Undefeated junior welterweight contender “Mighty” Mike Arnaoutis, a native of Greece who fights out of Atlantic City, New Jersey, can’t wait to get into the ring against undefeated Marc “The Beast” Thompson of Topeka, Kansas, on Friday night’s sensational pay-per-view extravaganza from the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.
The card, which is promoted by Silverhawk Boxing and is being dubbed “Collision Course, A Night of Champions,” also features longtime light heavyweight champion Virgil Hill, 49-5 (23 KOs) going against unbeaten Russian challenger Valery Brudov for the vacant WBA cruiserweight title; former lightweight titlist Stevie “Lil But Bad” Johnston, 37-3-1 (17 KOs) vs. Steve “The Mongoose” Quinonez, 31-9-1 (11 KOs); and IBF minimumweight champion Muhammad “The Rock Breaker” Rachman, 50-7-4 (22 KOs) vs. number-one contender Omar “Lobito” Soto, 14-2-1 (10 KOs).
“Mike came here to chase the American Dream, and that is exactly what he is doing,” said manager Mike Michael, who discovered Arnaoutis several years ago at a European tournament where he said he was winning fights on nothing more than his natural ability, grit and determination.
“There are few fighters who train as hard as him. Mike knows what it takes to be a champion and he will stop at nothing to make his dream come true.”
The 26-year-old Arnaoutis, who is 14-0-2 (6 KOs), is much too humble to toot his own horn, but his self-confidence is subtly evident.
“I always wanted to be a pro fighter,” said Arnaoutis, the son of a metallurgist who, although managed by the Vineland-New Jersey-based Cestus Management, is a promotional free agent.
“Nothing can stop me from winning a title. I don’t just want to be a legend in my own country, I want to be a world champion. That is very important to me.”
The only Greek to ever receive worldwide acclaim was Anton Christoforidis, who campaigned from 1935-47 and briefly held the National Boxing Association World Light Heavyweight Title. His career record was 43-15-7 (11 KOs).
According to Pete Spanakos, who along with his brother Nikos, a 1960 Olympian, were perhaps the most gifted Greek-American amateur fighters of all time, any sport, but especially boxing, was not something that Greek youngsters were encouraged to do.
“Traditionally, Greeks are taught not to waste their time in sports,” said Spanakos. “If they are not a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant, they are a bum. There is no in-between. Sports is rarely, if ever, an option for youngsters in Greek culture.”
The irony of that societal mindset is the fact that the Greeks are credited with creating the Olympic Games and over the centuries have spawned an abundance of world-class athletes. Among the more notable were Jim Londos, a champion wrestler, and Eugene Rossides, a standout football player at Columbia University.
Spanakos believes that the time is right for Greeks to connect with one of their own as a boxing commodity. “Greek-Americans would love to embrace a fighter,” he said. “They would go nuts. If the Greek media took hold of this kid, his career would take off. I can’t even imagine what it would be like seeing a Greek flag waving at Madison Square Garden.”
Spanakos says that Arnaoutis’ appeal would have far more historical significance than one might think. Arnaoutis hails from Mani, a region of Sparta that through the ages has produced the best fighters.
Spanakos and his brother, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, trace their roots back to the same region as Arnaoutis. There is even the possibility that they are distant relatives.
“That was the only part of Greece that was never subjugated by Turkey,” said Spanakos. “The Spartans were the fiercest fighters of all.”
Arnaoutis, who is quiet and unassuming outside of the ring, has a fearsome persona inside of it. He has appeared on ShoBox several times and, although not known as a tremendous puncher, scored impressive knockouts over Jessie Feliciano and Jauquin Gallardo.
Not only did his last six opponents have winning records, two of them were undefeated. He battled Juan Urango, who was 13-0, to a draw that most people thought Arnaoutis won, and he scored a sensational first round knockout over Jose Leo Marino, who was 12-0 going into the bout.
“Those knockouts don’t come by accident,” said Michael. “The kid trains three times a day. He has a dream, and he has the fortitude to make that dream a reality.”
Right now Arnaoutis’ dream is to dethrone WBO champion Miguel Cotto. Michael has adeptly moved him into a position to challenge the popular Puerto Rican in the not too distant future.
“I realize that without a title there is no likelihood of getting a fight with [undisputed junior welterweight champion] Ricky Hatton or Floyd Mayweather,” said Michael. “But the way we have maneuvered him, Mike will be a mandatory for Cotto after two more fights. A fight like that—a Greek against a Puerto Rican—would be huge at Madison Square Garden.”
“Nothing can stop me from winning a title,” said Arnaoutis. “Right now I’m only focused on Thompson. When the time comes to focus on Cotto, I’ll focus on him. I think he has vulnerabilities, but I won’t train for his weak points. I’ll train for his strong points. If his weak points are there, I’ll take advantage of them.”
“We know we will be victorious against Thompson and we know we will be victorious against Cotto,” added Michael. “Beating Thompson will just bring us one step closer to what the entire team has dreamed about: Mike being crowned junior welterweight champion of the world.
Friday night’s fights can be purchased on pay-per-view. Tickets, which are priced from $35 to $200, can be purchased by calling the Tropicana box office at 1-800-526-2935 or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-736-1420. Silverhawk Boxing can be reached at: www. Silverhawkboxing.com