On Wednesday, 13 years to the day that Hasim Rahman knocked out Lennox Lewis to become an undisputed heavyweight champion, Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne held separate conference calls in advance of their May 10 rematch at the USC Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif., for the WBC belt vacated by the retirement of Vitali Klitschko.
Arreola (36-3, 31 knockouts) once served as a sparring partner for Rahman in August 2006. Rahman praised Arreola as a future beltholder.
"First of all, that's an honor to hear that, because, honestly, I loved being up there in his training camp. That's the first big training camp that I had gone to, and I got lots of work," said Arreola, a 33-year-old from Riverside, Calif. "I watched Rahman work, and I watched him work really hard. I enjoy boxing, and I enjoy fighting, and I enjoy the comaraderie that you get in a fight, especially after a sparring session when you become straight friends."
But Arreola spent most of the call offering "no excuses" for being soundly outboxed and outclassed by Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs) en route to a unanimous decision loss last April. Arreola was dropped in the third round by a vicious right hand that simultaneously shattered and bloodied his nose for the remainder of the 12-round fight with Stiverne.
"(He) was putting his combinations together, and I wasn't," said Arreola. "I was looking for that one shot, where this time I'm going to be on him throwing punches and make him work for every minute of every round."
Arreola called the return bout "potentially my last shot," adding, that the "every loss is my fault," and not that of trainer Henry Ramirez, as well as, "I'm the one who didn't to the work."
During the first fight with Stiverne, Arreola said he was dropped "with that stupid right hand" in the third round because "I got lazy" and "threw a lazy jab" during an exchange.
"When he dropped me, that right hand shattered my nose. I didn't know that I had that many bones in it, but he shattered it in like four different places. Right after that, I'm the type of fighter that comes forward and pushes the pace, and I tried to push the pace," said Arreola.
"But that day, I just couldn't do that because every time he punched me, it was so painful. Even if he didn't hit me that hard, whether he hit me on the glove or the top of my head, I could feel the bones in my nose just grinding against each other. I was swallowing blood and couldn't breathe out of my nose. I was breathing out my mouth, so it was tough in there. You could see my face grimacing in pain."
Having rebounded from the loss to Stiverne with a first-round knockout of highly-touted Seth Mitchell in September, Arreola declared himself "deseperate" in his quest to become the first heavyweight titleholder of Mexican descent.
"I'm very desperate. I've done a lot of dumb s–t in my life, and it's time to stop and to man up. It's time to handle my responsibilities in more ways than one. It's time for me to stay in the gym and to be responsible in life in general. It's time for me to man up," said Arreola, whose other two losses are to Vitali Klitschko by 10th-round knockout in September 2009, and to former cruiserweight titleholder Tomasz Adamek by majority decision in April 2010.
"I have to be a man and work hard. There's no 'He should have done this,' or, 'He should have done that.' I'm doing what I'm supposed to do in the gym…I hate losing. The fact that I get to avenge my loss, that means the world. But, you have to add to it that I get to fight for the world title and to make history, it all comes together. Bermane did what he had to do in the first fight, and this fight, I have to do what I have to do, which is to bring the fight to him and to put him on his heels."
Ramirez said Arreola is, indeed, putting the work in "just like the Arizona camp in preparation for Seth Mitchell."
"The camps, themselves, they're exactly the same. Chris is out here busting his behind, and I don't have wait in the gym and wonder, 'Damn, is he going to show up, today?' Right now, he weighed 244 yesterday," said Ramirez.
"We're having to slow him down just so he can maintain the weight. Optimum for Stiverne is 237 or 240, right in that range. There's not a doubt in my mind that on May 10, Chris is going to come out victorious, because, honestly, he's training like a desperate man, right now. A man who is very desperate."
Wladimir Klitscho is THE RING, IBF, WBA and WBO champion, and will make another defense of his belts against Alex Leapai on April 26. No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s strap. In 2006, Hasim Rahman, of Baltimore, held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd.
Puerto Rican-American John Ruiz, from Massachusetts, was the first Latino to hold a heavyweight belt when he became the WBA champ in 2005.
Stiverne is looking to become the first heavyweight champion of Haitian descent, and Arreola wants to be the first heayvweight titleholder of Mexican descent.
Stiverne-Arreola represents a crowded chase for the WBC's belt, with the winner having been mandated to defend against Deontay Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs), who was last in the ring for last month's 96-second stoppage win over Malik Scott.
In addition, there was a second-mandatory ordered by the WBC between unbeaten fighters Mike Perez and Bryant Jennings on May 24, the winner of which will face that between Wilder and the victor of the Stiverne-Arreola matchup.
Also, 42-year-old southpaw Tony Thompson has appears to have revived his career, being that last month's split-decision over Odlanier Solis was a bout for the WBC's vacant international belt.
Thompson informed RingTV.com, on Tuesday, that he is considering return bouts against either Carlos Takam of France on June 6 or Alexander Povetkin of Russia for June 7.
In the end, Arreola wants to be the last man standing.
"This time, I'm going to make sure that I'm the one dictating the pace and dictating the fight…No excuses. It was all on me. I wouldn't show up to the gym, I wouldn't do what I'm supposed to do as a professional. But times have changed, I feel like I'm a matured fighter and that I'm more of a guy who has what it takes between my ears and in my heart and in my balls," said Arreola.
"I just have to let it all hang out in the boxing gym. That's really where the fight is won, in the gym. I hate making excuses. The last time, Bermane beat me. I don't want to say that it was because I wasn't in shape. He beat me. He's the one that broke my nose. The fact that I wasn't in shape doesn't change the fact that he broke my nose."