COMMENTARY | It seems to be the story that just won't go away, although to what degree it's actually a story may be up for debate.
Last week during an interview with Secondsout.com, Hall of Fame trainer, Freddie Roach made a few statements that put into question the integrity of strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza. In doing so, however, he may have inadvertently impugned the integrity of his fighter, Manny Pacquiao.
When asked about his reaction to Brandon Rios testing positive for a banned substance following the Pacquiao-Rios bout in Macau, China, Roach was quick to express his true feelings about his former teammate, Alex Ariza.
"I know he has a new strength coach [referring to Ariza]," Roach said, "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's first objective with this bit may have been to cast Ariza as a shady figure, but the blowback since the quote hit social media and message boards everywhere has been felt by Pacquiao.
As a result, Manny Pacquiao and his more than five years with Alex Ariza are in the spotlight more than the topic of what may have been flowing through the body of Brandon Rios on November 23.
During his time with Ariza, of course, Pacquiao went from boxing star to sports superstar as he rose several weight divisions to become one of the most dominant forces in the sport. Unsubstantiated rumors of PEDs use marred the Filipino icon's ascension all along the way, however, and cast an unnecessary shadow on his stellar set of achievements.
With Roach's statement, the rumors and the buzz have come back, dragged from the shadows by dedicated critics and by those with specific axes to grind against Ariza, Manny, or both.
It should be noted that now, as it was when PEDs rumors first started circulating, all those involved deserve the presumption of innocence until specifically proven guilty. Manny Pacquiao and, for that matter, Alex Ariza also deserve that presumption.
We don't really know anything about the alleged mysterious drinks Roach had mentioned and we don't even know whether what he said was true or not. We do know that there is plenty of bad blood between Roach and Ariza and that, alone, should be enough to withhold judgment over whether Ariza was slipping Pacquiao anything other than vitamins and approved nutritional supplements.
And this takes us to a larger issue in the world of professional boxing.
Without a centralized authority that handles such things as PEDs testing and safety standards for fighters, there will always be rumor and chaos when it comes determining who is on the level and who is cheating. And unfortunately, with more and more testing being done on a voluntary basis, away from any real authority and under a veil of secrecy, the truth will be an even harder commodity to come by.
Through it all, though, the possibility of abuse continues and one would be naive to give any fighter in this day and age an automatic pass when it comes to the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Still, there's that presumption of innocence that separates a fair and just society from a culture of random witch hunts.
Roach said what he said and because of that the door will remain wide open for wave after wave of recycled PEDs rumors against Pacquiao and plenty of "I told you so" accusations. It's our job to understand that none of what was said was specifically damning and that, at the end of the day, all men deserve the presumption of innocence.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manny Pacquiao
- Freddie Roach
- Brandon Rios