It’s still early in Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola’s heavyweight career but you can tell in the Southern California area that the Riverside fighter is building a fan base. More than a few phone calls were received as I trekked through the desert toward Las Vegas last week.
Yes this is another Las Vegas journal.
For me to reach the Nevada capital of sin it takes about three hours to traverse the 230 miles. On Thursday the press conference by co-promoters Goossen-Tutor and Golden Boy Promotions was set for 1 p.m.
Because of unexpected Easter holiday and Spring Break traffic, the roads were a little congested on a Thursday morning. So when I entered the pressroom underneath the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino the talking heads were in perfect pitch.
Dan Goossen, the president of Goossen-Tutor, spoke about Arreola and his opponent Jameel “Big Time” McCline. All the parties gave their piece and were followed by Team Paul Williams and Team Winky Wright.
Williams sported a big smile that never disappeared throughout the weekend. It was the kind of grin that a cat might show knowing that its prey is there for the taking. In a few days he had his lunch.
After the press conference, we headed to Barry’s Gym in Las Vegas where more than a few solid boxers train on a regular basis. On this day the boxing facility was rather empty so we headed toward other destinations.
We spoke to one of the Golden Boy matchmakers to see if it was possible to take a look at Ricky Hatton work out. He told us he would get back with us. That means no.
After a night of margaritas at Palace Station it was time to go file a story. I had to wake up rather early to meet with Oscar De La Hoya who was going to talk with a few reporters on Friday morning.
That margarita was a little strong for me. It was difficult getting up so hurriedly; we drove over to the media room at the Mandalay, but we needn’t worry, De La Hoya had not arrived.
Waiting before us were super boxing and MMA writer Kevin Iole of Yahoo who lives in Las Vegas and another boxing writer whiz Dan Rafael from ESPN.com and Steve Carp who took over the boxing writer position from Iole at the Las Vegas Review Journal. GBP’s Nicole told us De La Hoya was running late and would not arrive until 1 p.m. Iole needed to depart.
As we waited a few more boxing writers and photographers arrived. Finally around 1 p.m. De La Hoya arrived wearing a gray leather jacket and dark shirt underneath. He looked rather thin, almost weak.
He talked about his coming announcement on Tuesday, and was slightly mysterious about whether he was going to jump back in the ring to show that his poor showing was because of an unexpected after-effect of over-training or a dietary miscalculation.
“I weigh 152 pounds,” said De La Hoya. “I can’t gain weight.”
This is very unusual. In the more than 16 years that I’ve covered De La Hoya, I’ve never seen him walk around when not fighting at less than 160 to 170 pounds. The sport of professional boxing is a very dangerous sport. Most fans do not realize this.
Every year about seven to 15 pro boxers die from injuries sustained in the ring. It’s one of the most dangerous sports in the world because of the risk boxers take. That’s why I never disrespect a boxer for quitting. I think boxing broadcasters should take note of this too.
Last month when Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero told a doctor that he could not see due to the cut over his eye. He was chastised by the HBO crew and fans at the event for quitting. Boxing writers ganged up on him like a bunch of cheap bullies.
Boxing is a very dangerous sport. People die. Remember that.
Personally, I’ve seen three fighters sustain injuries in the ring and ultimately expire, beginning with Kiko Bejines in 1983, Pedro Alcazar in 2002, and Levander Johnson in 2005. I was one of the last people Johnson spoke to as he walked from the ring to his dressing room. He spoke a few words to me and suddenly collapsed after he walked 20 more feet.
So if De La Hoya quits because of his inability to fight at peak capacity, so be it. He’s proven many times in the past that he has more guts than most people in the world.
Personally, I hope he retires. I don’t want to see him endanger himself in the ring. It would be great to see him enjoy the millions he gained from sacrificing his time, physical health and life since 1992.
De La Hoya said listening to boos doesn’t bother him. Over the course of his career he’s learned to endure them.
As he walked away De La Hoya looked very thin and small. Though his face looked healthy his body looked more like that of a teen.
“I lost a lot of muscle mass,” De La Hoya said.
It was clearly evident.
Later that night, we waited around for Alfredo “Perro” Angulo who was arriving with his trainer Clemente Medina and friends to watch the fights. He had agreed to stay at a friend’s house where I was also staying and needed someone to show him where it was located. Around 1 a.m. he arrived and we headed toward another section of Las Vegas.
On Saturday morning, I had a breakfast meeting with Sugar Shane Mosley who met with about five boxing writers at the Border Grill at the Mandalay Bay. Also present were several Golden Boy reps including Richard Schaefer, Monica Sears and Nicole Becerra.
Mosley was concerned that after beating convincingly Antonio Margarito, suddenly he’s been lost in the shuffle of the aftermath concerning the Tijuana fighter’s suspension and the possible re-emergence of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
He also spoke of meeting Mayweather and his friends for a friendly game of pick-up basketball.
“We beat them,” said Mosley. “I made the winning shot.”
After the game Mosley asked Mayweather for a fight. The former Pound for Pound king muttered that he was retired and wanted to stay retired and spend time with his kids.
“He don’t want to fight me,” said Mosley.
The Pomona speedster, who is the only man to knock out Margarito, hopes that he gets the winner between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton.
According to Mosley, the Pacman said he would fight Mosley and prefers a fight with the new WBA welterweight titleholder because of his crowd-pleasing style.
“I hope he fights me if he wins,” said Mosley. But he’s worried if Pacquiao has too tough of an outing against Hatton he might look for an easier fight. Or if Hatton wins that he may not want to fight at welterweight again.
Mosley just wants a mega fight.
When Williams' name came up Mosley honestly offered that the much taller fighter is a bad match for him because of his long arms. It’s a bad style match up. Plus, the Pomona fighter wants mega fights.
The topic turned to De La Hoya and when one of the writers mentioned that De La Hoya was not as good as people purported him to be, Mosley jumped to his defense immediately.
It was kind of cool to see.
Mosley and De La Hoya have been adversaries since childhood. The East L.A. boxer was seven and the Pomona boxer nine when they first met in the ring as amateurs. They fought two close and sizzling battles yet here they are friends and working for the same goal in the same company.
“Oscar De La Hoya is the best fighter I ever fought,” said Mosley who battled against many of the best in the last 15 years. “His left hand is one of the sharpest punches I’ve ever face. He could do so much with it.”
Mosley thinks that when De La Hoya changed his boxing style when Floyd Mayweather Sr. came aboard, he lost something.
“He was a much better fighter when he fought straight up and he was on his toes,” said Mosley.
Maybe he is right.
Williams and Arreola win
In the fight card Arreola reacted as I expected. Once Jameel McCline landed a blow I knew Arreola would open up with both barrels. The end came soon.
Williams, however, beat Winky Wright so convincingly I was a little in shock. I expected a closer battle with the younger fighter using fresher legs to pull it out. Instead he almost won every round with nonstop punching. It was amazing.
That night we had dinner with Perro Angulo and his people and talked about the fight. Angulo will be fighting Kermit “The Killer” Cintron next month in Miami, Florida.
After dinner, we headed for the Luxor Hotel where Arreola was having an After-Fight party at LAX. On the way we saw Librado Andrade and stopped to talk about his experience in Canada. It seems the fans love the Mexican slugger up there. He loves Canada.
Around 1 a.m. we reached the nightclub and after about 40 minutes finally spot Arreola and his crew. The party is in full gear and money is raining down on the crowd. The Riverside heavyweight looked solid in his fight and was having fun.
Around 2:15 a.m. I headed back to the pad.
On Sunday I typed out my column for a newspaper and then spoke to Melinda Cooper, one of the most exciting female fighters today. If you’ve ever seen Cooper outside of the ring she’s a very pretty intelligent girl who could easily be an actress, lawyer or any other profession. She’s very poised and well spoken. Inside the ring, she’s as deadly as a rattlesnake. The speed of her punches and power behind them are awe-inspiring.
Cooper will be fighting on May 16 at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. She’s preparing to fight Monica Lovato, a strong fighter out of New Mexico. It should be a great fight.
Because of her outstanding amateur experience and undefeated record as a professional, it’s difficult to find opponents. She gets some offers but they’re not frequent.
Plus, she’s one of the few female fighters below middleweight who has real knockout power.
One day soon, fans will discover Melinda Cooper.