By Sean Crose
Renowned trainer Robert Garcia has parted ways with controversial strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza. This comes as no surprise, since Ariza has been eyed with suspicion for years inside the boxing community. In an age of PEDs, Ariza has – fairly or unfairly – found a large question mark hanging above his reputation.
Garcia, though, isn’t saying he and Ariza parted ways over PEDs. He’s simply stated that the fighters and others in his camp want to go back to a more traditional way of training. This is fascinating, for there seems to be a belief these days that only the most cutting edge of training regimens will do.
Indeed, those who engage in the business of strength and conditioning have often come across as arrogant in regards to boxing. Ariza himself once made it clear that a certain fighter should have spent more time on strength and conditioning that in practicing his craft.
What’s more, a CrossFit trainer recently stated he was stunned Robert Guerrero had battled Floyd Mayweather in the shape Guerrero was in. This trainer, intentionally or not, came across as believing Guerrero was some kind of girly man before the fighter had hooked up with CrossFit.
I was a bit surprised at this trainer for clearly not knowing that the most important element of boxing is how well a boxer boxes. A fighter’s core muscles – or whatever they’re called – might be second to none. Core muscles can’t teach the fighter how to move, avoid, or punch, however. And fighters are always learning, always refining, always improvising. As essential as conditioning is, strategy and skill are even more essential.
Strategy, in particular, often has to be altered on a fight by fight basis. Any strength and conditioning trainer who doesn’t know that should probably keep out of boxing. One could only imagine someone like Ariza or the guy from CrossFit downplaying the importance of practice to Patriot’s coach Dick Belichick. He’d throw them out of the locker room. Boxing trainers should do the same.
Strength and conditioning is like a movie script – it’s essential, but it’s not the whole movie. If a script doesn’t work, the movie probably won’t work, either. Same goes for strength and conditioning. A screenwriter is not a director, however. Nor is a strength and conditioning coach a trainer. One wonders if Ariza failed to understand that while working with Garcia.
As for Garcia himself, his fighters are now doing it old school. Picture the training scenarios from the first three Rocky flicks and you get the general idea. Garcia claims that sort of thing worked for him not so long ago, so there’s no reason to believe it shouldn’t work for his fighters now.
Know something? He may be right. After all the ballyhoo about training with CrossFit, Guerrero’s last opponent, Yoshihiro Kamegai, went toe to toe with Guerrero through the entirety of their fight. It’s doubtful Kamegai had CrossFit, Ariza, or any other edgy training phenom in his camp. Yet he kept up with Guerrero, the man who swore by the cutting edge aspect of strength and conditioning.
Also worth noting is the fact that Brandon Rios, a Garcia fighter, got his you know what handed to him by Manny Pacquiao when they fought last November – while Ariza was acting as Rios’ strength and conditioning trainer. Marcos Maidana, another Ariza pupil, was said to have gotten a bit gassed in his throwdown with Floyd Mayweather a few months back, as well.
Do these things prove that Ariza’s methods are worthless? Of course not. Yet they don’t do his reputation any favors, either. The truth is that we’ll have to wait and see how Garcia’s stable does in order to find out if the man has made the right decision or not.
If he has, though, there may start to be one less lucrative market for strength and conditioning trainers to ply their trade in.