ONTARIO, Calif. – Chris Arreola looked bored when his next opponent, Bermane Stiverne, spoke at the podium during Wednesday’s final press conference at Citizens Business Bank Arena, the site of their HBO-televised WBC heavyweight title-elimination bout on Saturday.
When Stiverne, who spoke in a low mumble, said “I don’t have anything to say,” Arreola looked like he was about to fall asleep. The media in attendance seemed ready to nod off as the 35-year-old Haitian slowly thanked the members of his team.
Then Stiverne woke the room up and lit up Arreola’s eyes by offering these cold words:
“Saturday night, I’m here to chop your head off. I will chop your head off. That’s what we do where I am from. I’m from Haiti. I’ve read things you’ve said on the internet about breaking my will. You can’t break my will. You can’t knock me down or knock me out. To win this fight you have to kill me.”
Arreola (35-2, 30 knockouts) wore a big smile as he made his way to the podium.
“I’m a crazy f___ing guy, so I enjoy the fact that he wants to chop my head off,” said the Los Angeles native who makes his home in nearby Riverside, Calif. “That’s what I want to hear from my opponent. This is what a fight should be. We ain’t here to throw jabs, one-twos and run. We’re here to fight.
“I’m glad. I’m happy. I’m motivated. I got a fire in my belly, and honestly (turning to Stiverne on the stage) I’m going to f___ you up.
“I’m going to knock you out. I’m not going to chop your head off. We’re boxers with families and I want us both to go home to our families after the fight. You’ll be disappointed and dejected after the fight, but what the hell, I’ll send you a fruit basket later.”
What had been a run-of-the-mill boxing press conference ended with a bang, which is how Arreola hopes the fight progresses.
He should get his wish. Like Arreola, Stiverne (22-1, 20 KOs), an amateur standout who represented Canada but now lives and trains in Las Vegas, has won most of his fights by knockout.
The winner of the fight, which HBO will air live at 5:30 p.m. PT as the lead-in to the Championship Boxing main event of Sergio Martinez-Martin Murray from Argentina, will determine the mandatory challenger to WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko.
After Stiverne’s uncharacteristic outburst on Wednesday, Arreola is confident that his fight will outshine the middleweight championship bout.
“I like a little fire from my opponents,” Arreola told a group of boxing writers following the presser. “As soon as he said he was going to chop my head off I said to myself ‘Hell yeah! Now we got a fight!’
“I don’t take that kind of talk as disrespect because that’s what you’re supposed to do in the heavyweight division – knock people the f___ out. Now my heart is pumping. We could set up the ring right now and I would be ready to fight.”
Arreola, who received a lot of deserved criticism in the past for his poor conditioning, really is ready to fight. He says he weighs in the “high 240s” and he looks to be at that number, a good fighting weight for the 6-foot-4 boxer-slugger.
“I’m a professional these days,” he said. “I will not let myself get over 255 pounds anymore.”
Saturday’s title eliminator, which was originally scheduled for last year, has been postponed three times (twice because of injury and sickness suffered by Arreola). The fight delays have kept both heavyweights out of the ring for more than a year.
The “old” Arreola would have ballooned up to around 300 pounds during such “down time,” but the 32-year-old veteran says those days are behind him.
“I started this camp at 257 pounds,” he said. “Before, I would start camp weighing around 280 or 290. I’m not trying be like that anymore. I take this job seriously now.”
Arreola says his professionalism goes beyond conditioning and includes harder work in the gym to improve his skills and technique.
“I’ve got heavy hands but I’m a boxer,” he said. “For a long time, I was trying to be a knockout puncher and I’m not. I’m a combination fighter. You’re going to see that against Stiverne, who is fast and can punch.
“He’s coming for my head; I’m coming for his heart, but I’m going to box circles around him first.”
Don’t think that Arreola takes his job too seriously, though. He’s still a big goofy guy at heart, and he enjoyed making the media members laugh throughout the post-press conference roundtable interview.
Writers asked Arreola’s opinion of recent fights and he was happy to give thoughtful responses with his usual honesty and raw language.
After entertaining the group with his opinions on fighters he likes to watch (Brandon Rios) and the stylists he admires (Floyd Mayweather and Guillermo Rigondeaux), as well as thoughts on last week’s Saul Alvarez-Austin Trout fight (which he scored seven rounds to five for “Canelo”), more than a few writers told him he had a future as a boxing commentator.
Arreola wasn’t so sure.
“The F-bombs just comes out of my mouth too often,” he admitted. “I don’t mean to do it, it just happens.”
Chris is going to be Chris – before, during and after his fights.
“I know there’s a lot of boxing on TV Saturday but I’m not watching any fights after my fight,” he said. “I’m going to go to the press conference and then I’m going to get some alcohol in my system, get some drinks and get some food.”