Alex Ariza Q&A: "It was science and Juan Manuel Marquez that knocked out Manny Pacquiao"

Alex Ariza Q&A: "It was science and Juan Manuel Marquez that knocked out Manny Pacquiao"
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 17, 2012)

Manny Pacquiao (Left) - Alex Ariza (Right)
When Manny Pacquiao was knocked unconscious last week, the sight of the eight-time champion lying on his face sent shock waves through the boxing world. Luck had nothing to do with Juan Manuel Marquez’s counter right hand that flattened Pacquiao. The Mexican icon had been working on perfecting the punch for months.

Marquez entered the fight with thirty-nine knockouts to his credit. In three previous encounters with Pacquiao however, he hadn’t been able to floor his rival once. Last weekend in the third round, that streak ended. As Pacquiao stepped back with his hands low, Marquez unleashed his right. It arched slightly up like an ascending missile and came down squarely on the side of the Filipino star’s face. Pacquiao crumbled to the canvas on his back.

Strength and conditioning trainer Alex Ariza was in Pacquiao’s corner during the Marquez fight. For months leading up to the Marquez fight, he had seen his training camp responsibilities minimized. Last week I spoke to Ariza in depth about the Pacquiao loss, the aftermath, and the science of strength and conditioning in boxing.

John J. Raspanti: Were you just as stunned as the rest of us when Manny Pacquiao was knocked out?

Alex Ariza: Of course, I was shocked. I’ve been with Manny for five years and I’ve never seen him in that kind of condition. I think it was more of an emotional shock than anything.  At that moment, you have to get in touch with the realism of the sport, which was Manny just got knocked out.

JJR: Where were you when the knock out occurred?

AA: I was bending down to go up the stairs so I missed the big punch. Later, watching it and seeing the pictures, how Manny and Marquez both stepped forward, Marquez got there first. Manny lunged forward and got hit. Doing that doubled the velocity of the punch.  

JJR: Do you agree with Pacquiao’s advisor Michael Konz that the Marquez right hand was a lucky punch?

AA: I don’t believe there’s any luck at this level. All the credit goes to Marquez. He was getting hit with some good clean shots, he was bleeding, but he was able to stay focused.  Watching it over and over again, I could see him keeping it together-still taking that half step back and getting in position. He was still trying to measure Manny with that big right hand. Obviously, he hit Manny with that punch in the third round and put him down. So, he deserves a lot of credit. He was smart enough to come in with a strategy. He was able to utilize his strength and conditioning. He turned all of that into a big powerful right hand. Not even Manny said that was luck. Marquez was planning it. We should have noticed that. Manny made that double pump, and stepped way to the left. I’ve never seen Marquez throw that punch in any other fight in his career. He designed that punch just for Manny.

JJR: Pacquiao was ahead on all the scorecards entering the sixth round. How confident were you in the corner?

AA: I was feeling a lot better after the third round for sure. When Manny came back to the corner (after getting knocked down hard) he was all there. It wasn’t such a cracking shot as much as a power punch. It was an explosive punch. I was feeling very good. I think a lesser guy would have quit.

JJR: Pacquiao was very aggressive. Was there any concern he might be fighting a little too aggressively?

AA: I was a little concerned because Manny was pulling back so much. He would land the left hand and then dive back out. But, I’m just the corner man you know. I can’t say too much. My main concern was that Manny kept pulling back with his hands down.

JJR: For the fourth fight with Marquez, your role in Pacquiao’s camp was dimensioned.  Was there a reason for this and did it bother you?

AA: Of course it did. I want to put this in a way where it doesn’t send everybody off. All the losses we suffered this year have been because of the lack of support for the strength and conditioning program. I believe in what I do. It was hard to see some of the fighters I’ve worked with getting knocked out (Pacquiao, Vyacheslav Senchenko and Amir Khan).  The common denominator in all those losses was that they all abandoned the strength and conditioning program. I don’t want to say I blame anyone. It’s very taxing. Unless you can show me something else, that’s the one common denominator in all those losses.

JJR: There was a report that Freddie Roach and Pacquiao wanted to work on the sparring more for this fight.

AA: Yes, they did. You know I can only push my agenda so far. You have to remember that science is a four-letter word in boxing. You’re not going to get anyone to rally around it. It’s not about boxing anymore. Like Marquez and Manny, you’re talking about two guys who have learned all they can about the sport. Marquez opted to work more on the strength and conditioning and cut out some of the boxing.

JJR: Does Ariza see the Marquez victory, at the behest of his own guy, a win for the strength and conditioning program that he so strongly believes in?

AA: I hate to say it because it was against my own guy. It was ironic. The one thing I felt I had the advantage, with all the fighters I worked with, was I was only one using science and nutrition. I was applying it to the sport. The opposition never had that. Now when Memo(Herida aka Angel Hernandez) started working with Marquez we ended up being beat by the same thing we had been beating everyone else with. This is nothing against Nacho (Bernstein Marquez’s trainer) but it was science and Juan Manuel Marquez that beat Manny Pacquiao. That wasn’t the same Marquez we had seen before. He’s the same intelligent fighter and technician, but it was exercise and nutrition that turned him into the relentless fighter who could withstand Manny’s punches, and then be able to generate that kind of explosiveness with one punch.  

JJR: Do you believe any of the speculation regarding Marquez and steroids?

AA: I don’t, and I’m going to tell you why. I’m a scientist and researcher. I’ve studied how it works. I feel I’m very educated in what works. It’s very hard for some people to understand. A well planned program and consistency can make changes in areas that nobody would have ever thought possible. Manny Pacquiao was in the same boat. You have to remember that before I got to Manny, he had gone 12-rounds with Marco Barrera and 12-rounds with Marquez. Then he knocked out David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto. Why all of a sudden was he doing that? All my fighters have tested clean for PEDS. Julio Cesar Chavez was notorious for not being able to fight past six rounds. Then suddenly he could. How did we flip it? How was Amir Khan able to take 72 punches in the 10th round against Marcos Maidano? It’s not just what I believe. The science helped my fighters. I know what a good applied scientific and conditioning program can do. I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt the sincerity of Marquez.

JJR: Explain what Marquez did to build himself up.

AA: Look at Marquez. He’s never done anything different. He’s an old school boxer, using old style boxing techniques and training, antiquated and archaic as they are. You have to remember he was drinking a dozen raw eggs and his own urine. Now you bring science in. You start applying a consistent strength program-that is all science based. It’s all proven and checked. You apply this to a person, like Marquez, who’s never done anything like that and his body is going to go through a metamorphosis. Marquez wasn’t bigger; he just appeared to the naked eye to be bigger. He was in fact smaller. To our eyes, he looked bigger, but it was all functional muscle that had been developed over the course of a four-month period. Take Manny, he never really broke one hundred forty seven pounds. He looked so much bigger, but it was really just muscle being developed.

JJR: At thirty-nine years old, how was Marquez able to get in such supreme condition?

AA: I’ll tell you. He did it over a four-month period. He had time; it wasn’t like a four week program where he was forcing it. I can assure you there were days where he just rested, and ate and allowed his body to recuperate and develop more muscle. So, over a four-month period, he was working hard, then staggering it, and taking off some time to recover, that’s why it took four months. That’s the reason to me there’s no doubt (about PEDS). The facts override the rumors. It’s easier to understand from a scientific vantage point. This was Memo’s third fight with Marquez. He knows his body, he’s confident in the program, and he’s seeing the results. In addition, Marquez now believes it. He’s seeing the results. When you believe in it, you start to push harder.

JJR: Memo Heredia AKA Angel Hernandez has many non-believers in the boxing world. You happen to believe completely in Memo. Why?

AA: I have no doubt about Memo. I was in Memo’s place once. A few years ago, everyone was questioning Amir Khan, Julio, and Manny. Why would he lie? Give the guy the credit he deserves. Give science the credit it deserves. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t develop a strong and competitive body? Boxing is so small minded. They have a fear of the unknown. Science can be such a plus.

JJR: Do you believe boxing will ever adopt a credible and consistent way of testing for steroids?

AA: That’s a good question. I hope so. I’ve been talking to others about a comprehensive and universal way of testing to keep everyone on a level playing field. You’re going to have people like Eric Morales who unfortunately tested positive for clenbuterol. There has to be people who are qualified and educated working with the fighters. Some of these guys couldn’t dump the trash of a professional team. They wouldn’t even let them in the locker room to fold towels. You have to have the credentials. In boxing, we’ll let anyone walk in off the street and start applying something they’ve never even studied or read a book on. The fighters’ job is to fight. They shouldn’t have to worry about their coaches.

JJR: Do you think Pacquiao should fight Marquez again?

AA: In a perfect world, I would want Manny to adopt the strength and conditioning program all over again from day one. Then I’d like him to have a tune-up fight to get familiar with that feeling again. After that then fight Marquez again and let me do my thing to help. I’d love to go up against those guys

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