Francisco A. Salazar

More serious (seriously) Chris Arreola primed for Bermane Stiverne rematch

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Photo by Carlos Baeza/Goossen Tutor Promotions

 

Knockouts and colorful banter can sum up the career thus far for heavyweight contender Chris Arreola.

So could three disappointing losses.

Arreola does possess world-class talent, where his underrated skills as a boxer compliment his devastating punching power. So the question begs to be asked:

Did Arreola lose to the better man in each of his losses or did he lose to himself?

That depends on who you ask.

There are those who believe Vitali Klitschko, Tomasz Adamek, and Bermane Stiverne were simply too talented for the Mexican-American fighter.

Then there are those who believe Arreola lost those fights in the gym, where a lack of commitment, dedication, and training showed. After reflecting on personal experiences and a career that has had multiple near-misses, Arreola made specific changes that he hopes will fulfill a dream he has had since he was a boy.

Arreola will seek redemption and respect when he faces Stiverne in a rematch at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The fight, promoted by Don King and Goossen Tutor, will be televised live on ESPN at 8PM ET/ 5PM PT.

After the decision loss to Stiverne just over a year ago in Ontario, Calif., Arreola had an epiphany of sorts, realizing that the way he would prepare, especially for championship-level fights, was not very effective.

Arreola spent more time partying or sitting in front of a television than putting in time at the gym in his hometown of Riverside. He would win fights based on his talent or punching power, yet his weight and appearance in each of those fights would still be scrutinized.

Sure, fight fans were entertained by Arreola's antics at press conferences or post-fight interviews, even kissing Joey Abell after knocking him out in the first round. What Arreola was not realizing back then was that the amount of beer he would drink hanging out with friends would eventually affect him.

So a change had to be made, especially since Arreola is 33 years old and may not get many more opportunities to fight for a world title. He and Stiverne will fight for the WBC belt vacated by Klitschko.

Rather than train (or not train at times) in the familiar confines of the gym that his trainer Henry Ramirez owns, his team, which includes promoter Dan Goossen and adviser Al Haymon, decided to train for his most recent bout, against Seth Mitchell, in Phoenix, Ariz.

Arreola looked like a different man last September, taking the fight to Mitchell for a first-round stoppage victory.

If it is not broke, then do not fix it. His team decided that preparation for the rematch against Stiverne would take place in San Diego.

With so much on the line and the fact he was dominated in the first fight after being knocked down and suffering a broken nose in the third round, Arreola has the mentality of all in or bust.

"We decided to change it up," Arreola told RingTV in a recent interview. "I love my fans, but we really want to focus on this fight. I don't want to be complacent anymore when it comes to training."

It seems to have worked. In film and recent photos in the lead up to Saturday's fight, Arreola has looked fitter and his body has looked more toned. Some members of the media who have seen him up close notice a more focused Arreola, attentive to the job at hand and cracking less jokes.

Even Ramirez, who has been Arreola's trainer since before his pro debut, agrees.

"This has been our best training camp," said Ramirez.

Based on what he has done in the gym, just like a pitcher who gives up a home run, Arreola put the loss to Stiverne behind him almost immediately.

"I have a short-term memory when it comes to that fight," said Arreola, who grew up in East Los Angeles, not far from the USC campus where the fight will take place. "I'm over it. I put that fight out of mind."

While he put the loss to Stiverne out of his mind, Arreola has had to come to peace with personal issues out of the ring.

In an ESPN interview with boxing analyst Teddy Atlas a few weeks ago, Arreola admitted having to borrow money to buy Christmas gifts for his family, and problems with the law. It was a moving sight to see a man that epitomizes a macho attitude in and out of the ring break down because of making poor decisions.

While that may or may not be the breaking point, Arreola's back is at the wall. A loss would kill any opportunity at a world title in the short term, even if the heavyweight division is weak, or a significant payday.

No one will ever question the heart Arreola possesses, even when he was stopped by Klitschko over four a half years ago, or suffered numerous bruises in his close decision loss to Tomasz Adamek four years ago. While he proved he could take a punch and adjust to adversity, he is wondering whether Stiverne could do the same.

"My strategy is to be in the craziest shape possible. He knows that I'm willing to go to war. I'm willing to die in the ring. I'm wondering if he is willing to do so."

It takes a lot for a man to admit his faults and misgivings, and want to make a change in his life. Arreola is no different.

A life of partying and drinking got him into a world of trouble in and out of the ring. The loss to Stiverne may be the best thing that happened to him.

With so much at stake, Arreola wants to prove his detractors wrong by winning the world title and set an example that any person can succeed if they put their mind to it.

"This [fight] is really important to me. I want to be a good example to my family and to the people who believe in me. I want to be the person people can say came from nothing and now he's a champ."

 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at santio89@yahoo.com or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing

 

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