By Edward Chaykovsky
During the pre-fight promotion, strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza was often a topic of discussion for Saturday's mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Ariza had worked with Pacquiao for several years, until the Filipino star's trainer Freddie Roach fired him in 2012. Roach has since hired back Pacquiao's original conditioning coach, Justin Fortune.
Earlier this year, Ariza started working with Mayweather, who believes the coach played a very important role in Pacquiao's run of success (at least for the five years when they were working together).
"The key piece to many Manny Pacquiao victories in the past was Alex Ariza. Alex was great for Manny. Things happen. People outgrow one another," Mayweather said to the LA Times.
Roach has a different view on Ariza. He felt the conditioning coach was often overstepping his boundaries.
“[First he was the conditioning coach], then he wanted to be the cut man and take Miguel Diaz’s job,” Roach said. “Then he started giving Manny advice in the corner and I’m like, ‘What … are you doing?’ I got a little tired of it,” Roach said of Ariza’s behavior. “Manny’s a nice guy, didn’t want to get rid of him.”
“I’m tired of watching him stretch you for an hour every day,” Roach said he told Pacquiao. “You’re an athlete, you know how to stretch yourself. You don’t need a guy in there like hugging and kissing, like he’s making love because he wanted to feel needed. It was a good stretch, don’t get me wrong, but I was tired of it."
"I'm really happy that Alex Ariza is in that other corner. What can he tell Mayweather? That Manny’s fast? Yeah. The moves that Manny makes? No. He doesn’t understand boxing like that. He’s a strength coach. And he goes over his boundaries every time."