By Lem Satterfield
Alex Ariza: "Watching some other guy f**k it up? Yeah, that would be hard to take."
During his thrilling, Dec. 11 clash with then-WBA interim titlist, Marcos Rene Maidana, of Argentina, WBA junior welterweight king Amir Khan of England dropped his rival in the first round as a result of a right-left to the body, but had to survive a more than 40-punch barrage that nearly had Khan out on his feet in the 10th round of a match up that was voted 2010 Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Within an hour of defeating Maidana (29-2, 27 knockouts) at the Mandalay Bay hotel, the 24-year-old Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) and his strength trainer, Alex Ariza, were together with Khan's family members in a nearby, Las Vegas restaurant.
There, the duo took turns crediting each other for their role in the performance.
"[Alex Ariza] got me to win the fight," said Khan, in a video interview with Elie Seckbach, formerly of FanHouse.com. "He got me in the best condition that I could be in for the fight."
Ariza offered equally complimentary praise for Khan.
"He [Khan] deserves all of the credit," said Ariza. "He really does."
But when Khan returns to the ring on April 16 against southpaw countryman Paul McCloskey (22-0, 12 KOs) at MEN Arena in Manchester of their native England, Khan will do so without Ariza, an assistant to five-time Trainer of The Year, Freddie Roach.
Khan fired Ariza in early February, ending a six-fight relationship with the fighter. Ariza joined Khan alongside Roach following Khan's first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in September of 2008.
Khan had gone 6-0, with four knockouts under Roach and Ariza, who also assists Roach with eight-division king, Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs), who will defend his WBO welterweight belt against Shane Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs) on May 7 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
Ariza spoke with BoxingScene.com recently about the breakup, reiterating that his problem is not with Khan, the fighter, as much as a financial dispute involving Khan's handlers in relation to compensation for Khan's victory over Maidana.
Ariza claims that members of Khan's team broke into his Mandalay Bay Hotel room and made off with several contracts related to the coach's compensation for Khan, and that he will watch Khan-McCloskey with mixed emotions.
BoxingScene.com: I understand that you ran into Amir Khan while you and Roach were training Manny Pacquiao in Baguio City, Philippines, from which you just arrived?
Alex Ariza: I mean, you know, honestly, it's one of those things where you just don't know what to do. It's one of those things where I just didn't know what to do. We said 'Hi,' and we shook hands. It's hard, man. We had been together for three years.
But I didn't know if it was true that he was upset with me. Because, you know, I read his blog after the fight on a Monday saying that he couldn't wait to get back to Los Angeles because, you know, I want to work with Alex again. And then, on a Wednesday, you know, I'm fired.
So, I don't know where it's coming from or where it derived from. There are so many questions out there so you don't want to speculate. So, yeah, it was diffitult. I don't know if he's upset with me. I don't know if he's mad or if he dislikes me.
BoxingScene.com: What are your recollections of how it all broke down?
Alex Ariza: Well, you know, they didn't want to pay me. For whatever reason. They wanted to put it off on Freddie Roach. But, you know, people do a lot of weird things for money.
It may not make a lot of sense to you or to me, but to try and rationalize it would make me go crazy. Freddie told me the same thing. He said, 'Don't try to make sense of it.' Freddie said, 'It's done, it's over.'
Freddie said, 'You're still my guy, and I want you for Manny, and I want you for Julio Cesar Chavez.' So whatever they want to do is what they want they want to do. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters to me.
If [Top Rank CEO] Bob Arum is okaying me to train Chavez, and Freddie is okay in that, that's all that matters to me. But honestly, it won't make a difference. It's a business. Obviously, I was hurt by the way that it was done.
I was with Amir, and I saw us as friends. It was something caught me off guard. I said some things in the heat of the moment. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters to me is who Freddie is going to hire the next fight.
So, if Freddie thinks that I'm the guy who should train Julio Cesar Chavez for this [WBC middleweight] championship fight in June [against Sebasitan Zbik,] then, that's what I'm going to do.
If he thinks that there is somebody out there who is better than me, or better for that fighter, then he will pick him. Then I would be okay with that. But I'm still with Manny Pacquiao, who is with Freddie.
So, you know, if Freddie decides that I'm the guy who should train Julio Cesar Chavez for his next fight, then I will be. If not, then he'll pick somebody else.
BoxingScene.com: Are you aware that after the last fight that Amir Khan against Marcos Rene Maidana, Khan is on video crediting you for helping him to get through that last fight, and, if so, what do you believe that you and Amir Khan did in training to assure that was the case?
Alex Ariza: My approach to training these guys is to push them above and beyond a point that I don't think that they might experience inside the ring. And then, I push them beyond even that point.
So that anything that happens inside that ring, it's not going to be shocking to them. It's like they've been there before and I've pushed them to that point and beyond. So they're going to whatever happens in that ring.
So when Khan got hurt in that 10th round, and he was dancing around or whatever it took, I was in the corner telling Freddie, 'Give him 15 seconds, and his legs will come right back.'
That's because I had not only pushed him to that point, but I had pushed him beyond it. So, you know, whatever happens in that ring, it's going to be nothing new to him. Sometimes, I've been criticized for that for sure.
So, you know, I've lost fighters for it. For my methods of training, and I've also kept fighters for it.
BoxingScene.com: In the same way that there was a noticeable difference in how Julio Cesar Chavez and Vanes Martirosyan were able to push to that next level in their fights against John Duddy, and, Joe Greene, respectively, after being trained by your methods, will you know if Amir Khan is not able to do so as a result of perhaps not being with you?
Alex Ariza: No. I think that you're not going to know that against an opponent like Paul McCloskey. But what you have to ask yourself is, or what you have to ask Amir Khan is this:
Are you in the same shape right now that you were in against Marcos Rene Maidana? That's a question you have to ask yourself. I mean, that's a question that you would have to ask Amir.
I mean, ask him, 'Do you feel right now, fighting on April 16, if your opponent were Marcos Rene Maidana, as confident as you were the last time out in your last fight?' Or, 'Are you as confident this time as you were the last time?'
Because I don't know what they do or what they don't do. Only Amir knows the truth. Only he knows. That might also be a question for Freddie. I mean, Freddie can probably answer that better than I can.
I mean, really, Amir can answer that. Like, 'Hey, if you had to fight Marcus Maidana on April 16, do you feel that you would be as confident as you are now fighting Paul McCloskey?'
BoxingScene.com: Given the success that Amir Khan enjoyed sparring with Manny Pacquiao as they prepared for Marcos Rena Maidana, and, Antonio Margarito, respectively, how much of that do you believe had to do with Khan's training with you?
Alex Ariza: I will tell you straight. It was great having those two together, because you had the pound-for-pound, No. 1 guy in Manny Pacquiao, and then I have the next hungry, up-and-coming young lion in there.
For me to train them both together, you couldn't ask for anything more, because I was getting the best out of both of them. Obviously, you have Manny Pacquiao, who is not going to allow you to get one inch on him.
And then you have Amir, who is going to be striving to be like Manny. So, to have those guys training together and doing track work and doing drill work, and stuff like that, it was phenomenal.
BoxingScene.com: Is it going to be possible for Amir Khan to duplicate that atmosphere?
Alex Ariza: I think that in this case, Amir suffers from not being able to train with Manny under the same conditions any more, because when you're training with Manny Pacquiao, you take it to the next level.
Everybody does. You have to. So, not having or being able to do that, I think that Amir suffers more. Manny, at this age, and with his experience, you know, training is one thing, but when it comes to fight night, you know he will show up.
BoxingScene.com: Will it be difficult for you to watch Amir Khan against Paul McCloskey?
Alex Ariza: Amir, you know, we were together for three years. Professionally, whatever happened happened. Not every match is made in heaven. Whatever happened happened. I still feel that over those three years, Amir and I had a bond.
So, well, you know, we have so much history together that it's going to be extremely hard. We're friends and stuff like that, so I'm not going to be sitting there and going, 'Oh, I hope that he gets knocked out' or anything like that.
Because I still like the guy, personally. Absolutely, I will be watching it. I think that I'm going to have the same nervous energy that I've had when I was in the corner.
It will be the same thing. I will have that same nervous energy. Like I said, I don't dislike him. I don't hate him. I don't have any ill will toward him.
So I don't want to see him get hurt. You know, he's still my friend. I don't want to see him get beat. For whatever reason, he and I didn't work out from a business standpoint.
You know? But, I mean, just because it didn't work out, I don't want to see him get beat. I still like him. We had great times together.
You have to understand, we were together for three years. We went out. We hung out. We went to amusement parks.
BoxingScene.com: Will there be sadness?
Alex Ariza: Well, Yeah. You know, I think absolutely. That's human nature. I'm not a robot. Of course. It's hard for me. We're friends. It's the end of a friendship because of business.
But I am going to be rooting for him because I want him to win. I don't want to see him get knocked out or hurt or anything like that.
BoxingScene.com: If Amir Khan loses, do you expect that there will be people who will attribute that to your absence, and if so, is that fair for them to do so?
Alex Ariza: Yes. Absolutely. I have no doubt that. For me, as a conditioning coach, there is no doubt in my mind that I bring something different to these guys.
I firmly and honestly believe that when I train them, they perform at a different level when I'm training them. So, yeah. I mean, with Amir Khan, that's three years of my work right there.
So watching some other guy f**k it up? Yeah, that would be hard to take.