When Floyd Mayweather invited Ariza to be a part of his training camp, many assumed it was a simple public relations ploy designed to irritate and unnerve the Pacquiao camp. As it turns out, according to the latest admission by Mayweather’s uncle, Jeff, and a range of other Mayweather insiders, Ariza is currently in deep strategy-making sessions with the Mayweather camp.
According to Jeff Mayweather and a range of other sources within the Mayweather camp, Ariza is actively involved in not only communicating Pacquiao’s relative strengths and weaknesses, but also working closely with head trainer Floyd Sr. and the recently-sidelined trainer, Mayweather’s uncle Roger, on a fight plan set to exploit the details Ariza is offering up. This process and the role Ariza is playing in the Mayweather training camp is very much different than the role he played with Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym and Robert Garcia’s Oxnard-based Boxing Academy.
Part of what got Ariza fired by Roach was that he muscled himself into the boxing and strategy aspects of the training. Roach continued to bristle as Ariza imposed himself on pre-fight proceedings and then, when cornering in Pacquiao fights, offered advice on technique and strategy. While Garcia has never really given the details of Ariza’s dismissal, it is safe to assume that his actions were similarly irritating to the training experts set to deal with strategy and boxing execution.
With the Mayweather camp’s now unfettered access to Pacquiao training film, interviews and former strategy sessions, they are equipped to, as Jeff Mayweather suggests, pore over in exacting detail not only the technical aspects of Pacquiao’s game, but also his relative strengths and weaknesses with regard to certain kinds of opponents and fight styles. If there are weaknesses in Pac’s game, Ariza is set to help Mayweather exploit them.
As Ariza, currently in deep strategy-making sessions with the Mayweather camp, continues his strength-building routine, he has also been facilitating film review as Money May and trainers focus on a range of fights, including the first Morales fight where Pac lost a unanimous decision as well as the four fights he had with Marquez. The first three fights were fairly competitive, while the fourth, one in which Pac was poised to end the fight in dramatic fashion before getting careless in his eager aggression and exposing himself to a perfectly-timed, counter right hand that put him out, was not.
It is this counter right hand that has the Mayweather camp drooling. In the knockout that ensued, Pacquiao demonstrated what the Mayweather camp deduces to be his biggest weakness – his propensity to get overly-aggressive behind a strong jab and/or series of punches delivered on awkwardly balanced feet. This somewhat unorthodox aggression, they feel, leaves Pac’s chin and torso wildly exposed.
In round three of the fourth Marquez fight prior to the knockout, Pacquiao found himself getting up off the canvas after a perfectly-timed right hand that exploited Pac’s tendency to leave openings as he moves left-and-right and in-and-out trying to create his own openings. According to Floyd Sr., the plan is to, like Marquez, time Pacquiao as he transitions into and out of his angles. In these moments of transition Mayweather is currently trying to perfect a defensive-maneuver that both expresses and ends in the pot-shotting he is now famous for. In so executing, Mayweather hopes to, along the way, set up his other money punch: the vaunted check hook.
Ariza knows these Pac tendencies and in-fight moves well and it is the Mayweather team’s hope that he can help them perfect a game plan that exploits Pacquiao’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and thus help them maximize Mayweather’s considered strengths. To aid in this process the twice-fired trainer has introduced weight-lifting as a substantial portion of the training regime. Mayweather, historically speaking, while used to doing weightlifting in order to enhance training and ability, has used it minimally. Ariza now has him using it as a training staple with the hope that together, along with appropriate timing of Pacquiao’s movement, Mayweather will have new and devastating power behind the pot-shotting, hooks and punches-in-bunches that follow. Sparring sessions are currently materializing with this strategy in mind and, according to Jeff Mayweather , with devastating effect.
The problem for objective observers and boxing experts however, is that weight lifting, unless incorporated in a scientific manner, can work against a fighter who relies on speed and reaction time. That is, fast fighters, in bulking up and otherwise strengthening muscles, are at risk of losing a bit of their speed. For Mayweather, facing a fighter with Pacquiao’s skill set, losing even a little in speed and response time could prove disastrous. As weightlifting is pursued, Mayweather will find that as his body changes, he will need to complement it with a new range of stretching exercises designed to keep him loose and flexible. This is a risk indeed, as Mayweather may find that the speed he was expecting from a well-trained Pacquiao may appear to exponentiate during the fight as his once very limber and flexible body is slightly slower than usual. Roach knew this well when he instructed Ariza back at the Wild Card Gym to not allow his strength training to compromise his fighter’s speed and reflex time.
While word out of Vegas is that Ariza is currently in deep strategy-making sessions with the Mayweather camp, hoping for Marquez redux, the Pacquiao camp continues to rest easy. Indeed, an Ariza that is calculating to make Mayweather more powerful is the same Ariza that may in fact be working to slow him down. After a clear Pacquiao win, the surprise in all of this may be that Ariza proved to be a Pacquiao friend all along.
Commentary By Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Garen M. Flickr License