By Chris Robinson
During a recent conversation with Alex Ariza, the strength and conditioning coach vented his frustrations at the way last weekend’s Antonio DeMarco-Jorge Linares bout was handled. Ariza began working with the former champion Linares for this particular shot, for the vacant WBC lightweight title, and despite his charge dominating the early action, a bloody Linares would be halted in the eleventh round by a surging DeMarco in a finish that he believes occurred too soon.
But there is little time to sulk for Ariza, who has a very busy schedule coming up with his work with WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., WBA junior welterweight champion Amir Khan, and WBC welterweight king Manny Pacquiao. Turning his attention to Pacquiao, who defends his belt on November 12th in Las Vegas against Juan Manuel Marquez in an anticipated trilogy bout, Ariza insists the Filipino star is primed for the moment.
“He has tremendous focus right now,” Ariza said of the 32-year old Pacquiao, who has been putting in work at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles. “It’s almost redundant, me saying it, but this fight has a whole different feel to it. Clearly this is a personal thing for him and for me as well. I didn’t get to work with Manny for the two fights that he had with Marquez but of course I want him to go out there and show how he’s come from those days to now because of the work that we’ve done.”
One week after Pacquiao-Marquez III, Ariza will find himself in Houston, Texas, as Chavez makes the first defense of his title against Providence, Rhode Island's Peter Manfredo at the Reliant Arena. Chavez is coming off a very narrow points win over Sebastian Zbik on June 4th, an excellent bout that the Sinaloa fighter had to really bite down in order to pull out, and Ariza seems confident in the style matchup that lies ahead for his charge.
“Julio’s type of fight is a war,” said Ariza. “That’s Julio’s thing is pressure and eventually breaking you down. He has a new confidence in his conditioning now. And that’s his thing, to keep coming forward and break you down. It kind of takes your will away from you. Manfredo will probably be the opposite and try to box and be more tactical. We’re not taking this fight lightly. Julio’s been training thirty days, he’s already here and he’s in great shape.”
Last but not least, Khan’s December 10th meeting with proven challenger Lamont Peterson is extremely significant in that it may mark the British star's last fight at 140 pounds before moving up to the welterweight class. Given Peterson’s grit and sound skillset, this is actually an interesting fight on paper and Ariza is well aware of how serious the challenge could be.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I always say, I never judge a fighter by his last performance or opponent,” Ariza said of Peterson, who is coming off of a 12th round knockout over Victor Cayo this past July. “When these guys come to fight one of our fighters, they come in tip-top shape and probably it’s a fighter you’ve never seen before and never expected. We saw that when Julio fought John Duddy, we saw that when Julio fought Zbik, we saw that when Amir fought Maidana, and we saw it when Linares fought DeMarco. So I’m expected nothing different from Lamont Peterson.”
Khan is one of the more appealing names in the sport, with his eight-fight unbeaten streak following his lone loss to Breidis Prescott being a pretty revealing and entertaining ride thus far. The 24-year old has made it no secret that he is after a high-profile fight with Floyd Mayweather sometime in 2012 and Ariza feels it simply is the fight to make.
“I hope so. I think Amir is one of those type of fighters that can give Floyd a lot of problems. Sometimes guys with speed have problems with other guys with speed. So, this will be our last fight, hopefully, at 140 pounds, and we’ll be making that move to 147. So sometime in the middle of the year, that’s a fight that can happen. I just don’t see anything else out there that is going to generate a lot of interest.”
[Reader's note: For a closer look inside of the Wild Card Boxing Club, including images of Pacquiao, Ariza, Khan, Chavez Jr., and other boxing stars, please visit Inside the Wild Card Gallery ]