Friday, April 4, 2014

Ariza a big loss to Team Pacquiao

“Hope of ill gain is the beginning of loss.” — Democritus
By Alex P. Vidal

When Team Pacquiao lost conditioning coach Alex Ariza two fights ago, Manny Pacquiao (55-5, 38 KOs) was never the same again.

Ariza joined Pacquiao’s training team when the hard-hitting Filipino champion pulled a controversial 12-round split decision win in his rematch against Juan Manuel Marquez for WBC super featherweight diadem on March 15, 2008.

At the time, Ariza was still unknown. Nobody from members of Pacquiao’s family and the press really knew him except Freddie Roach, who hired the Columbian conditioning coach to assist Roach for Pacquiao’s training at the Wild Card Gym.

Ariza joined Pacquiao, members of his team and several journalists invited to attend a birthday party of a Fil-Am girl in a house in Las Vegas a day after the Marquez rematch.


Because he hardly knew anybody in the entourage, Ariza was left in the house when the six-vehicle entourage left and was heading back to Los Angeles.

I was in the vehicle together with three fellow accredited journalists from Manila when the driver was told to stop and go back to the house 15 minutes after we left “because Alex was left.”

“But Alex is here!” boomed international referee Silvestre Abainza referring to me.

“No, he is Alex Ariza. Kasama daw ni Freddie (Roach),” one of the passengers retorted.

“Sino ba yang si Alex Ariza na yan? Ang layo na natin na sa highway na tayo. Bugbugin nalang kaya natin ang gago’ng yan para mabigyan ng leksyon (Who is that Alex Ariza? We are already in the highway. Why don’t we teach him a lesson?),” one passenger, a bully, angrily protested.

“No, don’t do that. Don’t think about that. He is a trusted ally of Freddie (Roach),” somebody remarked.


We went back to fetch the last passenger. He was Alex Ariza, innocent-looking and demure. He apologized. He was in the toilet room when we all left.

Ariza would later help pilot Pacquiao’s amazing eight-fight winning streak alongside Roach and the rest of the coaching staff.

He also became Pacquiao’s closest friend and became instant celebrity especially among Filipino fight fans. In some of Pacquiao’s spectacular KO wins, Ariza was seen kissing and hugging the Filipino champion like a true brother.

Unlike his former recruiter Roach, Ariza is not arrogant. We once had lunch at Jollibee Las Vegas branch together with Texas-based Dr. Allan Recto and he never spoke venomous diatribes against anybody in the team even if his relationship with some of them was already on the rocks.


One time while I was inside a small Thai restaurant near the Wild Card gym, Ariza and Pacquiao entered and sat beside me after a training session. When I was about to leave, Pacquiao asked me to say and join him as he ate the foods Ariza had ordered. Pacquiao transferred some of the foods on my plate and pretended he was busy talking to me. I immediately was able to read between the lines. Pacquiao did not want other characters to distrupt him. I stayed in the table and helped empty the plates. Ariza never complained while I ate some of his ward’s foods.

Ariza was a friend of almost all journalists and kibitzers. He signed autographs and posed with fans like a celebrity, and his popularity did not go to his head. He is much-admired because of his patience and discipline in and outside the gym. He was a big asset in Team Pacquiao; and a big loss, too.


When Marquez bombed out Pacquiao in a shocking 6th round KO in Las Vegas on December 12, 2012, I saw a mist in Ariza’s eyes. Almost all Filipino fans cried with Team Pacquiao. It was one of the saddest moments that I witnessed inside MGM Grand.

Last November 2013, I was stunned when I heard in the news that Ariza and his former recruiter Roach nearly engaged in a brawl inside a gym in Macau. Ariza was not anymore working for Team Pacquiao. He was on the enemy’s side as member of Brandon Rios’ coaching team.

Pacquiao will miss his former conditioning coach and friend when he squares off in a rematch against Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas on April 13. I don’t want to see Ariza in the corner of Bradley.

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