BOXING & MMA

Alex Ariza stirs Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao divide

Alex Ariza was Manny Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach, now he works for Floyd Mayweather Jr.

As respectful and subdued as Floyd Mayweather Jr. was before and during the Wednesday news conference for his May 2 fight against Manny Pacquiao, an old habit refused to die.

He's not good at complimenting an opponent.

It's widely agreed that the record eight-division champion Pacquiao stands with the unbeaten Mayweather as the top two boxers in the world.

But Mayweather wasn’t going out of his way to praise the Filipino, beyond saying “it’s an unbelievable matchup,” and agreeing there’s great anticipation for the long-awaited bout.

"Styles makes fights, and Manny’s style and mine is an exciting matchup,” Mayweather said.

Asked how closely he’s watched Pacquiao and what he most admires about him, though, Mayweather responded, "I think I’ve seen him fight twice" in five years.

"The key piece to many Manny Pacquiao victories in the past was Alex Ariza. Alex was great for Manny. Things happen. People outgrow one another."

Ariza, now in Mayweather’s camp, was Pacquiao’s former strength and conditioning coach, fired by Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach in August 2013 for overstepping his bounds and being difficult to interact with.

Ariza had a five-year run with Pacquiao, through the fighter’s move from lightweight champion to a surprising move up in weight to send favored Oscar De La Hoya to retirement in 2008.

Later, Pacquiao began to experience calf cramping in Ariza’s stint and Roach chafed when Ariza wouldn’t tell him what was in a milkshake Ariza made for the fighter.

Ariza was not immediately available Wednesday.

Roach, currently being sued by Ariza for defamation, said Wednesday that Ariza initially did an effective job as a strength coach.

“Then he wanted to be the cut man and take Miguel Diaz’s job,” Roach said. “Then he started giving Manny advice in the corner and I’m like, ‘What … are you doing?’”

Roach had promised Pacquiao he wouldn’t swear Wednesday, but he violated the vow twice while discussing Ariza, suffering two $25 fines that Pacquiao joked were each a “salary deduction.”

"I got a little tired of it,” Roach said of Ariza’s behavior. “Manny’s a nice guy, didn’t want to get rid of him.”

Still, Roach told Pacquiao he wanted Ariza out.

“I’m tired of watching him stretch you for an hour every day,” Roach said he told Pacquiao. “You’re an athlete, you know how to stretch yourself. You don’t need a guy in there like hugging and kissing, like he’s making love because he wanted to feel needed.”

Said Roach: "It was a good stretch, don’t get me wrong, but I was tired of it."

Roach pressed Pacquiao, telling the fighter his corner “would be better without [Ariza] there.”

Beyond that, the trainer said he told Pacquiao he would give the fighter half the money he was paying Roach if he would fire Ariza.

“We came to an agreement,” Roach said to laughter in a gathering with print reporters before Wednesday's news conference as Pacquiao, sitting next to the trainer, raised his eyebrows and smiled.

Roach replaced Ariza by hiring Pacquiao’s previous strength coach, Justin Fortune.

"I'm really happy that Alex Ariza is in that other corner,” Roach said. “What can he tell Mayweather? That Manny’s fast? Yeah. The moves that Manny makes? No. He doesn’t understand boxing like that. He’s a strength coach. And he goes over his boundaries every time."

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

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