In the end, it really didn’t matter what kind of shape Chris Arreola was in.
The heavyweight contender, known more for his flab than his ability, looked a bit more trim than usual and boxed well in the opening moments of his fight against Joey Abell on Friday in Temecula, Calif. An old standby turned out to be the deciding factor, though -– his power.
Arreola hurt Abell with a straight right to the chin, which sent the overmatched fighter from Coon Rapids, Minn., reeling into a corner. Arreola then went in for the kill, landing several more hard, accurate punches for which Abell had no answer.
And that was that. Referee Tony Crebs jumped in to stop it only 2:18 into the scheduled 12-round bout.
Arreola (30-2, 26 knockouts) didn’t prove much by knocking out a journeyman from the Midwest. However, after a disappointing 2010, he succeeded in taking a step in the right direction.
“I have a lot to prove to myself, my family, my managers and my team,” Arreola said in the ring after the fight. “I want to thank everyone who supports me … but also those who hate.
“Obviously, in 2010 I didn’t have it. But in 2011, I’m out to prove I’m back.”
Arreola went 1-1 in 2010, losing a majority decision to contender Tomasz Adamek in an important fight and outpointing journeyman Manuel Quezada.
More important, fans seem to lose all hope that Arreola would commit himself 100 percent to training. He acknowledged that he missed half his workouts before the Adamek loss, which was a significant setback.
He said he had an epiphany over the holidays, in which he decided he didn’t want to look back on his career and wonder what might’ve been. So he hired respected Ronnie Shields as his co-trainer and agreed to hold camp in Houston, where he worked diligently for three weeks.
He weighed in at 249.6 pounds, his lightest since 2008, which was a good sign. He didn’t look quite as pudgy as he has in recent fights. The two-minute outing didn’t give us an opportunity to gauge his conditioning, though.
We also couldn’t get a good handle on his progress with Shields, although he looked sharp as long as the fight lasted. He moved his head, as he said he would. He punched with better balance, as Shields hoped he would. The right hand that hurt Abell (27-5, 26 KOs) was perfect.
And it was a multiple-punch combination that finished off Abell, another thing Shields wanted to see.
The only flaw in his performance was a few moments in which he stopped moving his head and took some hard punches.
“The most important thing is that I saw head movement and he threw combinations,” Shields said. “And he didn’t fall in with his punches, as he sometimes does. His punches were crisp, straight. To me that’s the best thing that could happen.
“I only had him for three weeks. … As long as he keeps progressing, over time, I’m telling you, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Arreola was giddy at the post-fight news conference, unable to wipe a smile off his face.
He has won plenty of fights. That was nothing new. It’s his certainty that he’s turned a corner and is headed toward even bigger things that has him more-excited than ever about his career in boxing.
“I truly love boxing,” he said. “I have to show people I love boxing, I have to treat boxing like I love it. I’m working with Ronnie Shields, the best of the best in the business. And I believe I’m one of the best in the business. Now I just have to prove it.
“And for those who doubt me, I’ll be back in the gym on Monday.”