Arreola can learn from first loss
LOS ANGELES — The prevailing wisdom on the Vitali Klitschko-Chris Arreola fight was that the aggressive Mexican-American heavyweight contender would make it interesting while it lasted in a losing effort.
That wisdom proved to be correct, but few fans and boxing writers thought Arreola would make it a fight for as long as he did.
Arreola (27-1, 24 knockouts) lasted 10 rounds with Klitschko (38-2, 37 KOs), who defended a major title as well as his position as the No. 1 heavyweight in the world behind his younger brother, Wladimir, who is the recognized champ.
Arreola was valiant in defeat, courageous in his effort, but by the late rounds of the bout he was being brutalized as he was outclassed by the powerful 6-foot-7 Ukrainian.
Klitschko landed 301 of 802 total punches thrown, according to CompuBox statistics. Arreola, despite the non-stop pressure he applied in every round, only managed to land 86 of 331 total punches. Klitschko, who owns the best KO ratio of any elite heavyweight in history, landed 151 of the 283 power punches for a frightening 53 percent connect rate.
The rugged L.A. native got a rise out of the crowd of 14,556 at the Staples Center by forcing the normally stationary giant to backpedal for much of the fight and by connecting with a few jabs and right hands in the middle rounds, but he only won one round (the eighth) on two of the official scorecards.
The third judge scored the fight a shutout for Klitschko, awarding the 38-year-old PhD a 10-8 round for the painfully one-sided 10th round.
Arreola’s trainer Henry Ramirez did the right thing when he told referee Jon Schorle that his fighter had had enough at the end of that round.
Ramirez’s decision broke Arreola’s heart but it may have saved his career, which can still be promising if he can learn from Saturday’s experience and the man who handed him his first pro defeat.
Arreola, who openly wept after the fight was stopped, knows this, but right now he’s devastated.
“I don’t like losing,” Arreola said at the post-fight press conference. “I hate losing. That’s why I was crying. It really hurts.”
Stopping the fight wasn’t an easy decision for Ramirez, who has trained Arreola for most of his pro career and is close friends with the fighter, but it was a necessary one.
“He was taking too many punches in the late rounds and I decided that it was time,” Ramirez said at the post-fight press conference. “He once told me that if I ever stop one of his fights he’ll kick my ass but I don’t care. I did what I thought was right and I didn’t ask Chris if it was OK because I know he would have told me ‘F___ no.’ He’s one of those fighters who has to be saved from himself.”
Arreola wanted to go out on his shield.
Immediately after the fight he said he felt like a complete failure.
“I let everyone down who came here to see me, I let my people (those of Mexican descent) down,” Arreola said during his post-fight interview for HBO’s international feed. “I guess all those internet sites that said I’m a fat, lazy m_____ f_____ were right.”
Arreola’s a hard man. He fights hard and he’s known for partying hard between fights. It should come as no surprise that he’s hard on himself.
Arreola refused to take solace in the fact that he hung tough before the bout was stopped.
“I can’t, man,” he said. “If you take any credit in a loss — if you say ‘I lost but it’s OK because I showed heart’ — that’s the heart of a loser. I’m not a loser. I have a bitter taste in my mouth and I’m very disappointed.”
Arreola’s promoter Dan Goossen was also disappointed, but he was encouraged by what he saw from Arreola during the fight and after it.
“Chris was very emotional after the fight, more emotional than any fighter I’ve seen after a loss in 30 years of promoting,” Goossen said at the post-fight press conference. “But I’m proud of the way he fought and I have a lot of faith in him. Any fighter who shows that much courage can rebound from his first loss and learn from it.
“Klitschko boxed a brilliant fight. He never stopped moving or punching. We didn’t think he could move and punch as much as he did. But Chris never stopped trying. He wasn’t sitting back and saying ‘I’m frustrated’. He kept punching and he kept trying.”
“I believe if Klitschko were 6-foot-6 or a little shorter Chris would have beat him tonight.”
The boxing message board critics that Arreola referenced don’t believe Goossen’s theory for a second, however, many of those same fans were impressed with his performance.
Nobody was more impressed than Klitschko.
“Big respect to Chris,” Klitschko said at the post-fight press conference. “He was very motivated and he gave his best. I wanted to send (him) to the canvas. I landed very hard punches to his head but he (remained upright).
“In the second round I landed a big left hook. I felt it, it was so strong, but he kept coming. I was shocked. In the fourth round, I landed the exact same punch. Nothing happened. In the sixth round, I landed a right cross, exactly on the chin. He shook a little bit but he still came forward.
“He has a great chin and big heart. He gave me hard work for 10 rounds.”
Klitschko, who admitted that he was stung by one of Arreola’s jabs and felt the challenger’s body shots, said it was one of his most grueling fights.
The big man had to throw more punches than usual and utilize more movement than fans have ever seen from him.
For a few rounds, Arreola thought Klitschko’s movement was an indication that he was getting to the titleholder.
“In the middle rounds I thought my pressure was starting to pay off,” Arreola said. “I started landing my jab and getting inside, but he adapted. He changed his style. I wasn’t catching him with the same punches (in the late rounds that) I caught him with earlier.”
Klitschko said his experience, and perhaps his maturity, was the difference between the two.
“He came forward for every second of every round,” he said. “If I didn’t move side to side I knew he had the power to hurt me. I landed my best punches in the first two rounds. Then it was time for a new plan, to side step him and land counter combinations.”
The first lesson Arreola can take from his first loss is that it’s always good to have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work. Arreola may be one of the toughest hombres in the heavyweight division but he also has underrated and underused boxing ability. He can stick and move if he wants to.
When the constant pressure wasn’t paying off, perhaps Arreola needed to try something different. He doesn’t hold a PhD like Klitschko, but he’s not a dummy. He can use his head for more than just a speed bag when he’s in the ring.
Klitschko’s got an iron chin, too, but he doesn’t rely on it.
The second lesson Arreola can learn from the older man is the benefit of staying in shape. Much has been said and written about Arreola’s less-than-Spartan work ethic and overindulgent lifestyle between fights and most of the criticism is warranted.
He trained hard for Saturday’s fight but he still had to come down to 252 pounds from the high 270s when he began his camp. Who knows? Maybe if Arreola had controlled his weight between fights he would have had a little more speed on his punches and an extra gear for those tough late rounds against Klitschko.
Klitschko didn’t just beat Arreola with his skill and experience. The veteran also beat him with his conditioning, because without his high-level fitness Klitschko would not have been able to keep up his non-stop movement and offense.
Arreola seemed to get it near the end of the post-fight press conference when he was asked when he wanted to fight again.
“I want to fight as soon as possible, maybe in December or January,” he said. “I want to go back to the drawing board, I want to get back to the gym. I’m not going let this beat me. I want this to make me better. No more Coronas (beers) between fights.”
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]