By Jake Donovan
The first major fight week event in Macau turned out to be a media spectacle. Key team members from camps of Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios traded blows, shoves and racial barbs during media workouts Wednesday morning (local time; Tuesday evening stateside), with plenty of video, photos and articles circulating through cyberspace.
The incident precedes their scheduled 12-round welterweight clash this weekend, which headlines on HBO PPV live from the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao (Saturday, 9PM ET).
While neither side was particularly proud of their respective roles in the incident, the means in which it was covered left a bitter taste in the mouths of Rios’ camp. Several reports were accompanied by a photo of a member of Team Rios with his fist cocked back while Roach is standing back in a non-confrontational manner, suggesting one side was the villain and the other side the victim.
The actual exchange between camps was absent of innocence from anyone involved. Roach, upset that the gym wasn’t made available at his promised time, approached Garcia–who was being interviewed by another media outlet at the time–and demanded his team get out.
Things only grew worse from there.
Garcia did his best to remain composed, but his team quickly unraveled the moment Roach angrily stepped in their direction. Violence quickly ensued, with one member of Team Rios–whom Roach referred to as a “Mexican motherf***er” and dared to come at him–went full throttle, only to be immediately separated by security.
During a media press conference Wednesday evening in Macau (Wednesday morning in the states), Rios’ trainer Robert Garcia used his time behind the mic to briefly discuss the incident.
“Regarding this morning’s incident… we had camera crews, photographers and reporters. I don't see why none of them are putting up exactly what happened,” Garcia asked. “Everyone needs to go to ESNewsReporting.com to see exactly what happened from beginning to end. I don’t know what 24/7 is going to put. But thanks to Elle Seckbach, the whole story can be seen (at his website) from beginning to end.
“There are plenty of photographers putting up photos to make us look bad.”
Seckbach’s style of “reporting” plus his relationship with Team Rios was brought to light by the other side of said incident.
“Yeah, go watch the website because that's his friend and he edited for him. How dumb is that,” quipped Freddie Roach.
(Writer’s note: The above quote is not to be taken as validation on the part of Boxingscene.com; the video appears to be unedited and posted in its original format)
The video also picked up plenty of colorful commentary from Rios’ camp, including strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza. A former member of Pacquiao’s team, Ariza was left to defend his actions after referring to a member of Roach’s crew as a faggot and doing nothing to help defuse the situation.
Doing his best to make light of a horrible media occurrence, promoter Bob Arum jokingly offered a solution to the lingering dispute.
“We are going to have bring in Judge Judy on this one,” Arum commented to the assembled media on hand at the Venetian Macao. “We can Skype her in, and she can settle this dispute once and for all.”
This is hardly the first entry in the history between the trainers, both of whom are considered the best cornermen in the sport today.
The two were on opposite sides during Manny Pacquiao’s 12-round beatdown of Antonio Margarito in November 2010. In the weeks preceding the fight, a video was circulated showing Margarito, Rios and Garcia mocking Roach. Included in their skit were movements simulating Roach’s efforts to deal with his current condition of Parkinson’s disease.
All team members apologized to the fight, particularly Rios who went out of his way during Fight Week to make amends. However, further drama between Garcia and Roach developed on fight night.
Roach accused Margarito – who was less than a year removed from a lengthy suspension for attempting to load his handwraps prior his Jan. ’09 knockout loss at the hands of Shane Mosley – of slipping a supplement into his pre-fight tea and demanded action be taken before allowing Pacquiao in the ring. Nothing was ever discovered, other than an empty packet of a sugar substitute and the fight went on as scheduled.
Garcia is the reigning Trainer of the Year, earning honors thanks to the in-ring success enjoyed by several members of his gym. The trainer has endured an up-and-down 2013 campaign, with Rios and Nonito Donaire (2012 Fighter of the Year) both suffering losses, though younger brother, unbeaten two-time titlist Mikey Garcia continues to shine.
Last year’s honors marked Garcia’s first win in a category Roach has previously owned. The Hall of Fame trainer has been named top cornerman a record five times, to where there was consideration as to whether or not the category should be renamed in his honor. It is currently named after the late Eddie Futch, under whom Roach served both as a fighter and an upcoming trainer.
Both Pacquiao and Rios enter Saturday’s affair on the heels of key losses.
Rios suffered his first career defeat in dropping a 12-round decision to Mike Alvarado in March. The bout was a rematch to their thriller last October, in which Rios snatched Alvarado’s ‘0’ by means of a 7th round stoppage in his debut at 140 lb. Saturday marks his first fight outside of the U.S. and Mexico.
Pacquiao’s last win came more than two years ago, when he took a disputed majority decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in their third encounter in Nov. ’11. Two losses followed – a highly controversial split decision defeat at the hands of Tim Bradley last June, and an indisputable 6th round knockout loss to Marquez in their epic fourth battle last December.
A hero in the Philippines, Pacquiao fights in Asia – and outside of the U.S. – for the first time since 2006. His last such occurrence took place in his homeland, where he outpointed former 122 lb. titlist Oscar Larios as part of a campaign that also saw him score two knockout wins over Erik Morales, avenging a March ’05 defeat.
The trio of wins earned Pacquiao his first of three Fighter of the Year awards, also claiming honors in 2008 and 2009. The collection of awards also led to his being named Fighter of the Decade during the Oughties.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox