CHRIS ARREOLA: A Bright Light In A Division Of Dim Bulbs

BY Frank Lotierzo ON April 16, 2009
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I saw one of today’s more talked-about heavyweight fighters this past weekend. His name is Chris Arreola. He fought former fringe contender Jameel McCline, winning by a fourth round knockout. Having said that, it looked to me that Jameel could've beat the count, but probably thought to himself, for what? It's not like he was gonna beat Arreola. McCline has lost to Nikolay Valuev, Samuel Peter, and John Ruiz in the last two years, and was turned back in his two previous title shots by Chris Byrd and Wladimir Klitschko. He's now a trial horse and probably won't continue to fight much longer, if at all.

As for Arreola, he's more than likely going to be fighting for one of the alphabet title belts the next time we see him in the ring. And I wouldn't be surprised if some boxing fans aren't too excited about that; that’s a point of view that I'm not on board with. I mean it is 2009, not 1919 or 1939, 1949 or 1979. Hell, I'd settle for 1999 and the Lewis-Holyfield rematch over Klitschko-Gomez…

Back to Arreola. No doubt he may have tarnished his public perception by coming in at what looked to be a soft 255 pounds. On top of that, HBO didn't help him by airing a documentary on the "Thrilla In Manila" leading up to his bout with McCline. That was brilliant? Let’s show the most brutal heavyweight championship bout in history between the two fiercest rivals the sport has ever known. Oh, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier beat each other up so bad during the fight that neither were ever close to being the great fighter they once were afterward. Did I mention Ali said it was the closest thing to dying he'd ever experienced, and we all know Frazier would've fought until his last breath? What were the chances of any two active heavyweights putting on a fight with one-tenth the sustained action and intensity as Ali-Frazier II, let alone the "Thrilla In Manila?"

It's bad enough that Arreola's limitations were obvious before a side-by-side comparison with two all-time greats. Again, it's 2009. Chris Arreola doesn't have to be the next Joe Louis, Sonny Liston, George Foreman or Lennox Lewis. Being the best Chris Arreola just may be good enough to score an upset over one of today’s heavyweight title holders, in what would no doubt be an exciting fight.

I'll admit, it took me a little while to come around, but I now view Chris Arreola as a bright spot in a division so devoid of personality and talent. Everybody focuses on his shortcomings, mostly his weight, defense and his chin. However, the defense and chin complaints can be said about almost every other ranked heavyweight in the world. What most miss when it comes to Arreola is, he has no reservation about letting his hands go. Add to that he can hit with either hand, and you have a fighter that's 50-50 versus any active heavyweight in 2009. Samuel Peter can punch, but you can't say that about him. Other than the Klitschkos, I don't see any other heavyweights out there who can crack with both hands. As for his weight, I’d like to see him carve off a bit of that flab.

Matching Arreola against Wladimir Klitschko is one of the few compelling fights that could be made in the heavyweight division. Sure, Wladimir is a better structured and technical fighter than Chris. He also has a shattered psyche, and that would be two-fold against a fighter who has two-handed power and isn't afraid to let his hands go. Wladimir is more damaged now mentally than before he fought Corrie Sanders. So why is it that Arreola would be in so over his head fighting him? Sultan Ibragimov winged a few at Wladimir in the first round, and Wladimir did nothing but paw with his left hand for the last 11 rounds. Too bad Ibragimov didn't swing for the fence again. Instead, he did just enough to keep Wladimir from really going after him, and he was more than content with that. If there's one thing that can be said about Arreola, it's that he won't be content going the distance and losing a decision to Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko.

I've read where some writers and fans aren't all that excited about Chris Arreola. My question to them is,  who exactly excites you in todays heavyweight division? Vital Klitschko is pretty strong and tough, but after seeing his last fight versus Juan Carlos Gomez, his stock has dropped in my book. Wladimir Klitschko looks pretty good when he lets his hands go, but to me his tentativeness identifies him more than anything else.

Who else is out there? Nikolay Valuev? Yeah, he's a real life-taker. I recall he had his hands full with the corpse of Evander Holyfield in his last fight. Samuel Peter is a stoppage loss away from becoming a has-been, not that he was ever close to being anything more than a barely adequate heavyweight. We haven't seen enough of David Haye as a heavyweight to say anything about him, other than he's not as big or strong as Arreola. Eddie Chambers doesn't have a burning desire to be special, Kevin Johnson won't step up and fight a live body. Alexander Povetkin gives his best, but his ability is somewhat limited. Ruslan Chagaev and Alexander Dimitrenko aren't nearly as exciting to watch as Chris Arreola.

I'm not saying Arreola is the savior of the heavyweight division. If in fact there's a future star in the heavyweight division, we don't know his name yet. Without a true superstar or great fighter campaigning at heavyweight, I want to see a few decent fights. Chris Arreola has the ability to deliver a few of them. We know that neither of the Klitchkos or any of the other top ranked contenders can be counted on for that. I believe Chris Arreola would make for a very compelling title fight with any of the belt holders. And if he won, we'd have someone with a little flair and personality to watch defend it, at least for one title defense if nothing else. Which is one more then we can look forward to as of this writing.

Lastly, Arreola gives a unique and good interview when the fight is over. He's completely honest, and that's a welcome change.

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