Ariza, speaking exclusively to The Daily Telegraph, explained that both men share “an X-factor in their incredible resilience to pain”, and that Khan is ahead of Pacquiao in terms of physical development at the same age.
“Khan is a very special athlete and right now he is ahead of the curve compared to where Pacquaio was at the same age. They are both nice guys, but also have two different people inside them,” Ariza said. “There is a switch in both personalities which goes from nice guy to having this ‘killer instinct’.
“Look at Manny once in a while and if someone has said something to get under his skin, he gives you that ‘third world stare’, as I call it. He looks at you in a different way. It’s the killer instinct, kill or be killed. It can send a chill through you.
“Amir is exactly the same. You wonder at that moment if they have a moral flexibility. They mean business. It’s what champions are made of. It’s almost genetic with the pair of them.”
Khan has been made to start training at 5am for eight weeks ahead of his world title unification contest against Zab Judah by Ariza, one of few experts on strength and conditioning who is boxing-specific.
“Those sessions were as much about the mental as the physical. When he’s walking to the ring, if any doubt crosses his mind, he can think back to those 5am sessions – swimming in cold pools, sprinting on the track, running in the Hollywood hills, driving himself up and down 200 stairs half a mile long on a hill above Santa Monica beach, running the sand dunes,” explained Ariza. “‘Train Hard, Fight Easy’ – that’s our motto.”
Indeed, Khan admitted yesterday to The Daily Telegraph that his conditioning training can be “physically harder than the fights themselves”.
Ariza has been working with Pacquiao for four years, with Khan for three years. How do they compare, given their different athlete body shapes?
“Manny is obviously shorter and more compact, Amir is long and lean, but there are real similarities in athletic ability. Amir is starting to become just as explosive, just as fast as Manny. In spite of their different shapes, both are so driven, they complete all aspects of endurance and explosive tasks set them because of their competitiveness. It forces them to that level.
“There is also an X-factor in their incredible resilience to pain. They don’t know how to switch it off, what fear is, how to back down, once they’ve pulled the trigger. They don’t know any different. It’s part of what makes them both special.”
While Pacquiao is at his peak, aged 32, how far away is Khan from his best?
“At 24 years old, he’s still very young physiologically. He’s making the shift from young man to man right now. We didn’t see Manny do that until he was 28. Amir is ahead of that curve. We might see a whole different physicality from Amir in the next two years.
“The UK should celebrate what you have in this British fighter. You have a very special athlete here who has the potential to climb to the summit in boxing.”