The competition among fighters is fierce, that's a no brainer. But the competition among strength and conditioning gurus can get pretty down and dirty as well.
Alex Ariza, the man who oversees S & C for Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan, and Victor Conte, who advises Nonito Donaire and Andre Berto on proper training methods and supplement intake, got at each other pretty good a couple days ago. I wrote a lengthy look at Conte's status as a hot S & C guy in boxing for ESPN.com. Check that out here http://es.pn/n237WY.
I was interested in Conte's interest in Ariza, as I'd noticed that the ex BALCO badboy tweaked Ariza regularly on Twitter. He insinuated that maybe Ariza took shortcuts to help prep his fighters. Conte, who said he thinks illegal PED use in boxing is "rampant," said he is indeed skeptical of Ariza, because of Pacquiao's late-age performance spike and ability to jump weight classes. "It doesn't mean it can't be done," Conte told me. "I expect Nonito to move up in class. It can be done." But...
Conte said that many boxers are blood doping, essentially getting blood extracted, having their red blood cells concentrated, and then getting the red blood cell re-infused into their body. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles, so having more of them will increase aerobic capacity and endurance. "Basically, the guys that are out there throwing punches for 12 rounds non-stop, I'm suspicious," Conte told me.
Conte said he's been told by sparring partners of big name fighters that EPO, a hormone which spurs red blood cell production, is a favorite of fighters. "I'm not going to talk names," he said.
Conte cast a doubting eye on any boxer who protests that the testing protocol they agree to is what the athletic commissions call for. "That position is suspect," he said. "I'm trying to say, around the camps, there are a lot of dead bodies. As soon as accusations start, the defamation suits start to fly. It costs money, and they're trying to muzzle people."
Speaking of suspect. Ariza is clearly no fan of Conte. Reached on the phone Wednesday night, the Californian who started in the game about six years ago working with Diego Corrales, dismissed Conte as a phony.
"I don't think he's a conditioning coach," Ariza scoffed. "I don't know where he went to school. We all have education and credentials."
Ariza says that because fighters often aren't in structured systems, they aren't subject to the same level of education that say college football players are. That leaves them open, he says, to people who prey on their ignorance. "Conte can sell stuff, say 'take this pill, this powder.' I don't train fighters like that. I go to hard work. Victor's a salesman."
Ariza says he takes Conte's slams as a compliment, because his fighter's are excelling to the point where people think they must be cheating. "Is it jealousy? Absolutely. He should go back to playing guitar and leave the real work to the real people. I and and my fighters are clean. I have nothing to hide."
Damn, I'd like to see that level of heat and fire in some of the fighters we've seen stink out the joint in marquee bouts as of late.