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Fortune Weighs in on Roach vs. Ariza Melee

(Justin Fortune)
(Justin Fortune)


No doubt if you are a boxing fan (and maybe if you aren’t), you have seen the gym altercation between Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, trainer Robert Garcia and the former strength and conditioning coach for several of Roach’s fighters (and member of Team Rios), Alex Ariza. If you haven’t, Maxboxing.com video correspondent Radio Rahim caught the spontaneous combustion on camera.
 
The dispute was over gym time. Team Garcia’s was to end at 11 a.m. after which Team Pacquiao would use the hotel’s sole gym. However, Garcia said his camp had been delayed by a media obligation and were running roughly 25-30 minutes behind. The fight just mere days away, tensions are obviously high. They were made higher with the hiring of Ariza to help condition Rios. Judging from the outcome of Ariza and Roach crossing paths, the former was hired for something more than his ability to stretch fighters prior to workouts.

Roach entered the gym already hot and things set afire from there. After being rebuffed by Garcia, who reprimanded Roach for apparently calling him a “piece of sh*t,” Roach continued to angrily demand they leave the gym so his fighter could train. Garcia’s charge, Brandon Rios, a former 135-pound titleholder making his 147-pound debut against Pacquiao, remained calm, strolling on a nearby exercise machine, slightly raised above the action with arguably the best seat in the house for what then transpired.
 
After being taunted by Ariza, who mocked Roach’s stutter, a side effect being afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, the veteran trainer lost what cool he had left and approached his former employee. Ariza, several feet back, fired a front kick that caught Roach in the chest. The former fighter remained on his feet. Ariza would later claim Roach had raised a fist to him, prompting him to let the kick go. Team Rios’ Donald Leary (the bald, mustachioed gentleman seen being restrained), vocal throughout the exchange, became enraged and charged at Roach. He was restrained several times. Roach was calmed down and corralled by Gavin MacMillan of Sports Science Lab, who replaced Ariza as the resident Wild Card conditioning coach. Ariza was restrained as well but unlike Leary, seemed more content to verbally taunt Roach, eliciting laughs from Garcia and others. Team Rios’ mascot, a rogue YouTube videographer who erased the line between fan and reporter sometime after getting fired from AOLFanhouse.com, also got in the act, telling Roach, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Roach allegedly referred to both Leary and the videographer for Team Rios, as a “f*cking Mexican” and a “f*cking Jew,” respectively. If anyone has the video that clearly shows this, my email address is attached to this article.
 
All in all, it was another day at the office for the “Land that Politically Correct Forgot” known as boxing.
 
Stateside, another of Freddie Roach’s former assistants, the man who worked alongside Roach with Pacquiao from 2001 to 2007, Justin Fortune, took notice. Roach was Fortune’s trainer dating back to 1992 when the Australian-born owner of Fortune Gym in Hollywood, CA was a heavyweight hopeful. When his career ended, Fortune joined Roach at the Wild Card as his second. Many label Fortune a strength and conditioning coach” for the program he developed for Israel Vazquez and Pacquiao among others. He prefers the term “co-trainer.”
 
Together, Roach, Fortune and Pacquiao won two world titles at super bantamweight in their first two fights, TKO’ed Marco Antonio Barrera in 11 rounds and beat Erik Morales two out of three times. All told, the trio went 13-1-1 with titles at 122, 126 and 130 with the Morales loss avenged twice by stoppage. Their last fight together, in a sense, was versus Jorge Solis, with Roach spending the majority of the camp with Oscar De la Hoya preparing to face Floyd Mayweather Jr.
 
Fortune minded Pacquiao through camp as it was his job to mind the Wild Card stable when Roach was away. When it came time to get paid the requisite 10 percent of Pacquiao’s purse, a dispute over who did the lion’s share of the work - and thus who got the lion’s share of the training fee - ensued. Ultimately they wound up in court. Fortune ended up with the check but the friendship and partnership was over. Fortune opened his gym with the money. Roach hired Alex Ariza, then an unknown conditioning coach out of Las Vegas whose claim to fame was working with Morales and Diego Corrales once back in 2001. Ariza worked with Corrales for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. Corrales was knocked down five times and his stepfather/trainer Ray Woods threw in the towel. Morales worked with Ariza for his February 2001 fight against Guty Espadas Jr. but in July of 2001 told La Opinion reporter Ramiro Gonzalez, “I never liked ’screaming’ or giving excuses when things go wrong; however, it is fair and necessary to let everyone know that the training I did in Las Vegas under the direction of Alex Ariza was not ideal. I don’t deny that he worked hard but the proteins and vitamins he prescribed affected my liver…”

Morales’ manager, Fernando Beltran confirmed the liver issue in a May 2008 article in the San Diego Union Tribune. 

Ariza denied the allegations in an interview on Leaveitintheringradio.com in November of 2011.
 
 
Ariza helped Pacquiao move successfully from 130 to 147 (over a 14-month period) for a fight with De la Hoya, stopping briefly at 135 pounds to pick up a title against David Diaz. With Roach and Ariza, Pacquiao went 10-2, the last being a stone-cold knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December. By that time, Ariza had been relegated to stretching Pacquiao out before workouts and the relationship between he and Roach strained to the point where they rarely spoke anymore. Roach claims Ariza had run amok and began to try and do everyone’s job, horning in on cutman duties, giving corner advice, etc. And so Ariza was let go before this fight and joined Team Rios after they decided not to re-hire Angel “Memo” Heredia following Rios’ decision loss to Mike Alvarado in March.
 
Suffice to say, a physical altercation between Roach and Ariza was highly inevitable during the media build-up.
 
Reached by phone, Fortune gave his take on the situation.
 
“I just saw…I got a whole bunch of texts last night. I haven’t seen them all. I don’t know how many there are. I just saw the [Maxboxing video done by Radio Rahim],” Fortune told Maxboxing.com Wednesday.
 
There is a rabbit hole of video coverage of the scuffle. Use the Google.
 
“I seen the one where [Alex] Ariza kicks Roach. First of all, what a bitch f*cking move that is. Gimme a f*ckin’ break; will ya?” said Fortune. “They’ll say this, that or whatever but he’s half [Ariza’s] size; you know? [Ariza claimed Roach] was moving up to him aggressively? What do you mean ‘aggressively’? The guy was like three, four feet away from you. And [Ariza] f*cking front kicks him in the chest? I mean, gimme a f*cking break. You want to hit someone? You’re in a boxing gym for Christ’s sake. You call yourself a boxing trainer? Man up and hit the guy. But [Ariza] won’t hit him because Freddie will hit back and probably knock Ariza out.”
 
To Fortune, the situation could have been avoided. While Garcia remained calm, admonishing Roach but not raising his voice or trying to top Roach’s aggressive tone or talk, Leary was not so calm and collected.
 
“Who is the little short bald-headed motherf*cker?” asked Fortune. The answer is Donald Leary, a Rios camp assistant. “OK, now listen: this guy was super, super aggressive. You can’t be like that. Me personally, if I was over there with Freddie, I would have knocked that piece of sh*t out cold. But then again, if I was over there with Fred, none of them would have the balls to say anything. I mean, you got this little f*cking guy going, ‘I’m going to beat you up.’ Well, you’re a tough guy because Freddie has Parkinson’s and stuff. But let me tell you; [Roach] can still f*cking crack.”
 
Fortune took Garcia and his team still being in the gym as less of a product of a media obligation snafu and more as gamesmanship between fight camps.
 
“From what I gather, there were times allotted for the gym and Garcia and all them overstayed their time. OK, time to go,” said Fortune. “Its fight time. Everyone is making weight. Everyone is all apprehensive and sensitive and stuff. Unless you want the powder keg to go off, then play by the rules and that means the time in the gym. Otherwise, you’re going to get called out for it. You know your time. Your time is from such-and-such to such-and-such. If you overstay, you know are sh*t-stirring and causing trouble. It’s as simple as that. No matter how polite you were, you knew what you were doing: causing drama. Causing a bit of stir and trying to upset the camp. Guess what? It failed because Manny wasn’t even there,” said Fortune of the famously on-his-own-time Pacquiao.
 
In the Maxboxing.com interview conducted by Radio Rahim, Ariza claimed Roach’s behavior signaled that the trainer was worried about his fighter’s chances. Currently, Pacquiao is a -450 favorite with a bet on Rios paying out in some venues at +325.
 
“No, it’s not Roach being scared at all. Its Freddie can’t stand Ariza’s f*cking guts because the guy has no qualifications to be where he is. Who the f*ck is he and what’s he ever done? What’s he got under his belt? You want to count Pacquiao? Roach brought [Ariza] into camp. Roach made you,” said Fortune, as if talking to Ariza. “Without him, I don’t know where you’d be. You wouldn’t be where you are now; that’s for sure. You sure as sh*t wouldn’t be in Garcia’s camp same as the Pacquiao camp if you weren’t made by Freddie. No one would even know who Ariza is if Freddie doesn’t bring him on board after I left. Who the f*ck is this clown? Ariza wants to fight someone, come pick on me, you f*cking a**hole. I’ll beat your head in, you f*cking scumbag. Don’t beat on a 50-year-old guy half your size. If you want to fight, I’ll fight ya. [Ariza’s] a piece of sh*t. That’s a coward move,” said Fortune, referring to the front kick Ariza unleashed.
 
As for a fight prediction, is this fight Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito II or harder?
 
“No, because Margarito is better than Rios. Much better, much tougher, much stronger, much bigger and punches a helluva lot harder than Rios. Antonio Margarito, this guy is a f*ckin’ legend. Rios is a 140-pounder coming up. If Manny’s chin holds out - and all indications are that he had a good training camp and things have gone well - he’ll f*cking destroy Rios,” said Fortune. “C’mon, Rios is put here for maybe a confidence boost; get Manny on the winning side again and then they will hunt down other targets. Bigger paydays.
 
“Here is an indication,” continued Fortune, “How much [is Rios] getting paid for this fight? That will generally give you an indication of how important the person is and the quality of the fighter.”
 
Rios is reportedly making $4 million to Pacquiao’s $18 million with a pay-per-view upside that could garner him $30 million, all told.
 
Fortune didn’t seem to think the fight would do very well based on the perception, in his opinion, that Rios has no chance to win beyond the hope Pacquiao’s chin is damaged goods.
 
“I’ve talked to guys who say they aren’t buying the pay-per-view. ‘Who’s Rios?’ they ask me. These are Mexican fight fans too. They have no interest in buying this fight,” said Fortune. “They’re like, ‘Why would I pay $70 to watch this guy? He ain’t Margarito. He ain’t Marquez. He’s Rios.’ These are his own countrymen. These are guys who watch fights.”
 
Despite his harsh reality assessment of the situation, Fortune is in a good place these days. His gym is doing well; he has a fighter to be excited about in Drian Francisco and he and Roach have finally buried the hatchet. In fact, Fortune was invited by Pacquiao to come help him prepare in the Philippines for this fight but it didn’t work out. The good that came out of that offer was that Roach and Fortune met and made up.
 
“We settled our differences and stuff. I apologized for what I did and put it behind us,” said Fortune. “What happened is between me and Fred. We put it behind us. What happens in the future is between me and Fred. It’s no one else’s business. In fact, people probably split us up in the first place. Big deal. It was five years ago. Even if I don’t train with him or help Freddie in any way, I am just happy to not have that baggage. I’d rather make my amends with Freddie and put it to rest. When I see him, be cordial and say, ‘What’s up, mate?’ I’ve known him since 1992. He was my trainer for years and years and years. It is what it is. I’m just happy to have that peace of mind from making amends.”
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, www.blogtalkradio.com/thenextround. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
 
 
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