Clash of Cotai begins early as Pacquiao and Rios coaches square up
Altercation occurs after row over shared training space
The Clash of Cotai began several days early after coaches Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia were involved in an ugly melee on Wednesday at the Venetian.
Tempers flared after Garcia’s training with Brandon Rios overran by ten minutes and Roach, who turned up at the training room with his camp to take part in their training segment, appeared agitated when Garcia requested more training time, according to witnesses at the scene.
Garcia and Roach then exchanged angry words before an altercation exploded between Roach and the Rios camp’s assistant Donald Leary, who took a swing at Roach.
This was all happening before an ESPN camera crew and TV journalists from the Philippines. Both Brandon and Pacquiao, who appeared much later, were not involved in the melee.
“Roach went crazy,” said Alex Ariza, Rios’ strength and conditioning coach. “Roach should have acted more professionally. Freddie [Roach] came into the gym looking real aggressive,” he said.
“He had an attitude. Brandon [Rios] was finishing up his training and he [Roach] ran over to us and interrupted our training and told us to get the f*** out. Robert [Garcia] said he wanted another ten minutes.
“Freddie called Robert a piece of s***, another member of the camp a dirty Mexican and a journalist a Jew. He just went crazy. It was very real. He tried to attack Robert,” said Ariza.
Witnesses said there was a lot of pushing and shoving and the atmosphere was tense. Venetian security struggled to separate the two camps.
The Clash of Cotai is scheduled for Sunday in the morning at the Venetian CotaiArena and is a 12-round bout for the vacant WBO international welterweight belt.
“Manny Pacquiao hadnt even arrived for the training session 45 minutes into the session. We have to share the gym together. This is not the Wild Card gym [in Los Angeles]. It’s a level playing field and you got to conduct yourself as professionals.
“We have to accommodate each other. We were about to finish up [our training] and Manny wasn’t even there yet,” said Ariza who was fired by the Pacquiao camp as their strength and conditioning trainer in August before joining the Rios camp within days of his sacking.
“I don’t know why it came down to this, but it did. It happened. It’s unfortunate. He [Roach] has to grow up because he’s not the superstar. You have to be professional and act your age,” said the American.
Garcia was upset over the incident but insisted Roach had started the trouble by telling Garcia “to get out of here you piece of s***.” He said he was trying to finish the workout that began late because Rios had conducted interviews with journalists.
Roach defended his actions, saying Garcia was out of line for requesting more training time and being disrespectful to the American.
“Our time is from 11am every day and I waited until 10 minutes after 11. I walked to the trainer [Garcia] and said this is our time … leave the gym,” said Roach.
“He told me they had something else to do and that they were going to stay for another half an hour. He said don’t disrespect me. Well, I said don’t respect me because this is our time. He goes ‘well, you can go fxxx yourself. They made fun of my Parkinson’s disease and I took a step towards him and Alex Ariza kicked me in the chest and he ran out. My chest doesn’t hurt. My hand hurts a bit because I tried to block the kick,” said Roach.
“I was trying to say to him [Garcia] why are you [Ariza] making fun of my Parkinson’s. You shouldn’t be here and I said you guys should get out. A security guard took me in the backroom and I settled down a bit. I didn’t know the Jewish reporter’s name, I just know he’s a Jew. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful,” Bob Arum of promoters Top Rank was appalled by the altercation, saying he doesn’t appreciate such unsporting gestures.
“Boxing is supposed to be a sport and when we have these hooligan tactics it doesn’t do credit to the sport,” said Arum.
“I don’t know whose fault it was because I wasn’t there. We are trying to sort it out. But both of these guys [Garcia and Roach] are experienced professionals and they should have known better,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ariza denied he had jumped ship to Rios after getting sacked by the Pacquiao camp in August on the back of two successive losses suffered by the Filipino. Pacquiao lost a controversial decision against Timothy Bradley before he was knocked out by Juan Marquez last December.
“The Rios team is another team. Boxers go to other teams, trainers go to other teams. It’s part of sport. For me it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. That’s all it is. I have just joined another team and playing my position.
Asked whether he would be an advantage joining the Rios camp having helped trained Pacquiao for five years, Ariza said: “I don’t know whether we have an advantage. We will do what we have to do to win. Training is going extremely well.”