By Sean Crose
It’s difficult to like Alex Ariza. At least it is after watching his behavior towards Freddie Roach last fall. Kicking and mocking someone with Parkinson’s Disease is far from sportsmanlike behavior. On a personal note, I found Ariza’s display in China particularly egregious since Parkinson’s afflicts both of my own parents.
Yet people are more than their ugliest incidents and we all need to be fair. Roach himself certainly wasn’t at his best that day in Macau, either, and tempers were clearly riding high. Let’s step back then and try to view Ariza as objectively as possible.
As far as boxing goes, the man is relatively new to the game (no Floyd Mayweather Senior or Teddy Atlas, he). After reportedly graduating from San Diego State in the mid 90s, Ariza aimed to forge a career in the cutting edge world of physical conditioning. This naturally led the man to boxing, an activity where a premium is placed on fitness.
Ariza exploded onto the fight scene when he joined the team of Roach and Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino’s subsequent transition from scrapper to superman was startling – so startling that people began to wonder how the transformation had actually happened.
Everyone knew the gifted Roach had something to do with it all, of course. But what about that conditioning trainer, that Alex Ariza? Indeed, the new Pacquiao was so ferocious that the great Floyd Mayweather himself refused to fight him without a mandatory implementation of drug testing. Mayweather was charged with cowardice at the time. In hindsight, his demand seems reasonable.
Still, team Pacquiao was on a roll. Opponents were falling, money was rolling in and reputations were rising somewhere above the earth’s atmosphere. Then came 2012 – the year of Timothy Bradley. The year of the Juan Manuel Marquez knockout. The year team Pacquiao fell back to earth.
No matter that PacMan staged a brilliant comeback against Brandon Rios in 2013. Ariza was no longer a part of the team. In fact, Ariza worked with Rios for the fight in Macau. That not only meant the conditioning expert was on the side of the loser, it meant he was also on the side of a guy who subsequently tested positive for the banned substance, methylhexaneamine. Those test results couldn’t have been good news for Ariza, the person who was paid to control what went inside Rios’ body.
But the hits were to keep on coming. Ariza was then accused in early December of slipping something to the Argentinian, Marcos Maidana, during Maidana’s victorious tussle with Adrien Broner. What’s more, Freddie Roach came right out and accused Ariza of being less than honorable. None of it was the kind of stuff to help rebuild an already tarnished reputation.
So now Ariza finds himself in the unlikely position of being the most controversial figure in boxing. And truth be told, he deserves it. I personally have seen no irrefutable proof as to whether or not the man has pushed performance enhancing drugs on his fighters. I do know, however, that Ariza has done a swell job of not making friends.
Let’s start with his apparent belief that, after a certain point, a boxer in training no longer needs to work on boxing as much as he or she does conditioning. That, good people, is like telling the Boston Red Sox that David Ortiz is spending too much time in the batter’s box. Or like telling the Denver Broncos that Payton Manning needs to stop tossing the ball around so much. It just sounds silly.
And lets get back to that meltdown Ariza had in China. Not only was it rage filled and sophomoric, it also suggested an extreme frustration with someone (Roach) who had dared to question his methods. It’s almost as if Ariza has grown tired of these mere trainers who no longer know their proper place in the changing world of boxing.
Still, Ariza undoubtedly knows his business. And the man’s system of ballistic exercising and nutrition have clearly caught the fight world’s eye. Yet they’ve also raised its suspicions. Besides, it’s hard to bury the past when Floyd Mayweather, the best boxer on the planet, still does things old school.
In short, Ariza should look at himself before pointing fingers at others.