Serious fight fans have by now seen the video snippet making the rounds, which shows the strength and conditioning coach/cutman for Marcos Maidana, the notorious Alex Ariza, putting on Saturday night what looks like a napkin up to Maidana's mouth in between round 11 and 12 of his fight against Adrien Broner. The meme's purveyors have been implying, or outright alleging, that Ariza is slipping something into Maidana's mouth, and the spotlight is on the former Manny Pacquiao team-member. Did Ariza slip some sort of energy booster, or anything at all, to the Argentine who scored the upset of the year on Saturday night in San Antonio, and on Showtime?
I queued up the break in between rounds in which Ariza is seen with the "napkin," and studied the tape. It looks like he is holding two napkin-type objects in his left hand, which he places near Maidana's nose four times, and then uses to wipe Maidanas' left eye.
I then contacted Ariza, late Sunday, and asked him about this action. Did you, I asked, slip something into Maidana's mouth? And could you explain and clarify the circumstances people are talking about?
Ariza right off the bat chuckled. The "napkins," he explained, were pieces of gauze. "Maidana wanted to blow his nose," Ariza explained. So, that's what he did, he stated. And did he put anything in Maidanas' mouth? "No, of course not," he said. "People like to make drama. It was nothing. We shouldn't take away from the fighters' performance. He did all the work. We didn't do anything illegal."
And yes, I also asked about employment of a smelling salts sort of chemical. No, Ariza said, he didn't do anything of the sort. (I also noted, when watching the tape, that he used the same gauze to wipe the nose, and then the eye of Maidana, which I would think would lessen the likelihood that there was some sort of inhalant on the gauze, unless there's some inhalant one could use that wouldn't interfere with the tear duct.)
Maidana was tested in his locker room after the bout, Ariza said. USADA administered the test, which included a blood and urine sample, Ariza told me. And will he pass? "Yes, of course," Ariza said.
Ariza has had an interesting month; days before client Brandon Rios was due to glove up against Manny Pacquiao in Macau, Ariza got into a sparring match with former pal Freddie Roach in the gym where both principals worked out during fightweek. He front kicked Roach in the chest, because, he told me, Roach advanced toward him, and he said he's seen the trainer in such an antagonistic mode in past years, and he knew he needed to head off an attack.
"I was going to leave it alone," Ariza said of the "NapkinGate" meme, "because this isn't some Panama Lewis thing." But, he said, he was happy to explain the usage of the gauze pads.
I took the opportunity to check to see if he and Roach had come to better terms, and restored a level of civility between them. It doesn't seem so; Ariza said he'd deliver a karate kid special to Roach in the same manner if the same brouhaha erupted. "If he came at me again, yes," Ariza said.
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Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?