Exciting Chris Arreola looks to make history when he faces Vitali Klitschko on Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. If Arreola triumphs, he will become the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a portion of the heavyweight championship. The last Chicano to come so close to glory was Alex Garcia, who blew a shot at the title in the early 1990s by losing a tune-up bout to a ham n’ egger for little more than menudo. In 1968 Manuel Ramos, born in Hermosilla, Sonoroa, Mexico, was knocked out in two rounds by Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden for a piece of the splintered championship. Now Arreola, originally from Los Angeles and currently living in Riverside, California, has a chance to etch his name into the record books.
On the surface it appears that Arreola, 27-0 (24), might be overmatched against Klitschko. As much as a 5 or 6 to 1 underdog on some books, Arreola has faced limited opposition and has never been more than eight rounds in his career. In fact, Arreola has not gone past the fourth round in over two years. Only one opponent–human punching bag Andrew Greeley–has heard the final bell since Arreola turned pro in 2003. With his conditioning already an issue and his stamina unproven, Arreola will have to answer a lot of questions about himself in the biggest fight of his life.
In his last outing, “The Nightmare” clubbed semi-retired Jameel McCline into submission in four rounds in Las Vegas. McCline, loser of three out of his last four bouts entering the ring, is pushing 40 and has never managed to pull out a victory in his biggest fights. It says a lot about Arreola that McCline can be considered a step up in competition. Other fighters Arreola has faced include suspect-not-prospect Chazz Witherspoon and Damien Wills, who was undefeated at the time but most notable for being managed by Denzel Washington. Otherwise, Arreola has built up his record on a series of irregular merchandise from the Dan Goosen Outlet Factory.
It was disturbing to see limited Travis Walker outpunch and outbox a blubbery Arreola last November in a bout that saw Arreola dropped in the second round by a straight right. Within twenty seconds of the opening bell it was obvious that Arreola, who weighed in at 254 pounds, was so out of shape that even Walker would be trouble. And trouble he was, for as long as his chin held up: all of six minutes and twenty seconds, which was a significant improvement from the time Walker was knocked out in 15 seconds by TJ Wilson. Arreola rose from the knockdown to crush Walker, which is a good sign, but getting hit with everything but a rolling pin by an opponent with rudimentary skills is not. In his last fight, Walker was stopped in the first by Manuel Quezada. Arreola will have to be at his best to defeat the much more experienced Klitschko.
For Klitschko, 37-2 (36), this will be his third fight since returning from a four-year layoff. His comeback, however, might not be as successful as it appears. Samuel Peter, whom Klitschko forced to submit after eight rounds of corporal punishment for the WBC gimcrack, fought like a man given to self-medicating in the locker room. Klitschko fought well, but nothing can be gleaned from a fight with an overweight and under motivated opponent.
Next Klitschko trampled hapless Juan Carlos Gomez, perhaps one of the worst fighters ever to challenge for any version of the heavyweight title. Gomez would be easy pickings for Pete Rademacher, Johnny Paycheck, and Ron Stander and even money against Ray Austin or David Bey. These walkovers proved little about Klitschko and Arreola will be his first real live opponent in a very long time. In fact, Vitali Klitschko has not been in a competitive prizefight in over six years, since he lost a shootout to Lennox Lewis via TKO in 2003. How will this affect him against a young fighter who will keep the pressure on for as long as he can? Anyone as tough as Arreola–and he is much tougher than anyone Klitschko has faced in years–is hard to discount completely.
Physically, Klitschko has the edge in reach and height. He is also the more experienced fighter. His awkward style is often puzzling to spectators and opponents alike, but he does seem to have superior footwork. Arreola, on the other hand, is younger and might have the faster hands. Both fighters are good punchers.
If Arreola is in shape and comes out like a three-alarm fire, then the fight could be interesting early. Klitschko will have to stand his ground a little more and try to find some openings to work with. His habit of stepping straight back from punches with his hands at his sides may prove costly against Arreola, a fighter who is usually more active than the typical heavyweight. That is, when he weighs under 240 pounds. Arreola, 28, doubled-up on his jab against Damien Wills and overwhelmed Chazz Witherspoon with his blitzkrieg attack. Left hooks, right crosses, body shots, jabs, and uppercuts sent Witherspoon bouncing around the ring like a Madball from the moment the opening bell rang. But Klitschko is a patient fighter who will be on the lookout for mistakes. No doubt he will find some, too. Arreola sometimes leans forward when he goes on the attack and Klitschko might straighten him up now and then with left uppercuts. Arreola also tends to tip
off his right hand, drawing it back slightly before letting it go. An experienced fighter like Klitschko should be able to take advantage of this flaw and make Arreola pay with stiff jabs thrown the instant Arreola reaches back for an overhand shot.
If Arreola decides not to opt for all-out aggression, he might find himself stuck in a strategic quagmire. It is hard to imagine Arreola on the outside boxing effectively against the 6’7 1/2″ Klitschko. In that case, he will have to go to work in close quarters where Klitschko, like his brother Wladimir, rarely exerts himself. To do that, however, Arreola will have to bridge the gap against a fighter with an 80-inch reach looking to pick his shots from the perimeter. That means, unless Arreola has improved his defense significantly, he will get hit by many of the anesthetizing blows of “Doctor Ironfist,” a poor RX for anyone. Klitschko has the kind of power that creeps up on an opponent as the fight goes on. He has worn down many of his opponents and will look to do the same to Arreola on Saturday.
In what might be a rousing brawl, Klitschko should be able to overcome a few rough spots to win a unanimous decision or possibly stop a brave Arreola in the late rounds.