By Ivan G. Goldman
Who’s to blame in the ugly gym altercation that erupted between members of the Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios camps?
Take your pick.
You’ll find my grades near the bottom of this column, but such judgments are bound to be subjective. In the assorted video clips to be found on YouTube, there were plenty of angry people getting out of line and saying things they would later regret. For my part, I spotted only one downright villain. That was Alex Ariza, who kicked Freddie Roach in the chest and repeatedly mimicked his speech, which is sometimes affected by his Parkinson’s disease.
Ariza was clearly eager to get physical, and his mocking of Roach’s disease was something that would die down and start again over and over. It didn’t come in just one quick burst. The fact that some months ago Roach was instrumental in getting physical trainer Ariza fired out of the Pacquiao camp was clearly related to why events turned so nasty so quickly.
Kicking a disabled guy who hasn’t laid a finger on you and making fun of his disability is so clearly beyond the boundaries of civilized behavior that it can’t be explained away by the heat of the moment. Even the vilest of thugs might think twice before executing such hideous acts.
Roach, by the way, appears to be the one who immediately stooped to making inexcusable ethnic and racial remarks.
A brief summary: The Pacquiao and Rios camps are both in Macau, China for the welterweight showdown Saturday night, and, thanks to poor planning, they share the same gym with no apparent buffer zone in their time allotments. The Rios camp was supposed to exit, but the time ran over thanks to a series of TV interviews. Roach became disturbed and, swearing at trainer Robert Garcia, ordered him out.
Garcia, offended, refused.
There’s a really big Latino guy from Rios’ camp who looked ready to pop Roach. Freddie, before turning trainer and then suffering the ills of Parkinson’s, went 40-13 (15 KOs) as a lightweight. His street fighting nature never quite left him. In fact, he may qualify as one of the baddest dudes in boxing thanks to an episode in his native New England. He once told of being jumped by two thugs who wouldn’t quit thumping him. Thinking he was going to be beaten to death, he bit the eye right off an attacker’s face.
Now back to China. The big guy threatening Roach allowed himself to be steered away from his quarry. He kept his honor.
It’s worth recalling that while Antonio Margarito was training to fight Pacquiao, he and Rios were both recorded mocking Roach’s speech and movement. It didn’t come out of nowhere. There was plenty of rancor coming out of both camps that led up to that incident. Margarito, Rios, and Garcia all apologized later. Roach accepted their apologies, but it left a bitter aftertaste.
And now this. Roach making disparaging ethnic remarks toward Mexican-Americans and a Jewish cameraman who was recording it all definitely takes a bite (pun intended) out of his reputation. Precisely what he said wasn’t clear in the videos I saw, but he certainly didn’t use the words “Mexican” and “Jewish” in any constructive manner.
Obscure factoid: his ring moniker was “The Choir Boy.”
Full disclosure: I’m a member of one of the ethnic groups (Jews) who were insulted by Roach, but I assume we’ll see an apology from him. If it appears heartfelt, I stand ready to forgive. I’ve personally seen him do nice things for people (for me, actually), and I want to believe those ugly remarks didn’t represent his true self. On the other hand, I can speak for only one Jew and no Latinos.
Congressman Pacquiao wasn’t around, Rios stayed cool, amused, and above the fray, and one of boxing’s good guys, Pacquiao cutman Miguel Diaz (originally from Argentina) looked puzzled by all the anger. Garcia, a former IBF super featherweight champion who went 34-3 (25 KOs), eventually became angry, but never threatened physical force or insulted anyone’s ethnic background or health problems.
HBO and Top Rank Promotions are probably clinking champagne glasses over the gruesome turn this rivalry has taken. They could use a boost for a card that, as I noted in an earlier column, was having trouble picking up steam. Now there’s bad blood for sure. Look for it to pop up on the network’s 24/7 series publicizing the pay-per-view event.
Rather than go to the ten-point-must system, let’s be professorial on this one. Here are the grades.
Jewish camera guy: A
Pacquiao: Excused absence
Husky Latino guy who calmed down: C+
Finally, here’s a tip for offenders. They shouldn’t commit grievous offenses in a room that’s not only filled with people carrying smart phones but also with professional cameramen carrying their cameras.
Ivan Goldman’s boxing novel The Barfighter, set in the boxing world, was nominated as a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Available online & at better bookstores everywhere. Information HERE