In about the time it takes to cook an egg, the anger that has been building up inside Freddie Roach for the last three years boiled over in a makeshift gym in Macau Wednesday, fueling the promotion of Saturday’s welterweight fight between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios.
There’s no love lost between Roach, Pacquiao’s longtime trainer, and Robert Garcia, who trains Rios. Their stormy relationship goes back to when Pacquiao fought Antonio Margarito in 2010 and a video surfaced before that fight of Margarito, Garcia and Rios mocking Roach, who has Parkinson’s disease. Garcia and Rios apologized for the video. But the images have troubled Roach ever since and he hasn’t forgotten.
There’s even more animosity between Roach and Alex Ariza, who was Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach but was fired by Roach earlier this year and now works with Rios. And the anger toward each other has been building inside of both men over the years.
The dust-up between the camps probably gave a slight jolt in interest to the fight, which is being televised in the United States on HBO Pay Per View. Top Rank, which is promoting Saturday’s fight and promotes both Pacquiao and Rios, supplied news outlets with still photos of the incident.
The fracas began as Rios was finishing up his workout at the gym and was running late because of interviews to promote the fight. Rios had the gym from 9 to 11 a.m. local time, and Pacquiao was scheduled to work out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Roach walked in right at 11 a.m., and he exploded when he saw Team Rios still in the gym.
Roach went right up to Garcia, who was talking to a few reporters, and demanded Garcia leave the gym. But when Garcia asked for three more minutes so Rios could finish up, Roach cursed out Garcia, who fired back at him. Things escalated from there, as Roach exchanged words with Rios camp assistant Donald Leary who physically went after Roach.
But it really got out of hand when Ariza got involved. Ariza, who has been working with Rios, taunted Roach by mocking his Parkinson’s and telling him to “get the (expletive) out of the gym” to which Roach replied, “Make me get out.”
More words were exchanged, many with expletives mixed in, then Ariza proceeded to kick Roach in the chest. Later, he claimed it was in self defense, that Roach had his fist cocked and was looking to hit Ariza.
Neither Rios nor Pacquiao was involved. Rios was in the back of the room on an exercise machine while Pacquiao was en route to the gym and by the time he got there, the incident was over. But it immediately became a YouTube sensation as several versions of the melee made its way to the Internet.
Both trainers made brief mention of the incident at the final news conference that evening at the Venetian Macau Resort. Garcia said people should watch the tape recorded by Elie Seckbach, who is a videographer and does work for Rios to show what Roach really did and that he was the instigator. Roach’s response was: “Go watch that website. That’s his friend and he edited it for him. How dumb is that?”
Pacquiao tried to broker an impromptu peace between the camps, telling reporters at the news conference: “Let everybody finish in the ring. We don’t need any trash talk before the fight. It’s not a good example for boxing.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.