By Chris Robinson

During any boxing event you are sure to find your share of subplots. The sport is filled with contrasting characters from all walks of life and when emotions boil over things often can get ugly. Such was the case for this past weekend’s WBA junior welterweight title fight between champion Amir Khan and interim titleholder Marcos Maidana.

On the surface the fight was a riveting battle, one in which Khan scored a knockdown early while showing off his beautiful boxing skills for many rounds before surviving a hellacious onslaught by Maidana in the tenth round and ultimately pulling out a close decision victory. There was much that you can take away from each man’s performance but away from the spotlight there was some undocumented controversy that had been brewing between the two camps and two key corner men in particular.

Alex Ariza works with trainer Freddie Roach and serves as strength and conditioning coach to Khan, Manny Pacquiao and middleweight contender Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. amongst others. Ariza began working at the Wild Card Boxing Club shortly after Justin Fortune left and opened up his own facility a few years back. He worked with Roach and his stable of fighters before helping assist Pacquiao following his March 2008 victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in their heated rematch.

Ariza reached out to me earlier today to follow up on some drama that had taken place between him and veteran cut man Miguel Diaz, who served as Maidana’s chief trainer for his bout against Khan at the Mandalay Bay. With much to get off of his chest, Ariza opened up about his time in Vegas and the peculiar behavior that he noticed coming from Diaz during fight week.

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“It was kind of a crazy week,” Ariza admitted. “We got to Las Vegas on Sunday. On Tuesday we had the grand arrival and Golden Boy asked Freddie and I to go on stage with Amir. Anyways to make a long story short, Monica, one of the publicists for Golden Boy, came over and Miguel had a problem with me being up there. So Tahir Khan, who is Amir’s uncle and his coordinator, told him to worry about his own fighter. I was wondering what his problem was. What difference did it matter if I was up there next to him or not?”

Diaz, originally from Argentina before relocating to Southern California and later Las Vegas, is widely respected in the sport and has worked the corners of such fighters as Floyd Mayweather, Erik Morales, Jose Luis Castillo, Jorge Arce and countless other champions. While Diaz is never one to shy away from speaking his mind, he is typically laid back in his demeanor and his apparent disdain towards the Columbian-born Ariza had to have stemmed from something prior.

“Now there is some history between me and Miguel,” Ariza stated, adding some insight to the situation. Turns out that Ariza was working in Las Vegas about ten years ago with such fighters as Diego Corrales and Erik Morales, two men who Diaz also assisted. Ariza and Diaz were with Corrales in camp as he trained for his January 2001 showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand, a fight the Sacramento pugilist would lose badly as he was knocked down five times with his corner throwing in the towel during the tenth round.

Ariza remembers that during the lead up to the Mayweather-Corrales fight that Diaz had a specific plan of attack in mind, one he also felt would work for Maidana as he attempted to chop down Khan.

“He had been saying some things about Amir not having a chin and all they had to do was hit him once,” Ariza said. “He said he was overrated and that all they had to do was hit him on the arms. I was 24 years old when I worked with Miguel when we worked with Corrales and fought Mayweather. And it sounded like the same game plan that he had for Diego when he fought Mayweather. That didn’t work out too well for us. So I said I hope he has a plan B because we didn’t have one then. It was kind of funny and here we were ten years later and he had the same game plan.”

Ariza would end up taking a break from the sport after venturing to California as he made ends meet working as a stunt double in the film industry after being referred by a good friend. That same acquaintance also happened to train out of Roach’s Wild Card facility and suggested Ariza introduce himself, as the Massachusetts trainer was looking to fill the void left by Fortune.

What Ariza remembers most from his early days with Roach was simply how much he didn’t know in the first place.

“When I came to Freddie Roach we had talked and I kind of found out what the real deal was,” Ariza said with obvious admiration. “You spend all this time in boxing then you work at Wild Card and you find out that you really know nothing about the sport. It was kind of a shock to me. I didn’t realize how it really worked and how a real trainer really was. I always go back and think that if only we had a real trainer with Erik and Diego, I wonder what it really could have been.”

Adding to the intrigue of Ariza’s tale is the fact that Diaz had actually been working with Roach and Ariza for the past few years on rare occasions as a cut man for such fighters as Pacquiao, Chavez Jr. and Vanes Martirosyan. Ariza shot down initial reports that Roach had reached out to Diaz for his assistance and also shed some light on the beginning mark for the apparent rift between he and the 78-year old.

“During the De La Hoya camp, Joe Chavez was our cut man for Manny Pacquiao,” Ariza said looking back. “[He] has always been Freddie’s go-to cut man. But Joe Chavez, obviously for money reasons, went to De La Hoya’s side for the Pacquiao fight. So Miguel Diaz was hired by Top Rank, not by us, to work Manny’s corner. He wasn’t hired by Freddie Roach. So for Chavez Jr. as well, by default he was Top Rank’s cut man.”

Ariza notes that while all parties got along relatively well at first, there seemed to be some serious disagreement in the corner due to Diaz’s perceived duties. Everything seemed to reach an unfortunate climax in between rounds during Pacquiao’s dominating twelve-round decision over Antonio Margarito last month in Cowboys Stadium.

“For the Margarito fight things started to get a little heated and Manny was bleeding from the mouth a little bit and from the nose,” Ariza said of the bloody brawl in Texas. “Miguel of course wanted to storm the canvas but he was told to stay put. I told him that it wasn’t a cut and that it was just blood. He threw a fit. Freddie supported my decision and said I was right. Miguel had been there for five minutes and I had been there for two months. Freddie kept Miguel on the floor and clearly he had a problem with that. I think everything rolled over to this camp.”

As our conversation continued it was obvious that Ariza was a little on edge from everything that had taken place between him and Diaz this past weekend. Ariza took a few swipes at Diaz’s reputation in the sport, noting that he was a cut man first before he ever was looked at as a chief trainer.

Ariza also felt the need to point to a key mistake that he felt Diaz made just hours before Saturday’s main event, as there was some confusion in Khan’s camp with the gloves he was to wear against Maidana. Apparently the British star was to fight wearing eight-ounce Reebok gloves but a simple miscalculation from the company would change the layout of the fight completely.

“Reebok didn’t get us the gloves until the last minute,” Ariza said. “Miguel didn’t like the gloves and wanted the gloves weighed, which we would have never done because we assumed that Reebok did that. The gloves were weighed and weighed nearly ten ounces, 9.6 ounces. Miguel, thinking that he was doing something to us psychologically, obviously made a complaint and wanted the gloves pulled from us. If it wasn’t for Miguel making the complaint the commission still wouldn’t have let him wear the gloves if he didn’t ask to have them taken away.”

After the bout between the two prizefighters there was a definite scuffle inside of the ring between parties from each man’s camp. While it seemed to be a mystery from ringside as to what exactly was taking place, Ariza revealed that he and Diaz had some foul remarks for one another that set everything off.

“After the fight he was saying some derogatory things about what happened during the fight and then I said some things about him, about his fighter,” Ariza said without remorse. "As you saw Maidana was fighting dirty. He had some serious lumps on the back of his head. There was one that was really, really bad behind his ear. Ultimately that was the reason why we had to take him to the ER because there was a real bad contusion on the back with real swelling and the doctor was really concerned about it. But Miguel was in his corner screaming in the middle of the ring after the fight. And he was saying some things and I turned around and told him that his fighter was dirty. He went off and he started screaming about how I was a cheat and a fraud.”

That is pretty much where the feud ended although Diaz could be seen after the bout speaking to members of the media on all aspects of the fight. Perhaps lost in all of Ariza’s claims is just how well his fighter performed on Saturday. Aside from showing off his great talent early in the fight, Khan had to dig down deep and weather some storms from Maidana in certain rounds. He was able to hang on yet Ariza admits he was shaking during Maidana’s late round assault.

“I got to be honest with you I got kind of nervous,” he admitted of that memorable tenth round. “Don’t tell me that this is how this fight is going to end. To me, the ring is a deep ocean and you are alone in there. Mentally you have to be able to overcome some intangibles that happen in there, some uncomfortable moments, some times when you just want to quit. In the corner I was telling Amir that you have been here before, you’ve been exhausted, and you got through it everything. It was one of those moments. He told me that he never wanted to quit at anytime.”

During the post fight press conference rumors of Khan’s next bout circulated as he may now be heading back to England to perform, with former champion Zab Judah being a possible foe. His bout with Maidana was Amir’s chance to silence the critics that had emerged following his disastrous knockout loss to Breidis Prescott over two years ago and Ariza noted a telling moment just before the team made their way into the ring.

“As we were walking into the ring we stopped and to the left there was a monitor. And that monitor was showing highlights and the last thing the monitor showed was him getting knocked out by Breidis Prescott as we walked in. Amir looked over his shoulder, looked at me and he kind of shaked his head. It was either an omen or one of those things where he is going to look at it and say ‘That’s never going to happen again’.”

Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. An archive of his work can be found here, and he can be reached at