Ariza still in Team Pacquiao fold

LAS VEGAS -- Time after time, Alex Ariza, Manny Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach, usually manages to find himself embroiled in some sort of controversy before one of Pacquiao's fights -- or the fights of others he works with, including Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

So with all three fighters training for high-profile upcoming bouts, Ariza found trouble again when he surprisingly left Pacquiao's training camp in the Philippines with two weeks to go in that portion of the camp. Ariza left to work with Chavez in Mexico and Las Vegas, then rejoined Pacquiao's group at head trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., for the final stage of camp.

Pacquiao was training for Saturday's fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (HBO PPV, 9 ET, $54.95). Khan, who was with Pacquiao's group in the Philippines and is also trained by Roach, was training for a May 19 rematch with Lamont Peterson (which ultimately was canceled because of Peterson's failed drug test). Chavez, another Roach client, won't travel to the Philippines and had made plans to have Roach with him only for the final two weeks.

Ariza, who has openly feuded with Top Rank's Bob Arum -- who promotes Pacquiao and Chavez -- has been hired, fired and rehired by Khan. And then fired again, over the latest flap.

Khan was so ticked off that Ariza left the Philippines that he fired Ariza and hired a new strength coach in preparation for his July 14 fight with Danny Garcia. And now Ariza has been banned by those around Chavez, which Ariza blames on Arum.

But Pacquiao, who personally gave Ariza permission to leave the Philippines, swears by the coach's conditioning methods and has stuck by the embattled Ariza, who rejoined his camp when Pacquiao arrived stateside.

Even the mild-mannered Roach, so upset that Ariza had left the Philippines, called him out on HBO's "Pacquiao/Bradley 24/7' reality series, saying that he would be barred from working Pacquiao's corner on Saturday night. Ariza responded by wearing a shirt from "Fight Camp 360" -- the reality series from rival Showtime, which covered Pacquiao's fight against Shane Mosley.

All of that is even more drama than usual when it comes to Pacquiao's corner.

So Pacquiao, Roach, Ariza and the two others who work in Pacquiao's corner -- assistant trainer Buyboy Fernandez and cutman Miguel Diaz -- were called to a team meeting on Monday night to get on the same page.

Pacquiao, the captain of his own ship, laid down the law: Ariza will be in the corner on fight night.

"I already talked to Freddie and Alex Ariza," Pacquiao said Wednesday. "Everything is OK, it's fine."

Roach deferred to Pacquiao's desire to shape the corner how he wants it.

"Manny will call the shots," Roach said. "Alex is good at his job. I talk to him. I made my statements on HBO. The only problem was, I felt he made a bad decision by leaving camp."

Roach said if Pacquiao wants Ariza in the corner, it's OK with him.

"I asked Manny, 'What's the story with the corner, what do you want?'" Roach said. "He told me, 'Let Alex work the corner.' Everyone will just do their job."

Roach said nothing will change on fight night. He will still do the talking between rounds, and during the rounds he will continue to have the more boisterous Ariza shout his instructions to Pacquiao.

"There's no rift," Roach insisted. "I just said on HBO that I disagreed with his choice to leave training camp. He went to Mexico to train Chavez and then he wasn't allowed in that camp.

"Amir Khan was right in the middle of getting ready for Peterson, which wound up getting canceled. Manny was getting ready for his fight, so I felt it was bad timing to leave a fighter for two weeks without replacing him. I thought it was a bad choice."

Said Pacquiao: "I'm happy Freddie and Alex are talking to each other. And they are OK now."

Ariza isn't talking about the topic and has been low-key during fight week.

Pacquiao, with a renewed devotion to religion, seems to have figured out a way to corral the outspoken Ariza.

"I got Alex to read the Bible," Pacquiao said. "He's reading the Bible every day and his patience is good and improving. God is working in him."

So is Pacquiao saying that the Bible has been responsible for keeping Ariza quiet?

Pacquiao laughed and answered, "Yes."