LAS VEGAS — During the aftermath of a unanimous-decision win by Amir Khan over Marcos Maidana in December of 2010, Khan’s strength coach, Alex Ariza, and Maidana’s trainer, Miguel Diaz, exchanged insults in the ring.
An assistant trainer to Freddie Roach at the time, Ariza said that Diaz came across the ring and launched into a verbal assault tainted with insinuations about performance enhancing drugs.
“To call me a fraud, you know, I don’t cheat. Everybody knows that,” Ariza told BoxingScene.com at the time. “I train my fighters, and I’m legitimate. I don’t give them anything. Anything illegal.”
Diaz admitted calling Ariza “a f–king fraud,” but said, “at no time did I ever say that he cheats.”
But Diaz and Ariza must work together on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as cornermen for Manny Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 knockouts) during the HBO Pay Per View-televised defense of his WBO welterweight belt against Tim Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs).
Ariza’s relationship already was strained with Roach, Pacquiao’s lead trainer, after having left Pacquiao’s training camp in the Philippines a few weeks ago to work with WBA middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Roach also trains Chavez, who is preparing for a June 16 defense against Andy Lee in El Paso, Texas.
Roach had sought the dismissal of Ariza altogether, but Pacquiao refused, instead demanding that they work out a compromise.
“I have already talked to Freddie and Alex Ariza,” said Pacquiao, downplaying any notion of turmoil. “Everything is okay, and it’s fine. I will focus on Freddie. Alex will be in the corner.”
So the corner will be comprised of Roach, Diaz, Ariza and Pacquiao’s longtime friend, Restituto “BuBoy” Fernandez.
Ariza told RingTV.com that he has been asked not to comment publicly by Pacquiao, this, after having worked alongside Roach over the course of Pacquiao’s past eight victories.
During that time, Pacquiao has won three title belts over as many different weight divisions, scored knockouts over Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton and vanquished Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey.
Diaz said he will the chief cut man, working along the ring apron between rounds as Roach instructs Pacquiao.
“I’m up, and Alex is down. I’m working the apron and Alex is down,” said Diaz. “He’ll be carrying the buckets and whatever else there is to do. That’s all. No problem.”
On the undercard, WBO bantamweight titleholder and four-division titlewinner Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs), of Los Mochis, Mex., will face Jesus Rojas, (18-1-1, 13 KOs), of Puerto Rico, in a non-title junior featherweight bout, and welterweight Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs), of Philadelphia, will take on Randall Bailey (41-7, 36 KOs), of Miami, for the vacant IBF title.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum addressed what is at stake for Arce, Jones and Rigondeaux in the event that each is victorious.
Arum said Arce is in line for a clash with WBO junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire (28-1, 18 KOs), should Donaire get beyond a July 7 unification fight with IBF junior featherweight beltholder Jeffrey Mathebula (26-3-2, 14KOs).
“If Arce looks good, and Donaire beats Mathebula, then HBO wants to do that fight in the fall,” said Arum. “Whenever they’re ready. October, November.”
Jones, said Arum, could raise his stock enough to challenge the Pacquiao-Bradley winner.
“Jones is very interesting. If Jones wins this fight, it’s very valuable for him,” said Arum. “Because he’s a potential opponent for either Pacquiao or Bradley.”
Jones most recently overcame rugged Argentine slugger Sebastian Lujan by unanimous decision in December, ending Lujan’s 12-fight winning streak that had included six knockouts.
But is Jones ready for Pacquiao or Bradley?
“Well, we’ll see. I don’t know. Off of his last performances, no. But if he gives a performance that [Jones’ promoter] Russell Peltz thinks, yes,” said Arum. “Russell feels that he’s tremendously capable fighter that has to have a little bit more of a fire in his belly.”
Rigondeaux could get the winner of Donaire-Arce if not ex-beltholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (21-2-1, 18 KOs), said Arum, that is, if he continues his impressive knockout streak.
“Rigondeaux is a great, great fighter, but he made his bones in the amateurs where he was unbeatable and won two gold medals. But he can’t use that style as a pro, because nobody wants to watch him. So he’s realizing that,” said Arum.
“He’s going to become more of a professional knockout kind of guy. And if he does, there’s a whole group of guys that we have for him to fight, including the Donaire-Arce winner, or Vazquez, there’s just an unbelievable number of guys.”
After decisioning Panama’s Ricardo Cordoba in a boring fight in November of 2010, Rigondeaux stopped his past two opponents, Willie Casey and Rico Ramos, in the first and sixth rounds, respectively.
“He has differentiated from the disaster that he had in Cowboys’ stadium against the Panamanian. Nobody wants to watch a fight like that,” said Arum, referring to Rigondeaux fight with Cordoba.
“It was very, very hard for a former Cuban amateur great to realize that it’s not just winning, but you have to look good and you have to entertain.”