For whatever reason, flying under the radar of several media outlets is the fact that last week, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach cast his own cloud of suspicion on his star pupil, multi-division world champion Manny Pacquiao. In a revealing interview with SecondsOut.com, Roach shared his opinion of former one-time friend and associate Alex Ariza, who he referred to as "shady". "I know he has a new strength coach [Alex Ariza] and I don't get along with the guy, and one of the reasons why he doesn't work for me anymore is because I think he's a little shady, you know. He used to give Manny [Pacquiao] a drink every day before we worked out and I asked him, 'What's in that drink,' and he would never tell me. And I said, 'I need to know what's in that drink because, you know, you're giving it to my fighter and if something goes wrong, I'm gonna get the blame.' In my opinion, he's a little shady," Roach commented when asked for his thoughts on the news that Brandon Rios tested positive for a banned substance following his lopsided loss to Pacquiao. What Roach may or may not have realized, however, is that his own comments now bring into question the 5-plus years that he and Ariza worked side-by-side during Pacquiao's rapid ascent through the weigh divisions, racking up dominant victories from 130 to 154 pounds over the likes of Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, and Antonio Margarito to name a few.
Roach first hired Ariza back in 2008. Originally, he was brought in to treat a shoulder injury prior to Pacquiao's rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez, but not long after that, he was asked to overhaul the entire training program and was officially added to the team as the new strength and conditioning coach. It didn't take long for the pairing of Roach and Ariza to produce successful results with Pacquiao, quickly moving him up two weight divisions and notching big wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto in a 20-month timeframe. The fact that Pacquiao was so dominant against bigger opposition after jumping 3 weight classes is likely what prompted world-class trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. to first raise his own suspicions about Pacquiao allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs during a 2009 video interview with Josh Slaghter of MLive.com. Those suspicions about Pacquiao were then compounded later that year as negotiations began for a mega-fight with undefeated pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, who declared his intentions to clean up the sport of boxing by requiring all of his opponents to subject themselves to random blood and urine testing.
When news first broke of Mayweather's requirement for the mega-fight to take place, both Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza were a united front when it came to any accussations leveled at Manny Pacquiao regarding performance-enhancing drugs. "I know my fighter. I know he's never taken drugs and never will take drugs. I mean, I have trouble giving him vitamins for Christ's sake. I mean, he doesn't like needles; he doesn't like blood drawn," Freddie Roach commented in a video interview with Gareth A Davies of The Telegraph back in February of 2010. A month after that, Roach was quick to defend Ariza, telling Michael Rosenthal of RingTV.com, "That's the first guy I went to...Alex is a friend of mine and he works with me. My reputation is on the line with him. He assures me 100 percent that there's nothing out there."
During that same time period, Ariza echoed Roach's statements. "For the record, I don't work for the fighter, Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan. I work for Freddie Roach. Anything I give Manny or suggest to Manny, I would never jeopardize Freddie's trust in me or my relationship with him just for a win for any of these fighters. I wouldn't jeopardize that for any amount of money or amount of wins. I'd go under any lie detector test," Ariza explained during a separate interview with BoxingInsider.com. "I've been working with Manny for almost two years. Do you know how hard it was for me to convince Manny to do anything I suggested? It took me so long, to go to Freddie, to show him to convince him to venture to start taking evenn multi-vitamins and protein drinks or recovery drinks. Manny never did those things before."
Of course, this was all before the two former friends and teammates had a bitter falling out that prompted Roach to fire Ariza in 2013, ending their five-year run as one of the most successful training teams in the sport. That begs the question, are these latest comments from Roach simply the matter of an ex-friend attempting to assassinate the character of Ariza, or is there really more to the story? Judging by their own statements given in past interviews, it's extremely hard to believe that, for 5 years, Freddie Roach had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about the drinks that Alex Ariza was giving Manny Pacquiao prior to their workouts. In fact, on the contrary, Ariza made it clear that Freddie Roach had a very active role in Pacquiao's strength and conditioning program, even pointing out that Roach was far more knowledgeable about sports science than most trainers. Take a look at the following statements made by Ariza in an interview conducted in December of 2009, shortly after Pacquiao refused to agree to random blood and urine testing: