By Ryan Maquiñana
Alex Ariza, Manny Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach, reacted to his fighter’s stunning sixth-round one-punch knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday night in Las Vegas.
“I don’t understand how that should be shocking,” Ariza said to BoxingScene.com following the fight. “[Marquez] had a strength coach, an educated one, one with credentials, and that’s what happens when you follow your guy’s program. He didn’t do anything.”
In an interview with Marcos Villegas of the Boxing Channel last month, Ariza stated that there was less of a focus on strength and conditioning, and more on boxing for this particular camp leading up to this weekend.
“We didn’t do any of it. We quit,” Ariza said postfight, likely referring to the shift in training.
Marquez unveiled a more chiseled physique than in past fights, crediting the addition of controversial strength and conditioning coach Angel Hernandez, who joined the team last year.
Hernandez, who in 2000 admitted to supplying track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with performance-enhancing drugs, has since claimed to have cleaned up his act; in a meeting with reporters last week, he stated that he has been working closely with the United States Anti-Doping Agency for the last six years.
Amid whispers that performance-enhancing drugs are the cause for the new-look Marquez, Ariza would hear none of it.
“It’s not shocking to me,” Ariza said. “That’s what happens for three months when you get up at 4:30 in the morning, you do your strength and conditioning, you eat right, you train right, you focus on that, and that’s what he did.”
After failing to score a knockdown of Pacquiao in their first three encounters, Marquez finally put his rival on the canvas in the third round via a massive right hand before dealing the final blow three stanzas later with another counter right.
“Look at the way [Marquez] was lifting, the way he was training,” Ariza added. “You know, short explosive bursts. Three, four, five repetitions. And it’s like I said, he’s training to throw four, five—three, four, five hard shots, and then out, and then rest. His power punches matched Manny’s power punches. He had more power punches than Manny.”
On his fighter’s end, Ariza had nothing but positive things to say about Pacquiao’s condition in the ring.
“I thought he looked great,” Ariza said. “I think after the knockdown, he pulled himself together. He started moving, he started touching Marquez more and more, busting Marquez up. I was surprised that Marquez took the shots that he took for sure, too.
“He was OK. He bounced back. Yeah, it was a knockdown, but it was a good hard shot.”
In between rounds, Ariza was seen rubbing Pacquiao’s left leg in the corner. The strength guru clarified what occurred: “Yeah, I heard [Manny] say, yeah, something about it, but he rolled his ankle…Buboy just said, ‘His leg, his leg,’ and then Manny was like, rolling it like that (demonstrates rolling ankle). When I started rubbing his leg, he was like, ‘No, my ankle, my ankle.’”
The knockout punch at the end of the sixth effectively concluded the war. Ariza shared how Pacquiao felt in the locker room after the loss.
“It was so funny,” Ariza said. “I think most of us were so saddened by it, but he was like, ‘Hey, you know. This is boxing. I got too cocky. I got careless.’”
When Manny Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton in devastating fashion three years ago, the British star went into retirement until unsuccessfully returning in November (a stoppage loss to Vyacheslav Senchenko). Ariza doesn’t foresee Pacquiao hanging up the gloves anytime soon.
“I’m sure,” Ariza said. “I don’t see Manny going out like that. I think the shocking part is we’ve never seen Manny like that. Nobody’s ever seen Manny like that, and I think everybody underestimated Juan.”
One thing’s for sure. He agrees with Pacquiao that a fifth fight should happen.
“Yes, I would,” Ariza said. “I thought this would top…all [four fights]. They were exchanging, going back and forth. Both of them had knockdowns. It was a good fight.”
Of course, Saturday night’s result has the likelihood of negatively affecting public interest in a fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Maywewather. Ariza thinks such a superbout would be on hold.
“It would definitely stall it,” Ariza said. “I think the next thing that I’m sure Arum wants to do is put together this fight again, so, a fifth one again. I mean, you have to give a lot of credit to Marquez, man. He had a broken nose, bleeding, cut, hurt, he was wobbled.”
Pacquiao was ahead 47-46 on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage, and was on the verge of taking the sixth when disaster struck in the final second of the frame. Ariza took his hat off to Marquez for his determination.
“Yes, he was falling apart, but he was in it,” Ariza said. "He was in it, and that’s what a good, good, strong conditioning program--man, he just wouldn’t give. Big heart, man. He came to win.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.