MS 30th Anniversary XXX

This nasty business of boxing

Ronnie-NathanielszWe fervently hope that the decision to fire strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza won’t backfire on those who engineered his ouster, led by trainer Freddie Roach and supported no doubt by Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz, who was obviously elated that Manny decided to let Alex go. Koncz believes that Pacquiao doesn’t need a strength and conditioning coach and can rely on childhood friend Buboy Fernandez and Nonoy Neri to handle whatever needs to be done to keep Pacquiao at his best when he fights Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios in Macau on Nov. 24. Regrettably, personal animosities have clouded the judgment that led to the firing of Ariza, which was carried out in a most unprofessional manner with the news coming from Roach in an Internet chat. Ariza was taken aback and obviously hurt by the fact that nobody had the decency—or should I say the guts—o call Alex and give him the bad news. What was even worse was that Ariza called Pacquiao several times and sent him text messages, but never got a response. That surely doesn’t reflect well on Manny or the people who claim to advise him because common courtesy dictates that messages that are the result of serious decisions should be answered at the very least. Rather than be angered by what happened, Ariza told us that if Manny had told him to skip the Rios fight so as not to create distractions or dissension within his camp, he would have gladly acceded. When Brandon “Bam Bam” called him two days after he returned from the grueling media tour and asked him to travel to Oxnard and meet with trainer Robert Garcia and discuss the possibility of working with him, Ariza sought to reach Pacquiao to seek his approval if not his thoughts on the issue of working with his opponent. But again there was no response. As Robert Garcia conceded, there was nobody who had a kind word for Ariza, who many people feel talks too much and can be overbearing. Our own impression of the man is that he is a straight shooter, who tells it like it is and doesn’t resort to niceties or is particularly diplomatic in choosing his words or the time and place to make his feelings known. Similarly, we doubt whether you could find one person who has anything nice to say about Michael Koncz, but he’s still there and some others, too, who had previously fleeced Pacquiao are still around. One of the nastier criticisms of Ariza is that he’s an ingrate, considering what Pacquiao had done for him with nobody willing to look at what he had done for Pacquiao in his five most devastating performances in the ring, that eventually won for Manny the coveted title of Fighter of the Decade. Gratitude is a two-way street and while Ariza is openly thankful for what Pacquiao did for him, he also points out that he did his best for Pacquiao and his string of devastating victories over David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is undeniable proof. One of the claims that buttresses the theory of ingratitude is that Pacquiao had even gifted Ariza and his Filipino wife a condominium as a gift. That never happened and Ariza tells us half jokingly, “tell me where it is so we could move in.” Koncz reportedly claimed that Pacquiao gave Ariza the condominium, but for some unexplained reason took it back! We seriously doubt that Pacquiao would have done such a thing. He is surely not that kind of person. Ariza said he took the offer to train Rios because he needs to earn a living to pay the mortgage on his condominium and to care for his wife and family and had no choice. While he claims that Rios is doing everything he has asked of him like swimming at 5 a.m., which Garcia himself confirmed and is in excellent shape, Ariza deep down inside of him fervently hopes that nothing bad happens in the Pacquiao fight. To Alex Ariza, who may have rubbed many people the wrong way, he cares for Pacquiao and nobody else of significance in his team. To him, friends are the only thing in life and friendship has got value. He reiterared Manny “could have told me anything and out of gratitude, I would have done it.” Obviously, he didn’t get the chance. Too bad. Boxing is a nasty business and the machinations and intrigues often devalue the sport and the men who are an integral part of it.
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