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Arreola's quick turnaround was commonplace in the old days
By Michael Rosenthal Chris Arreola will face Kendrick Releford on Friday in Reno, Nev., the heavyweight's second fight in 13 days. That's unusual today but it was commonplace once upon a time.
No one would’ve batted an eye at the quick turnaround a generation or two ago, though.
Arreola will have fought two journeymen in his two fights, including Kendrick Releford on Friday in Reno, Nev., on ESPN2. Sugar Ray Robinson once fought Jake LaMotta twice within 21 days in classic meetings.
The great Harry Greb once fought six times within a span of 33 days, two of those fights being against Hall of Famers Mickey Walker and Maxie Rosenbloom. Bobo Olson once fought twice in four days and then took on Sugar Ray Robinson for the middleweight title less than a month later.
Yes, fighters used to be a lot busier than they are now.
“Fighters do what by definition? They fight,” historian and author Bert Sugar said. “They didn’t wait around for a television date or for clearance from their promoters or for long negotiations. They fought.”
Of course, the boxing landscape was different in the old days.
The boxing commissions weren’t as stringent about fighter safety as they are now. Today’s biggest fighters build their careers around TV dates, which translates to big money. And because of the money the biggest fighters make, there’s no need to fight often.
There were exceptions way back when. For example, Jack Dempsey went long periods without fighting after he became a superstar because he could afford to. He earned money from endorsements and, after moving to Hollywood, made a movie or two.
He was unusal, though. Almost all boxers fought as often as possible to make a decent living. A few hundred here and a few thousand there added up.
“Before TV, even if you were champion, you fought for survival,” Sugar said. “People punch in for their weekly paycheck. Well, fighters punched out for theirs.”
Fighters also apparently figured they might as well get paid to exchange punches instead of sparring in the gym for nothing.
Greb had the reputation of being less than dedicated to his training. Even if that were true, it didn’t matter. He fought so often – 299 recorded fights in 13 years, an average of 23 per year – that he didn’t need to train.
His fights were his training. And many others followed similar schedules.
“They were never out of shape because they were busy all the time,” said veteran promoter Don Chargin, who had boxers fight for him on back to back weeks on occasion. “Present-day fighters talk about how often the old-time fighters fought but they’re in the gym getting beat up every day anyway.
“The old-time guys just did it to make money. It wasn't great money but everything is relative.”
The opportunity for Arreola to fight Releford 13 days after he stopped Nagy Aguilera in three rounds arose when Josesito Lopez, who shares Arreola’s trainer and promoter, had to pull out of the main event on Friday Night Fights because of an injury.
Henry Ramirez, Arreola’s trainer, was taken aback when promoter Dan Goossen approached him with the idea but he quickly thought, “Why not?”
Arreola was in prime condition for the Aguilera fight and, while he threw a lot of punches, the fight lasted only 7 minutes, 58 seconds. The Southern Californian could’ve fought again on the spot.
Plus, even though Arreola demonstrated a new commitment to training, a second fight in 13 days wouldn’t allow him a moment to slack off.
“(Aguilera) wasn’t a taxing fight, a drag-out war. Why give him time to sit around idly?” Ramirez said.
Chargin believes more fighters could follow Arreola’s lead.
“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “When a guy has … we might as well say … a walkover, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get right back in. It’s good for him to fight. It wasn’t like (Arreola) when 10 tough rounds.
“When they take time off, even if it’s only three, four weeks, they get out of shape. Then you have to start over again (in training). Why not make a little money and stay in shape.”
Arreola might on to something.