MACAU - With tensions running high 4 days before their big fight, fighters Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios shrug off the altercation between their trainers and said it won't affect their respective performances.
On Wednesday, November 20, Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's coach, and his counterpart from Rios' camp, Robert Garcia, engaged in a word war after a peeved Roach asked Garcia to leave a makeshift boxing gym at the Venetian Hotel here. (WATCH: Macau prepares for Pacquiao vs Rios)
Garcia had the training facility reserved from 9-11am, while Roach had it scheduled from 11-4pm. An ESPN interview with Rios however, meant camp ran 15-20 minutes over time. Garcia refused to leave, making Roach even angrier.
The result was an argument that escalated into pushing, shoving, and Roach getting kicked by Pacquiao's former conditioning coach, Alex Ariza. Roach fired Ariza earlier, after Pacquiao's last fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.
"I was just finishing up. He could've waited 5 more minutes and I would've been done. I don't know what happened," Rios, who was cooling down on the elliptical machine at that time, said.
Rios stayed out of the fight and watched from the machine, egging Garcia on, yelling, "Kill 'em! Kill 'em!"
"I was laughing because it was entertainting man, it was funny. I'm not doing nothing," he said.
He maintained the disagreement was "between Robert and Freddie" and vowed it "won't affect anything" come fight night.
"We're gonna go out there and we gonna do what we gonna do," he said.
Pacquiao too, who was not at the gym when the scuffle happened, paid little mind to the incident and said he would take nothing personally.
"It doesn't affect me," he said. "[It's] business as usual and of course always outside the ring, always love one another."
The religious boxer said he is willing to share the Word of God to Rios' camp.
'He's in trouble'
Their trainers, are a little less forgiving.
Garcia thinks Roach could have handled the situation better, especially since he said Pacquiao's team was able to choose whatever time slot it wanted.
"Who trains 5 hours? From 11am-4pm it's all Freddie Roach's time, that's what I was told. I said, 'How can that be? 5 hours? Manny Pacquiao trains for 5 hours?," he said. "He's gonna come up with a game plan right now? The job is already done."
He said his camp originally wanted to train from 11am-1pm but was given the choice to "either train in the morning or late in the evening" since Pacquiao had taken up the whole afternoon.
"I was still being respectful, I respect their time, 5 hours they're picking I'm still gonna respect them so i told my guys, 'You know what I chose to train from 9-11, not that I chose, I prefer to train from 11-1 so there's no controversy in the fight," he said.
Garcia said he thinks Roach could have handled the situation better.
"He could've just sat down, waited, his fighter is actually not even here. He could even be wrapping his hands, i don't give a f*** if they're wrapping their hands together. It's not like [he's] going to see anything from [Brandon] doing that [elliptical] machine," he said.
Garcia said Roach's reaction was a sign Roach is concerned about the fight.
"He's in trouble. He's in trouble believe me. He's in trouble didn't you guys just see how he reacted? He's in trouble. He's nervous. He's scared," he said.
Roach, for his part, maintains he did nothing wrong and said it was Rios' camp fault "because they're here in our time, they're wrong, they're supposed to get their stuff and leave," he said.
The altercation also saw Roach calling Donald Leary, an assistant in Rios' camp, a "Mexican mother***er," and their white cameraman a "Jewish motherf***er." The cuss words, which Leary said were racist, led to the altercation's escalation.
Roach said that was not his intention.
"Well I said when one of the Mexican guys was yelling and screaming for us to get out, I said, 'What are you a tough mexican?' only because I didn't know his name because he's Mexican. And then there was a Jewish kid so I yelled at the Jewish kid with a camera because I didn't remember his name either," he said.
"But if they want to make it racist, so be it. But everyone who knows me knows that I train all races, colors, whatever. I'm not a racist person. Everyone who knows me knows that."
Roach vs Ariza
But it was Ariza's physical aggression against his former camp mate Roach that was most controversial. An unapologetic Ariza argued he only kicked Roach for self-defense.
Right before he kicked Roach, Ariza mocked Roach's Parkinson's disease.
"I'm not a physical person. The only reason I did is because you saw him, he cocked his fist back and to me thats was a threat he was gonna punch me. Believe me if I wanted to get physical I would've gotten physical. My thing was just to keep the distance," he said.
He said he doesn't regret kicking Roach, who flew back at the impact.
"This isn't a high school playground, this isn't a basketball court, this is a place that we all have to use and we all have to share and sometimes with all the media and stuff like that we have to be accommodating to times when times run over," he said.
He said Roach came in with "attitude," and treated the gym like his own Wild Card Gym in the United States, where he calls the shots.
"You don't go and interrupt an interview and start calling the other guy a piece of s***. That's completely unprofessional, it's juvenile," he said.
Roach said however, he "didn't intend to hit anybody."
Rappler's video also shows Roach did not raise his fist as claimed by Ariza.
"He said something and I took one step over and I got kicked," Roach said.
He later joked,"I didn't see it coming, I was a little mad at myself, I'm getting old! That's what happens when you don't [fight] anymore -- you get old."
Roach said for him, the scuffle wasn't personal, but he didn't hide the fact he despised Ariza.
"I intend never to talk to him anyway because I don't like him as a person because I think he does a sh*tty job. He doesn't know what he's doing and he's been fired 7 times by 7 different groups and there's a reason he's been fired and it's because he's a bad guy. His knowledge of sports is very limited," he said.
Meanwhile boxing promoter Bob Arum said he doesn't remember seeing anything like the incident in his many years in the business.
"I can't remember a situation when two trainers started fighting or a situation where a conditioning coach attacks the trainer of the other camp. I mean boxing has enough problems without having hooligan behavior." - Rappler.com