By Lem Satterfield
Saturday night's HBO televised sixth-round, technical unanimous decision defense by WBA junior welterweight king Amir Khan of England over his previously unbeaten, southpaw, Northern Ireland challenger, Paul McCloskey, from England's MEN Arena did not impress Alex Ariza, Khan's recently fired former strength coach.
Although the 24-year-old Khan (25-1, 17 knockouts) appeared to easily outbox the 31-year-old McCloskey (22-1, 12 KOs) on the way to an injury-shortened, 60-54 decision on all three judges' cards, Ariza said that he did not see the same crispness and power that he helped to bring about as an assistant to five-time Trainer of The Year, Freddie Roach, during Khan's previous outting, December's unanimous decision victory over hard-punching, WBA interim champion Marcos Rene Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs) of Argentina.
In a bout that was considered the Boxing Writers' Association of America's Fight of The Year, Khan floored Maidana with a couple of first-round body shots, then survived nearly being stopped in the 10th round.
Ariza was fired by Khan after the Maidana fight, his sixth working with the champion alongside Roach. Ariza hadjoined Khan following his first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in September of 2008, after which Khan had gone 6-0, with four knockouts before facing McCloskey.
Although Ariza was only able to watch the final round of Khan's fight with McCloskey, when a clash of heads opened a bloody gash over the loser's right eye that which led to the fight's stoppage, Ariza said that he was surprised at what he considered to be limited facial damage and punishment to McCloskey, who had scored five consecutive knockouts, including October's seventh-round knockout of Barry Morrison.
Khan has said that he would next like to fight WBO and WBC counter part, Tim Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs), perhaps in July.
Ariza, meanwhile, will be in his seventh fight alongside Roach on May 7 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, when he and Roach guide eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) into his WBO welterweight belt defense against Shane Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs)
Pacquiao will be after his 14th straight victory and his ninth stoppage during that run, and is coming off of November's unanimous decision ex-titlist, Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs), which earned him the WBC's junior middleweight belt, which Pacquiao has since relinquished.
Prior to that, Ariza was first with Pacquiao when the Filipino super star debuted with a lightweight, ninth-round stoppage of David Diaz for that division's WBC crown in June of 2008, his December, 2008, welterweight debut that was an eighth-round knockout of Oscar De La Hoya, and, a May, 2009, second-round stoppage of England's Ricky Hatton for the IBO junior welterweight trinket.
Pacquiao then dethroned WBO champ, Miguel Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) with a November, 2009, 12th-round knockout, and decisioned ex-champion, Joshua Clottey (35-4, 20 KOs) in the March, 2009, first defense of that title before defeating Margarito.
BoxingScene.com spoke to Ariza to discuss Khan as well as Pacquiao's training.
BoxingScene.com: What were your impressions of Amir Khan in the one round that you were able to see?
Alex Ariza: Well, I'll be honest, you know, I don't think that I need to say anything that hasn't already been said. You know, it was pretty clear, to me that he wasn't the same. You know, I just hope that his approach will be different against somebody like Timothy Bradley. And that guy that he fought tonight is no Timothy Bradley.
BoxingScene.com: When you say that 'It' was pretty clear, what do you mean?
AA: I mean, you know, I didn't think that Paul McCloskey would be able to go as far as he did, really. You know, he didn't look as if he was getting hurt that much. I didn't think that Paul McCloskey was really known much for being a very skilled fighter or anything like that. For Amir Khan, I thought, really, that it was a 'C' performance against a 'C' fighter. Sometimes, you know, you fight at the level of your competition.
BoxingScene.com: When he trains with you, do you see anything different in terms of the potentcy of his punches or his intensity?
AA: You know, unfortunately, I only got to see the final round, so it's hard to make an assessment off of just one round. But I was surprised that Paul McCloskey didn't have any more trouble or marks on his face.
Usually, with Paulie Malignaggi and Amir Khan, those guys, you know, they were knotted up and swelled up, you know? But Paul McCloskey, to me, it looked like he was in the fight.
But it is really hard to tell with a fighter like Amir Khan, because he's so fast. But to me it was just a little surprising that it lasted that long.
BoxingScene.com: So how did training go today with Manny Pacquiao?
AA: Well, I've had a touch of the stomach flu since yesterday, so I've been in bed ever since. So I had to miss practice with Manny and every thing today, so I've been spending some time recovering.
BoxingScene.com: And you don't want to give that to Manny Pacquiao, correct?
AA: Yeah, exactly, that's sort of why I didn't show up to the gym today, you know, I'm like, 'Geez."
BoxingScene.com: In order to train Amir Khan, how many days did Freddie Roach have to spend away from Manny Pacauiao's training camp at the Wild Card Boxing Gym?
AA: You know, to be honest, I'm always, always scared when Freddie's not around. So, I was just really surprised that Manny was just never missing a beat and that he never lost focus. Unfortunately, nobody can carry the level of intensity that Freddie does in camp when he's doing the mitts and the other stuff like that. You know, Freddie's just remarkable and phenomenal.
He's an excellent athletes himself. But Manny made the best of it, and so did [assistant trainer] Buboy Fernandez. At times, Manny was really pushing Buboy so hard that I thought that Buboy was going to have a stroke. Freddie's missed this whole week, just the whole week at the Wild Card, but he will be back on Monday.
But Manny has not missed a beat. We've focused more on strength training this week than we normally do. It was a way for Manny to add and to take up some of the little bit of slack that wasn't there because of Freddie's not being there. So that was a good thing.
BoxingScene.com: So how has is Manny Pacauiao''s weight right now?
AA: I would say about 153. And, well that was the good thing. I think that he's put on a little extra weight. You know he's been up every morning and showing up at the gym and ready to work. We're just pushing it all week. For example, on Thursday, he was only supposed to do a little bit of work in the ring, but he called in an extra sparring partner to give him some extra work too. Manny's in his groove, now.
BoxingScene.com: What do you expect him to weigh in at for the fight against Shane Mosley?
AA: I would say 144 or 145. Manny has started his own website, MPBoxing.com. I write a blog for Manny because he wanted me to start writing up stuff for his fans. I write about the proteins and the different types of things like that. If you go to the blog, it's called, 'Alex Ariza's Corner of The Ring.'