A heavyweight fight to get excited about
When was the last time you were truly excited about a heavyweight fight? Can’t remember? Neither can I.
That’s why the pending announcement that Vitali Klitschko will fight Chris Arreola on Sept. 26 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on HBO is so thrilling. A boxing world starved for such a compelling heavyweight matchup has been waiting too long.
I know what you’re thinking. Arreola, the undefeated brawler from Southern California, has as much of a chance to win as all the others who were pummeled into submission recently by the Klitschko brothers — next to no chance. He’s fat, crude and has a suspect chin to boot. Why bother?
I’ll tell you why. Arreola will make it entertaining as long as it lasts, unlike other technically proficient, but passive challengers who have folded under the pressure and then gave up. Arreola is what so few heavyweights are these days, a real fighter, the type who will happily eat punches if he can land his own.
His brawl against Travis Walker in November was breathtaking, Arreola surviving a near knockout to stop Walker in three rounds. I, for one, miss such wars in the sport’s marquee division, wars like George Foreman-Ron Lyle. That’s what Arreola brings every time he steps into the ring — old-school thrills.
And Arreola, 28, isn’t small. He’s 6-4, only 3¾ inches shorter than Klitschko. He has fought at around the same weight as the Klitschkos, although he’ll come in lighter for this one. (Believe me, he will.) They match up well physically, which also has been a problem for other challengers and would've resulted in David Haye's demise.
The Klitschkos — both Vitali and Wladimir — have a system that is difficult to cope with. They keep their smaller opponents at bay with a long, hard left jab and wait for an opening to unload the right, which inevitably does damage. It’s not exciting but it works.
Vitali Klitschko forced an utterly helpless Sam Peter to quit on his stool after the eighth round in his first fight back from a four-year hiatus and then stopped an overmatched Juan Carlos Gomez in nine.
So how can Arreola get to Klitschko? He used Wladimir’s victory over Ruslan Chagaev last month as an example of the wrong approach.
“I’m not like none of these fighters,” Arreola said recently. “If you have seen any of the fighters they’ve fought, are any of them like me? Do any of them have the style that I fight? Do any of them have balls like I have shown? Just this past fight, this guy [Chagaev], he’s not a banger, he’s not a guy who will come and bring pressure. He’s a short boxer. He couldn’t do it. I’m a strong, big guy. I’m 6-4. I come in at 245. I’m strong and I’m coming to fight. I know only one way to fight and that’s coming.
“You know what, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster set the blue print (against Wladimir). Those guys kept coming. That’s the way they beat them. And that’s the way I gotta beat them.”
If Arreola can get to Klitschko, stand by. Klitschko proved against Lennox Lewis in the same arena in 2003 that he too can go to war if necessary. He stood toe-to-toe with perhaps the best heavyweight of the era, only to lose because of a cut but win the admiration of everyone who witnessed it.
I can feel Staples Center rocking already.
And if Arreola somehow wins? Then a fight between the first-ever Mexican-American titleholder and little brother Wladimir becomes perhaps the biggest heavyweight matchup since Lewis-Mike Tyson, a fight even casual boxing fans would embrace with enthusiasm.
These are big ifs, I know. No one will be surprised if Arreola too falls victim to the Klitschko system and gets stopped by a big right or two. Unfortunately, that’s a realistic scenario.
Rest assured, though: Arreola won’t let that happen without putting up a fight. And that’s all we can ask.
The fight will be formally announced on Aug. 13 at Staples Center.
Michael Rosenthal’s column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at [email protected]