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Cris Arreola: Hopefully Not The Next American Idle

BY Frank Lotierzo ON September 27, 2009
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Hopefully heavyweight contender Cris Arreola will take a little time off and then get back into the gym and try and make the most out of his losing effort against WBC champ Vitali Klitschko. Cris shouldn't harbor any negative lingering effects from the fight. He did the best he could but just happened to catch Vitali on a night where he put it all together and would've been a handful for many top heavyweights of the past.

An Arreola win would've been the short term injection that the heavyweight division desperately needed. Not only does Cris bring a huge American/Hispanic following and fan base, but he's colorful and is like most every man we know. His fights are entertaining to watch and stylistically he matches up with most of the other ranked heavyweights in the division. He's never going to be a great fighter, but doesn't have to be in order to be heard from again circa 2010. If great fighters came along every day then being a great fighter wouldn't be so special, would it?

It's been a while since there's been an American heavyweight who could stimulate boxing fans and create a little bit of a buzz in boxing’s former glamor division. Arreola has the capacity to do that because he can hit with both hands and isn't afraid to let them go. No - he didn't let his fists fly against Klitschko the way most anticipated he would, but that had more to do with Vitali's work-rate and movement which kept Arreola a step behind while looking for a clean shot. Once he realized that he'd pay in a big way lf/when he missed, he instinctively fought in a more measured fashion. And he's not the first fighter that's ever happened to.

With all the shenanigans that's gone on in boxing recently with hand wraps, steroid accusations and weight stipulations at the last minute, Vitali Klitschko wanted the fight gloves to be weighed before the bout to insure the risk of an unfair advantage didn't exist. Arreola got a kick out of that and said, They can do whatever they want. We'll both wear gloves in there. A glove's a glove."

It's easy to see Cris has a little Charles Barkley in him and likes to say and do things just for shock value with no harm or malice intended. It's also refreshing that Arreola doesn't take himself too seriously and understands that his job is to knock dudes out and not to bring about world peace. When he weighed in for his fight with Klitschko last week he wore a 20 pound concealed weight vest just for a goof. Obviously Arreola makes the most out of his weight and girth and in a way gets the last laugh a la the older George Foreman.

He also said in the HBO pre-fight piece that, "I'm a boxer not a body builder." Oh how right he is. That said let’s hope Cris doesn't become the next "American Idle" and go through a long period of inactivity after losing to Klitschko. Sometimes a loss can be a blessing in disguise for a fighter. But that's only if the fighter makes the most of it. John Ruiz suffered one of the most devastating defeats in heavyweight history when he was knocked out by David Tua in 19 seconds. Ruiz had every reason in the world to doubt himself not just mentally and physically, but emotionally more than anything else.

The courage it took for Ruiz to get back into the ring and not be glove shy or fight without reservation is beyond comprehension. That easily could've been a career ending defeat. Instead, Ruiz got back in the gym and not only accepted it but was motivated by it. Arreola doesn't have nearly the mental or psychological baggage to overcome that Ruiz did. On top of that he has a few things going for him that Ruiz didn't. The first being the current landscape of the heavyweight division isn't nearly as tough to navigate as it was for Ruiz circa 1996-2003. In truth Arreola doesn't have to be any better than Ruiz was to make some noise and money fighting as a heavyweight today. Ironically, Ruiz just fought for the WBA title a little over a year ago at age 36. If that doesn't motivate Arreola what will?

The other advantage Arreola has over Ruiz is Cris can punch. Ruiz's physical strength is/was very underrated, but he wasn't a puncher. He was also vulnerable to being out-boxed on any given night and his fights weren't very exciting. Whereas Arreola has already been in there with one of the few fighters who is experienced and strong enough to out-box him. In a match-up against the other top contenders excluding those named Klitschko, Arreola is no worse than 50-50 to beat any of them and would probably be favored over most of them.

Today's top contenders go by the names Alexander Povetkin, Eddie Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Odlanier Solis, Denis Boystov, David Haye and Alexander Dimitrenko. If Arreola gets back into the gym after a little rest and doesn't balloon up to 290 before his next fight, there's not one contender out there who he'd been in over his head fighting. That's assuming he learns from the experience he no doubt gained from the loss to Klitschko. And based on his emotions after the fight it would appear that winning really meant something to him. The only mystery is whether or not he's going to take his future seriously.

Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, Arreola can't party his rear end off for the next year. If that's the case all the goodwill he earned by putting forth the effort he did versus Vitali Klitschko will be forgotten. And that would be a waste being that the current heavyweight division is the Klitschkos and then everybody else.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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