
When Roach fired Ariza he went on to claim that he never really trusted what Ariza was supplying Pacquiao with in the build up to his fights. In his hatred and attempt to hurt Ariza, Roach inadvertently created a problem for himself and for Pac-man in that he left open the possibility that, though without his knowledge, Pacquiao was indeed being served PEDs. The inadvertent nature and consequence of the accusation gave fuel to an argument that most suggest is absurd. Many are of the opinion that Roach was simply trying to destroy Ariza’s character and professional life but in so doing accidentally gave wings to an accusation that is clearly without merit. Indeed, there are no indications whatsoever of Pacquiao ever using PEDs and to suggest otherwise is the stuff of libel.
The hatred between Roach and Ariza was on full display in Macau, China in the lead up to the Pacquiao-Rios fight. With Rios being trained by Garcia and conditioned by Ariza emotions surrounding the fight were boiling over. In a compelling scene out of the gym both fighters were using to prepare for the fight, Roach and his cast-off found themselves in close proximity. An argument ensued and in a shocking display of immaturity and blind hatred Ariza took the opportunity to kick Roach in the chest. This of course heightened both the tension surrounding the fight and the hatred both had for each other.
Fast-wind to the present. Ariza appears, for all his professional ability and acumen, quite happy to throw his reputation away for a chance at big money and to hurt Roach by helping prepare Pacquiao nemesis Mayweather for their May 2 match. His hatred for Roach has apparently trumped any opinion he may have had for his reputation in the sport. His name has become so compromised in boxing circles that he recently flirted with the idea of leaving boxing altogether and going into professional soccer. This, many assume, is not a career path he would have chosen for himself but one that was thrust on him by virtue of the burned bridges he left behind in boxing.
Enter Floyd Mayweather Jr., seeing in the twice-fired conditioning coach’s services an opportunity to not only hurt Pacquiao’s reputation as a clean fighter thus calling into question his relative greatness, but also seeing in him the opportunity to get an insider’s view of Pac’s relative strengths and weaknesses in the ring. Word is that Ariza is prepared to pour over Pacquiao’s fighting style with a fine tooth comb for and on behalf of Mayweather and his trainers. They will sit together and pour over and break down, frame-by-frame, relevant Pacquiao fights and training sessions in order to give Mayweather an edge in the fight. Hiring Ariza, according to Money Team insiders, is thus a win-win for Mayweather who not only feels vulnerable to Pacquiao but is envious of his standing in the boxing community.
The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is about legacy and the self-styled best-ever is keen to take advantage of a Brutus-inclined and disposed malcontent. The curious part of it all is that Alex Ariza, a decent enough strength and conditioning coach, has demonstrated his willingness to make himself pimp du jour in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight for money and revenge. One might expect that when his two-year contract is fulfilled and Money May has exhausted his purposes in hiring him, that he will be cast aside like so many of Mayweather’s friends, family and associates along the way. But this time the disgraced strength and conditioning expert may have no here to go unless of course professional soccer wants to give him a go.
Commentary By Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Russell McNeil Flickr License