By Sean Crose
Okay, so maybe they’ll never be BFFs, but Floyd Mayweather and controversial fitness guru Alex Ariza are most certainly in some form of cahoots. A photo appeared on the internet Friday showing Ariza helping Mayweather stretch before a 3 am run. It wasn’t the odd hour that caused jaws to drop, however, it was the fact that Mayweather was allowing a man who had helped so many of his foes – both real and would-be – take part in his camp. Of course no one knows how close to two men are, but the situation certainly has people talking. No doubt Mayweather wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ariza, for those who don’t know, is the bad boy of sport’s fitness, or at least boxing fitness. A cutting edge strength and conditioning expert, the man is brash, exceedingly confident, and sometimes downright offensive. He also has a reputation with a big question mark stamped onto the front of it. Why? Because Ariza’s long been rumored to be a part of the performing enhancing drug problem which plagues the sport. To be sure, no solid proof has been given to back up those tarnishing whispers, but they have persistently floated through the air, regardless.
Part of what makes a Mayweather-Airza alliance so strange (at least on the surface) is the fact that Mayweather always prides himself on training “the old fashioned way.” Here is a man, after all, who purportedly does it old school while taking his more trendy opponents to a school of his own in the ring. In a sport that’s moving towards more advanced levels of training, Mayweather has consistently proven that traditional methods of preparation can still work just fine.
Does the photograph of Mayweather with Ariza prove that Mayweather is now jumping aboard the strength and conditioning bandwagon? Or is the whole thing simply a ploy to get people talking weeks before a rematch with Marcos Maidana (which may prove to be a hard sell on pay per view)? Only Mayweather knows, of course, but one gets the feeling Floyd isn’t going to get totally behind the guy who helped prep the last opponent he beat, the same guy who also helped prep Brandon Rios for his disastrous outing against Manny Pacquiao last year.
Indeed, it’s easy to see Mayweather using Ariza as a way to get inside Maidana’s head. Mayweather is a master of mind games, after all (just look at the seemingly unending glove controversy he’s created), and Maidana’s trainer, Robert Garcia, recently terminated his working relationship with Ariza. Seeing their old strength and conditioning coach in Mayweather’s camp may serve to aggravate team Rios. And aggravation can lead to a loss of focus.
Perhaps more than anyone else in the game today, Mayweather knows the value of psychological warfare. Whether he’s wearing a sombrero in the ring to battle Oscar De La Hoya or mocking Garcia for past defeats at public press conference, the man knows how to get inside the opposition’s head and under its skin. The story, therefore, may not so much be about a photograph, but about the Maidana camp’s reaction to that photograph. A picture may be worth a thousand words, after all, but no one can tell how it will affect an individual’s psyche.
At the very least, Mayweather has gotten himself back in the headlines mere days before what could well be the biggest fight of the year. Having Alex Ariza in his camp in any capacity may not necessarily make for effective training, but it certainly makes for effective marketing. And Floyd Mayweather is, without doubt, one of the greatest self-promoters on earth.