An intriguing heavyweight crossroads bout takes place on Saturday as former title challenger Chris Arreola meets once-beaten but less experienced standout Seth Mitchell in a Showtime-televised main event at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.
For Arreola, it is the final opportunity to break through in a career that has had many squandered opportunities.
Over what will amount to a 10-year career on Sept. 5, Arreola has yet to notch a victory over a top-10 heavyweight. Despite this fact, he fought on HBO seven times after scoring a TKO against Damian Wills on the November 2006 pay-per-view undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Carlos Baldomir.
A loss for Arreola would undoubtedly cast him into the discard pile of American heavyweight hype jobs, as well as force Southern Californian to consider another line of work, in his own words.
“If I lose to someone like (Mitchell), I don’t belong,” Arreola told RingTV.com over the phone on his way to the Wednesday press conference.
“I’m in boxing to become a world champion. I’m in boxing to make a name. I don’t want to be a gatekeeper, a guy who others build their names off of.”
Trainer Henry Ramirez has been with Arreola through it all, including many up-and-down training camps.
“Chris has to win this fight, period,” said Ramirez. “He said he’d contemplate retirement if he lost. If he lost to someone like Seth, I’d encourage him to retire.”
Arreola is coming off an April decision loss to Canadian heavyweight Bermane Stiverne that was an eliminator for a chance at Vitali Klitschko. Arreola got his shot at Klitschko in 2009 in his lone title opportunity, losing by 10th-round retirement.
In both defeats, Arreola showed guts and grit, if not a lack of top conditioning. He ate monster shots from Klitschko and stuck in there before his corner threw in the towel. Against Stiverne, a big right hand dropped him in the third round while simultaneously breaking his nose.
That he got up and lasted the distance is a main reason he’s been given as many opportunities as he’s been granted. That he wasn’t in the best shape is what the prime criticism of him has been over his entire career.
This is why for the fight against Mitchell, Ramirez decided it was time to take their training camp on the road. The team setup camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., traveling 20 minutes to a Phoenix gym twice a day.
It’s been a big enough improvement that both fighter and trainer have agreed to do it in the future.
“It’s like night and day,” said Ramirez in regards to the difference between this training camp and previous ones.
“There, we are under one roof. There’s only one car. I’ll knock on everyone’s door in the morning and let them know they have 30 minutes to get up.”
It’s definitely a far cry from previous camps, which frustrated Ramirez so badly that he told Arreola and his team they had to go elsewhere or there would be no fight.
“I told Al [Haymon], if there was no camp, there’s be no fight. Al backed me up, not that I had to twist Chris’ arm. He was all for it. It was the first time in a long time there were no missed days, no drama.”
It also means there will be no excuses this time if things don’t fall Arreola’s way on Saturday.
“No excuses,” agreed Ramirez. “There’s no way he should lose to a guy like Mitchell.”
One thing that is often hard for people to understand is how a fighter like Arreola, who many times has been on the cusp of making absurd money in the sport, has such a hard time doing the necessary things to prepare.
“When I’m at home, I’m my own worst enemy,” said Arreola, “There are no outside influences keeping me from doing what I have to do. The thing is, once I’m in the gym, I work hard. The trouble was making it to the gym.”
“It got to the point where I wouldn’t even go to the gym before Chris, because I knew I would be waiting for him,” said Ramirez. “I wouldn’t go to the gym until he calls and says he’s down the street.”
Mitchell is in a similar predicament to Arreola. He’s a fighter who was at one point considered a future American heavyweight hopeful. A knockout defeat to Johnathon Banks, though later avenged, put his career on the ropes. One could argue that the win over Banks is more legitimate than any wins on Arreola’s record.
Regardless, Arreola is the much more experienced fighter. Mitchell was a latecomer to the sport after playing college football. It’s a point that Arreola and his team have harped on in the buildup.
“I respect his conditioning and his power, because every heavyweight has power,” said Arreola. “His boxing skills, he doesn’t belong in the ring with me.”
“I’m going to give him a boxing lesson. I’m going to teach him boxing isn’t something you can play. What he’s doing, it would be like boxing not working out for me and then I decide I’m going to go try out for the Raiders. It’s silly.”
Arreola hopes a victory could lead to an opportunity to avenge his loss to Stiverne, perhaps for the vacant WBC title if Vitali Klitschko cannot return in a reasonable amount of time.
“Once my nose was broken, any gameplan went out the window,” said Arreola. “I have to give him his credit, he beat me, but this time I’ll beat him. Even if it isn’t for a vacant title, Stiverne, and [Tomasz] Adamek, I want to get them both in the ring again.”
Though he’s 10 years in the game, Arreola feels he’s got a lot more to offer.
“I’m a young 32,” said Arreola. “I haven’t been beat up that much, besides that last fight. I feel I’m only getting stronger and I haven’t had that many injuries. Everyone knows I come to fight and I’m in there to win.”
That has what’s helped keep Arreola’s name in the mix, his entertaining style. Another loss will be difficult to rebound from, though Arreola sounded serious when he said he’d give up the sport if that happened.
“It won’t go past six,” proclaimed Arreola.
“Chris has underrated boxing skills,” said Ramirez. “Seth is gonna see a difference in experience. I don’t think he’s a guy I’d classify as a top ten heavyweight. When Chris smells blood, he’ll finish him. I don’t think it goes past five or six rounds.”
Photos / Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos / Golden Boy, German Villasenor, Nick Laham/Golden Boy