By Chris Robinson
On Monday morning an obviously agitated Alex Ariza reached out to me to vent some of his frustrations towards well-respected cut man and trainer Miguel Diaz. The two men apparently had some harsh words in the center of the ring for one another after Ariza’s charge, WBA junior welterweight champion Amir Khan, defeated Marcos Maidana, who Diaz worked with this past weekend, over twelve pulsating rounds at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Shedding some light into the feud, Ariza, a strength and conditioning expert who works with Freddie Roach and some of his fighters such Khan, Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., pointed towards his history with Diaz nearly ten years ago in Vegas as well as some obvious disagreements that had taken place between the two men over the past month.
Ariza was scathing with some of his remarks and it was only fair for me to reach out to Diaz to get his side of the story. I told Diaz that Ariza claimed his fighter was fighting dirty against Khan, as evidenced by the severe swelling on the back of the British fighter’s dome.
This was definitely news to Diaz and he gave his view on why exactly the two men went back and forth inside of the ring.
“Maidana was fighting dirty?” Diaz questioned. “This is the first time I have heard that. [He said] ‘You’re fighter is a piece of shit’. That’s exactly what he said. I went there to say congratulations to Freddie Roach and this is what he says? And when he said that I really exploded because he doesn’t have no business to say that to my fighter.”
It’s obvious that emotions had reached a tilt between both camps yet Diaz insists he was never bitter towards Khan himself. Matter of fact, after the fight Diaz accepted Amir into his dressing room with open arms and offered up a sincere congratulation.
“They asked if they could bring Khan to the dressing room and I said ‘absolutely’,” Diaz affirmed. “They brought him to the dressing room with two or three guys and we had a very good chat. We took a picture together and everything else. I congratulated him for the fight and that’s all we said. It was very nice of them to come to our room.”
There actually is a history between Ariza and Diaz, as the two men worked alongside one another in Las Vegas roughly ten years ago with Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales and Erik Morales. Ariza remembers that as they helped ready Corrales for his January 2001 bout with undefeated Floyd Mayweather, that Diaz claimed the best plan of attack would be to simply swarm the Grand Rapids native by attacking his arms and any other areas they could. Corrales would end up being soundly defeated by Mayweather on that night, being dropped five times as his corner stopped the fight in the tenth round.
Ariza claims those same prophecies from Diaz rose again in the lead up to this past weekend’s fight as he dismissed Khan by saying all they had to do was land one single punch to stop Khan and that Maidana could have success by simply hitting him on the arms to wear him down. Ariza wondered why Diaz would come up with the same strategy that had failed years ago while also pointing out Diaz's feelings on Khan's weak chin.
Told of Ariza’s statement, a befuddled Diaz returned fire.
“What is he talking about?” Diaz pondered. “He’s trying to bring Diego Corrales to the table? It was in the English media when they asked me about his chin I said that I was pretty sure that Khan had a better chin because now he is fighting at 140 pounds. And I used to have a fighter that I was training, Roger Mayweather, and when he moved from 130 to 140 pounds he had a better chin. I also said that my fighter hits so hard that I wished one time he could catch him because it would be very, very bad for Amir Khan and I said that on expression, with my tongue. You can check with the media who got comments at the last minute, just three hours before the fight.”
When asked when he felt there was some initial friction between he and Diaz, Ariza pointed to last month’s Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito bout in Cowboys Stadium. Diaz had actually been working with Roach and Ariza on certain occasions over the past few years as cut man for Pacquiao, Vanes Martirosyan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. yet this time at Cowboys Stadium things would take a turn for the worst.
Despite dominating the contest Pacquiao would take some definite punishment of his own and in between rounds there was a disagreement as to whether Pacquiao, blood pouring out of his mouth and streaming down his face, was the victim of a cut. Diaz went to look into the situation but was told by Ariza to stay away from the ring apron, as he felt that there was no cut that needed to be looked at in the first place.
Diaz obviously felt otherwise and reflected back on the incident that took place on November 13th.
“Inside of the mouth,” Diaz started off. “The cut was inside of the mouth. Did that make me mad? What do you think? Because of a guy like him wants to be on the top all of the time and tells his cut man ‘Don’t get in over here’. As a matter of fact, do you know what I did for him? I actually got him some q-tips and said ‘Alex, the guy is spitting blood’ but he said that it was nothing. I told him again and I gave him two q-tips to stop the blood. I bet he didn't tell you that, did he? I didn’t want to create any problems in the corner because Freddie doesn’t deserve that.”
As our conversation rolled on, Ariza took some more swipes at Diaz, calling into question the validity of Diaz’s experience in the corner. Ariza pointed out that Diaz was primarily a cut man with no real experience as a trainer and hinted that he wasn’t capable of leading a charge like Maidana. Those notions obviously left Diaz baffled.
“That’s unbelievable,” he stated. “I’ve been in boxing for over forty years. I’ve trained ten world champions, including Maidana even as an interim champion. I brought guys like Pedro Decima from 17-0 to a champion of the world. Who has he ever fought to say such a thing? If he knows my background in Argentina, I come from a boxing family and I tell you one thing; if you ever come to my house you will see pictures of my father as a fighter in 1932 and I can tell you the magazine where they talk about my father.”
Some of those in the sport know Diaz because of his connection with Top Rank, the leading promotional entity in the sport. Asked of his relationship with the company and how they first joined forces, Diaz recalls a time when he was more so working with them on certain occasions before fully working for them.
“The reason I started working with Top Rank, first of all I was using Top Rank forms in those times to try to book fighters,” said Diaz. “Which was allowed by Bruce Trampler. I was doing a lot jobs for Top Rank in a different way. And when I got employed by Top Rank I went to translate the contract between Julio Cesar Chavez, the original, the father, who was leaving Don King, and Bob Arum and Todd Dubeof wanted me to come to Mexico because they wanted to make sure that what they say can be translated properly and what Chavez said could be translated to them. After I came back from there they said that I did a hell of a job and that I was working with them now.”
After hearing the sides of both Ariza and Diaz, I couldn’t help but wonder if Miguel’s relationship with Freddie Roach would also be severed because of all that had taken place. Fallouts are not uncommon in the sport but Diaz highlighted a few key reasons why him and Freddie are still on good terms.
“Please,” Diaz said. “You know what Freddie told me after the fight? We got together at the coffee shop, it was early Sunday morning, and he told me ‘Miguel don’t worry about this. I got it’. He was with his friends, seven or eight people, and I was having dinner after the fight. I told him that I didn’t have a problem with him. I trained him 25 years ago and he can tell you that. He knows me as a boxing guy for many, many years. He went up to me and told me that I am family and that he doesn’t want me to be upset. ‘Upset?’ I said. I am only upset with one person and not anybody else.”
It’s probably best that we began to look past the Ariza-Diaz beef, as each man has stated their case and will still have prosperous endeavors to explore afterwards. Still, you could sense some definite displeasure coming from Diaz, who probably took offense to Ariza not having a certain amount of respect for everything he has encompassed while in the sport.
Diaz is a wise old fox and outside of Pacquiao, Mayweather, Morales and the late Corrales he has also assisted the likes of champions such as Miguel Cotto, Jose Luis Castillo, Jorge Arce, Kelly Pavlik, Ricardo Torres and countless others. He closed the conversations with a few parting shots of his own, pointing to a few prestigious accolades as proof of his pedigree.
“My resume speaks for itself. Do you think that the Sportswriter’s Association named me Trainer of the Year in 1999 for nothing? Did he think that? But I don’t have no boxing background? I’ll see if he ever gets anything from the Boxing Writer’s Association or the Committee of California Hall of fame. I just can’t believe what this guy tried to prove.”