Arreola is flawed but fun
He’s fat, lazy, easy to hit, and he’s perfect just the way he is.
He’s Chris Arreola, America’s young heavyweight hopeful who can’t stand roadwork, loves to mix it up in the ring and doesn’t mind having a beer or two (or three) with the fans after his fights.
Can Arreola, who takes on veteran gatekeeper Jameel McCline in a 12 rounder this Saturday on HBO, win a world title without changing his ways?
But the down-to-earth homeboy from Riverside, Calif., who can’t help but cuss a little bit in his post-fight interviews, is bound to continue winning fans.
Why? It’s simple. Arreola is fun, flaws and all.
It’s fun watching him crowd his opponents while loading up with Popeyesque right hands. It’s exhilarating watching him run into punches and sometimes getting buzzed or even dropped — as he was in his last fight against Travis Walker — and it’s a thrill to see the tattooed tough guy rally back, as he always has, and find a way to win.
So far, Arreola’s heavy hands, hard head and big heart have enabled him to compile a perfect record (26-0, 23 knockouts) against solid opposition since he turned pro 5¾ years ago.
However, the stats on his ledger are not the numbers some hardcore fans, boxing media and industry insiders pay attention to. Arreola’s critics — and he has more than a few — have focused on the big man’s weight.
The common wisdom is that for Arreola to fight at peak effectiveness he must weigh between 230 and 240 pounds, as he did for his most impressive performances to date, beatdowns of Damian Wills (TKO 7), Malcolm Tann (KO 8) and Chazz Witherspoon (DQ 3).
He shouldn’t weigh over 245, claim the know-it-alls. And to come in over 250, as he did for his last two fights, well, that’s just disgraceful, they say.
Let me be the first fight scribe to state on record that I’m tired of following Arreola’s weight, done with asking him questions about it and sick of writing about it.
I’m familiar enough with Arreola to know that he’ll never come close to the 229 pounds he weighed when he overwhelmed Wills on the undercard of the Carlos Baldomir-Floyd Mayweather pay-per-view show. That fight took place almost 2¾ years ago. He’s 28 now. His metabolism has probably slowed down a bit and he’s added a lot of muscle to his broad and beefy 6-foot-3 frame. (Plus he’s Mexican and likes to eat. Cut the guy some slack!)
The 235 pounds he weighed when he whacked Tann out of the ring in of 2007 is probably a pipe dream, too. Maybe it would be attainable if Arreola were the type to diet, lay off the beer and rack up miles of roadwork between fights, but he’s not.
And you know what? I’m fine with that.
If Arreola weighs in at 240 pounds the day before he steps into the ring with McCline (39-9-3, 23 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, I’ll be proud of him and I bet he’ll look sharp against the 38-year-old fringe contender. If he weighs 245 pounds, that’s cool too. I bet we’ll get a hell of fight. If he weighs over 250 pounds, so what? We’ll probably be treated to a barnburner.
If Arreola loses to McCline, hyper-critical fans will light up message boards with the word “EXPOSED.” Boxing writers who take their jobs way too seriously will probably scold him and his trainer, Henry Ramirez, in their post-fight columns.
Even if Arreola wins, Ramirez doesn’t expect that he or his fighter will get much credit.
“There’s always going to be skepticism, always going to be critics,” Ramirez said. “There’s always going to be some fans and writers with uneducated opinions and no matter what Chris does in training or in the ring, they’ll always see an out of shape heavyweight and it will always be my fault.
“It’s just the way it is and I’ve come to accept it. Chris doesn’t have the kind of body that’s going to look muscular and ripped up — even when he’s in shape. And the way his style is, he’s going to mix it up and get hit a few times.
“It’s no secret that he’s not going to win a boxing match against Jameel,” Ramirez continued. “He’s going to win by making Jameel fight, by coming forward and breaking him down. It won’t be easy. Jameel’s a veteran and he knows how to survive, so I already know there will be detractors after this fight.”
Ramirez is probably right. If Arreola doesn’t blow McCline out in a couple of rounds, some will point out his every flaw — lack of discipline out of the ring, lack of defense inside the ring, lack of technique, etc.
They’ll ask how he’s ever going to beat the Klitschko brothers if he struggles with a retread like McCline.
The answer is simple. He won’t.
However, I’d like to pose a question in response to that answer.
I’d rather watch Arreola fight ANYBODY than sit through another Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko jab-clinic.
As good as the two best heavyweights in the world are — and compared to Arreola the Ukrainian brothers are near flawless — they are never going to be in a Fight of the Year candidate.
The Klitschkos, who hold of three of the four major title belts, do too many things right to deliver Arreola-level drama and excitement.
They train hard, eat properly and always show up in prime condition without an ounce of fat on their statuesque 6-foot-7 frames. In the ring, they box smartly, using their height and reach to full advantage by keeping their opponents at bay with hard jabs that set up even harder straight rights.
After their fights, they say all the right things — in English, German, Russian and Ukrainian. They won’t drop an “MF bomb” or let the “S-word” slip out during their post-fight interviews and they’re not going to drink beer with fans after their fights as Arreola occasionally does. (Maybe they’d be inclined to have a latte and discuss politics and international economics, but down a few Coronas and talk boxing? Nah.)
And you know what, folks? They’re boring. In and out of the ring, they are boring.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike the Klitschkos. They're nice guys. They’re gentlemen. They’re scholars. They’re true professionals. But, damn, they’re boring.
Wladimir’s three fights last year — against Sultan Ibragimov, Tony Thompson and Hasim Rahman — were dreadfully non-competitive, void of drama.
And as impressive as Vitali has been in his two comeback fights after a four-year break, I wasn’t entertained for a single minute of his systematic stoppages of Samuel Peter and Juan Carlos Gomez.
Put Arreola in with any one of those five recent Klitschko opponents and a good fight would have broken out.
Arreola may have looked like a fat slob during his three-round KOs of Israel Garcia and Walker, but most fans who watched those two slugfests wanted to see him fight again.
“You can say he’s fat, you can say he’s undedicated, but the one thing you can’t is that he’s not fan friendly,” Ramirez said. “He’s an exciting fighter in the ring and very approachable out of it. He doesn’t brush people off or play the ‘I’m-a-star’ role.”
Arreola’s a regular guy when he’s not punching someone or getting punched in the ring.
He may not give his all in training, but he always gives his all in the fight. And he always has the fans in mind.
That’s what will make him an attraction whether or not he ever wins a world title.
So the armchair Eddie Futches of internet message boards and over-analytical boxing writers can continue to watch Arreola’s weight and point out his flaws.
An ever-growing number of fans will simply enjoy watching him fight.
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]