OXNARD, California – One of the most intriguing battles in the upcoming clash between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios will take place in the corners.
Strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza will not be in the Pacman’s corner for the first time in a long time. Instead, he will make sure that Rios is in tip-top shape for the biggest fight of his career.
The growing feud between Pacquiao’s head trainer, Freddie Roach, and Ariza had been well documented by the HBO reality series 24/7, but what Ariza didn’t expect was the way he was fired – he only saw the news on the Internet.
“It’s nothing personal. At the end of the day, it was a business decision,” said Ariza. “Manny is a grown man, so this is what he wants. You have to respect it. You just have to look forward.”
While the fashion by which he was fired by Team Pacquiao stirred some controversy, Ariza is not holding any grudges.
“If we sit there and look at the past and anything negative, then you start to harbor ill feelings and that carries over into the way that you train,” he explained.
Robert Garcia, who trains several championship-caliber fighters aside from Rios, said he could not pass up the opportunity to hire the well-regarded Ariza to work with his stable.
“It gives me more time to work with my fighters now that Alex is here, because he’s the one doing the morning workouts,” said Garcia. “I don’t have to be worried about how far they’re running or how much they’re doing.”
“All the exercises we’re doing is keeping me fast and loose,” said Rios. “I don’t feel heavy. I feel ready.”
As he wishes his former boss the best on fight night, Ariza insists his role in Rios’ camp is on conditioning as Garcia’s role is to plan the fight night strategies.
“It’s not the Cold War, it’s not life or death,” said Ariza. “It’s just a sport, and for the guys, unfortunately, it’s a sport that’s physical. The only thing I hope is both guys come out well and healthy, and put on a good show.”
While he no longer works for the Fighting Pride of the Philippines, the country remains close to Ariza’s heart as his wife and children both still live there.
With both fighters focused on their training camps, Ariza says he has not spoken to Pacquiao’s team. He hopes, however, that after the November 24 showdown, they can get back on speaking terms and remain friends.