Chris Arreola has spoken before about getting serious about training. And our reaction has been the same each time: We’ll believe it when we see it.
Well, we’ve seen it. The talented but typically flabby heavyweight looked positively svelte at a recent news conference to promote his fight against Nagy Aguilera on the Andre Ward-Arthur Abraham card Saturday in Carson, Calif., on Showtime.
Arreola was 239 pounds on Monday, a weight he and his team wondered if they’d ever see again. After all, he has averaged a not-so-attractive 255 over his past eight fights.
So what’s different? Arreola and trainer Henry Ramirez say he finally woke up.
“I was sitting in my house and thinking,” said Arreola, referring to an introspective night in December. “I had all kinds of accolades from 2008 and 2009. I was this boxer of the year, that boxer of the year. Then I thought about 2010. Nothing.
“I had a horrible year in my career. I had fun outside the ring. In the ring? No fun. A light just went off. I knew I had to do something.”
The horrible year to which Arreola referred consisted of one fight, a majority-decision loss to Tomasz Adamek in April 2010.
Ramirez said the fighter missed fully half his scheduled workouts because of personal problems and a general lack of commitment to his boxing career.
The result was a loss that sent him to the back of the line of legitimate heavyweight contenders.
Arreola gives Adamek credit, saying the Pole put in the work while he didn’t. Adamek earned an opportunity to fight Vitali Klitschko in part because of that victory.
“The Adamek fight kills me, absolutely kills me,” Arreola said. “I’m still waiting for a present from him. He needs to send me a watch or something for the gift I gave him. He’s getting a title fight because he beat me.
“I give him credit. He was a better pro than I was. He trained to win. I don’t think he’s better than I am. He beat me in training. That’s where he won.”
So what has changed after Arreola’s revelation?
He’s simply doing the things he should’ve been doing all along. Training hard every day. Trying to watch what he eats, which has been a big problem. He didn’t let himself blow up in weight – as he normally would — after his last fight, a first-round knockout of Joey Abell in January.
And, believe it or not, he doesn’t have a fitness coach. He and he alone has taken the necessary steps to do things right.
“Some people have said, ‘Oh, he’s probably losing too much weight too fast,” Arreola said. “I weighed 249(¾) pounds for my last fight. Honestly, after that fight, I was back in the gym in like a week. I wasn’t training hard but I was in there.
“I just never really gained weight. The highest I got was 255, I think. Normally I’m 280, 285. I lost weight little by little by changing my habits.”
Ramirez had his doubts about whether Arreola would ever wake up but was always optimistic.
Naturally he’s ecstatic about his fighter’s sudden commitment to craft, particularly because it comes while Arreola (30) is still young enough to become a major player in the division.
“I think Chris changed for a number of reasons,” Ramirez said. “I think he has more stability in his (personal) life, as a husband and a father. And he understands that he has to make the sport more of a priority. I think turning 30 also had something to do with it. I always thought that if the light doesn’t go on by the time he hits 30, chances are it’s not going to go on.
“It’s been a different Chris. And I like it. He’s positive, upbeat about hitting the gym. Now I know he’s going to go the gym every day.”
Arreola know that doubts about him will remain, whether it’s about his weight or any other perceived deficiency. He’s used to criticism now.
The only thing important to him is that he stay on track and continue to win fights, which he hopes will lead to second a title shot that turns out better than his knockout loss to Klitschko in September 2009.
“I feel great,” Arreola said. “I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I can actually move at the waist now. I don’t have the extra tire to hold me back. And it’s easier to throw punches in bunches. This is how it should be all the time.
“… As I’ve told everybody, I’m married to boxing now. It’s my wife. And I have to treat it that way.”