Ariza: Don’t blame Pacquiao, blame his ‘incompetent’ team

LAS VEGAS, United States – Manny Pacquiao isn’t the problem – it’s the people around him.

This is according to Pacquiao’s former conditioning coach, Alex Ariza, who conditioned Floyd Mayweather Jr for his mega fight against the Filipino superstar.

On Saturday, May 2, Mayweather stayed undefeated, winning via unanimous decision against Pacquiao, in a bout that took 5 years to finalize and was dubbed the fight of the century.

After the fight, Ariza said Pacquiao was not the same fighter he worked with some years ago, but emphasized it was not Pacquiao's fault but the fault of his team.

“Clearly he’s not (the same). But that’s not to say he’s not capable of being that Manny. Tonight I just saw a Manny that was fighting by himself. I did not see any direction, I did not see them trying to set up things to turn the fight into Manny’s way. Manny was doing the same thing every round,” he told Rappler in an exclusive interview.

“I think the old Manny is still there he just needs a better team that can bring that out in him. I just think those people are not competent enough to do that.”

He added, “I think you look at the Manny back then and you look at the Manny now. If we got half of the Manny we got back then, I think it would’ve been a much better fight tonight. He got shut out.”

Ariza conditioned Pacquiao for many of his top fights for 5 years starting 2008, during the years Pacquiao rose up to different weight classes from 130 pounds, to 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds. 

In 2013, Ariza had a falling out with Pacquiao’s longtime trainer Freddie Roach, who ousted him for Pacquiao's persistent calf problems, accusing Ariza of trying to do everyone's job in camp. 

Pacquiao punched less

At the post-fight press conference, Mayweather said recruiting Ariza to join his team was one of his best decisions, because Ariza was able to tell him about Pacquiao’s weaknesses.

Surprisingly though, Ariza said Pacquiao did not fight the fight they expected him to and prepared Mayweather for.

“We trained for a different fight but that’s boxing. Everyone comes in with different strategies. We were just anticipating that they were going to do what they said they’re going to do,” he said. “All in all it turned out well of course but hopefully it was going to turn out a little more exciting than that.”

Ariza said they expected Pacquiao to be explosive and throw volume punches – but that did not happen.

“He threw less than 500 punches in the fight. When a guy throws less than 500 punches in a fight, obviously he’s not engaging. He’s not being aggressive, he’s not making the fight happen,” he said.

“We were building ourselves to be physically stronger and faster and more explosive but it's hard when the other is as evasive as you are.”

After the fight, Pacquiao said his shoulder started to hurt after the 3rd round, an injury he sustained 3 weeks ago in training camp at sparring. But Ariza said injuries are normal for fighters, and again pointed to his team as the one to blame.

“I don’t think he’s lying but every fighter has to fight with injuries and have to overcome certain things like that, physical ailments that happen in camp. I don’t think any fighter goes in there 100%. We had a lot of rough sparring we had injuries as well, but we use a lot of new scientific methods in the recovery and I think that helped us,” he said.

“You can’t blame Manny for his injuries, you can only blame his team for not being smart enough, for not having the knowledge to address those issues. I don’t see that there should be any excuses in this, you should just take your loss and just say ‘Hey he was the better guy tonight, my team obviously didn’t prepare me the way they should’ve.’”

'Roach can't coach'

Ariza also questioned the ability of Roach to still train Pacquiao – especially considering the fight’s magnitude. He said Roach is “broken down in pieces” at this point and is unable to prepare Pacquiao well.

“Does anyone really think that Freddie Roach is physically capable of training Manny Pacquiao at an elite level to fight a Floyd Mayweather Jr? Seriously. How could anyone be so naive and ignorant?," he said.

"We have young able, moving bodies that are trying to emulate Manny Pacquiao. How can you be so blinded by your own ego that you think you can get this guy ready and use yourself as a conditioning compass for a fighter like Manny?"

The conditioning coach said the problem with Roach is that he is afraid to try new methods, and to update his training regimen – making it hard for him to do his job when he was still at Pacquiao’s camp.

“You can’t expect to do the same thing over again and expect a different result,” he said, adding it was “much harder” to do his job when he was with Pacquiao if not “almost impossible.”

“(Over there, there were) so many people threatened with the unknown. They fear the things they don’t want to understand and learn. When a trainer says why try new things? That shows what his mental capacity is. Everyone should try to evolve, progress… that’s what science is. New things come out on nutrition and exercise every day,” he said.

In an earlier interview with Rappler, Roach said Pacquiao told him that it was his job to prepare him well for this fight. Roach, 55, suffers from Parkinson's. He has been named trainer of the year 6 times.

Asked what the major difference is between Mayweather’s camp and Pacquiao's, Ariza said it was the way the fighters approached their craft.

“Mayweather is definitely the boss. When the boss likes what I’m doing, that’s all that matters,” he said.

At Pacquiao’s camp, he said Roach “is a puppet of Bob Arum the same way (Pacquiao advisor) Michael Koncz is.”

“Manny isn’t a confrontational person. He’s not the boss. That’s the difference,” he said. – Rappler.com