Chris Arreola fights his heart out

Chris Arreola (right) was game and kept throwing punches from every angle but overall, the majority of those punches kept coming up short.

Saturday night, September 26, 2009, Chris Arreola gave it all he had but came up short. The fight, scheduled for 12 rounds, was halted by the referee after the 10th round. Simply put, the challenger was taking too many blows to the head. Klitschko continually rocked Arreola with the heavier punches throughout until he finally broke Arreola’s nose at the conclusion of the tenth round. Due to the condition of Arreola’s facial injuries, his trainer, Henry Ramirez, called for the stoppage.

Despite his grit to keep pressing the fight, Arreola failed to overcome Klitschko’s superior reach, height and power advantage.  After getting battered for all but nine of the ten rounds, his night finally came to an end. Arreola was visibly distraught after the announcement came that his corner had thrown in the towel.

Quotes from Arreola at the after fight press conference: “I worked my butt off to be the champion but Vitali’s strong, he hits hard and I never wanted to quit. That’s never in me, I wanted to go the full 12 rounds. I couldn’t get to him; he was fighting the fight he was supposed to fight. He ran when he was supposed to and I just couldn’t get to him. Whatever I did he found a way to counteract that. He found a way to win and I found a way to lose.”

Once again we have to give credit to Vitali’s dad, Vladimir Rodionovich, a former colonel in the Soviet Air Force and Vitali’s mom, Nadezhda Ulyanovna, for bringing such a super-human into the world. It was like watching a thoroughbred out run a plow horse. The Klitschko brothers are unique; they are the only siblings in Boxing’s long history that have been able to simultaneously own world heavyweight titles and at present there are no legitimate contenders to challenge them.

Vitaliy Volodymyrovych Klychko, a.k.a. Vitali Klitschko (38-2, 37 KOs), weighed in at 252 pounds for the fight and had multiple advantages over the smaller opponent. At 6-foot-7½ inches, he was four inches taller and his biggest blows benefitted a downhill projectory. Whereas Arreola was in his first world title fight, Klitschko already had a 7-2 record in such bouts. Even though Arreola was 27-0 with 24 knockouts, Klitschko was considered the harder puncher and had the better left hook.

For his legions of fans, Chris Arreola was the hope of Escondido and Riverside, CA., East LA, Mexico, all Americans of Mexican ancestry and fellow Americans like you and me. But in reality, he didn’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell of pulling off the upset. He just couldn’t get inside to land the meaningful blows. From the sound of the opening bell, the more accomplished well chiseled giant used his superior hand speed to pepper his opponent’s face with jabs and follow with stinging overhand rights that would have sent most opponents to the canvass.

Arreola had planned to make Klitschko a footnote in his biography. As it turned out Arreola became one more small notation in Kilitschko’s bio. For most of the fight we saw Arreola chasing after the giant like a faithful lap dog. Occasionally Klitschko would stop and unleash another barrage of two or three punch combinations, blows that had little problem finding their mark. Blows that had an accumulating effect. At first Arreola’s face was red, then puffy and by the late rounds had blood streaming from each nostril.

Since Vitali and his brother Wladimir are avid chess players they’ve often made references to the game.  “Chess is similar to boxing,” Vitali once said. “You need to develop a strategy, and you need to think two or three steps ahead about what your opponent is doing. You have to be smart.” On Saturday night, “Dr. Ironfist” was clearly thinking two or sometimes three steps ahead of Chris Arreola.

Like many heavyweights, Arreola was criticized for not coming into this fight in optimum shape. In his three previous fights, Arreola tipped the scales at 258, 254 and 255, respectively. So what happened at Thursday’s weigh-in? Arreola got on the scale and it read 272. Then he took his shirt off to reveal a weighted vest weighing 21 pounds. After giving his supporters conniptions, he removed a weighted vest and weighed in at 251 pounds. Still, weighing in at 251 pounds was 11 pounds over what many people feel is his ideal fighting weight. Those eleven pounds proved to boxing purists that Arreola is not willing to do what it takes. Those eleven pounds were a stark reminder that Chris Arreola is still susceptible to falling off the wagon and having an occasional carne asada burrito or chimichanga with maybe one or two cold Coronas; this is not the dedication needed to become the world heavyweight champion.

At the Thursday pre-fight Press Conference, Klitschko said, “Arreola has everything you need to be a world champion, except one thing: He doesn’t have the experience as me.” Was that just pre-fight rhetoric or maybe it was another of Vitali’s psychological ploys. Who was he kidding? Arreola (now 27-1, 24 KOs) had fought over 300 amateur bouts and then was unbeaten in 27 professional fights. Klitschko would have been more truthful and less calculating, if he would have said, “Nobody is going to beat me or my brother. We are just too big and too accomplished at our craft.”

To his credit Arreola never quit. It was his trainer, Henry Ramirez, who agreed with the referee on the stoppage. Ramirez believed his dear friend had taken far too many blows to the head and had no opportunity to win.

Was the Arreola game plan revealed prior to the fight?

At Thursday’s weigh-in, some felt Arreola’s side may have been too specific about their game plan when Henry Ramirez said, “We plan to hit Klitschko anywhere that is legal, even the arms and shoulders.”

The comments may have alerted the Klitschko camp that it was Arreola’s plan to pound Klitschko’s arms and shoulders in order to render his jabs ineffective. Without that snapping jab, Klitschko would have become less effective and Arreola’s age advantage would have given him the upperhand in the later rounds.

Arreola’s strategy was to be in a relentless attack mode, a rarity in a division where its combatants mope around the ring looking for that one opening to deliver a knockout punch. Arreola even warned Kilitschko ahead of time, “I’m going to make sure that he’s always waiting for something, expecting something and not just sitting back and relaxing. He has to be careful what he does and what he throws because I’m going to hit him with something.”

For an avid chess player like Klitschko, I’m certain all of this pre-fight chatter was duly noted.

After all is said and done, I want everyone to know that southern Californians are proud of Chris Arreola. Despite his raunchy word choices, he is a lot more obliging than most athletes of his stature and kind of reminds you of the lovable George Foreman.

For example, at the Thursday weigh-in, the Klitschko side complained about the use of the Reyes gloves. Arreola said it didn’t matter and immediately switched to the gloves of their choosing to make everyone happy. Also, after the Klitschko group was quick to depart the Thursday press conference, Arreola stayed much longer to accommodate not only the Press but the remaining fans. There is no disputing that Arreola is a very likeable guy.

Some things you may not know about Cristobal Arreola:

Chris Arreola, age 28, is the third of six children born to Augustin Arreola and Lucy Rivera. To support both his boxing career and his family, Chris worked as a carpenter and spent many a long day restoring old houses. Of course that all changed when he signed with Goossen/Tudor Promotions and started receiving regular monthly checks.

Up until the age of twelve, Chris lived in East Los Angeles and frequented the Resurrection Boxing Gym where he used to watch young Oscar De La Hoya workout on his way to winning the Olympic Gold medal. Chris was also a basketball star and scored 31 points in a high school game.

On the negative side of the ledger: Arreola’s current waist measurement is 40”, while Klitschko is 35½”, his thigh measurement is 30”, Klitschko’s is 23¼”. That’s too much flab in all the wrong places.

Some things you may not know about Vitali Klitschko:

Vitali Klitschko was also a six-time kick-boxing world champion. His every day thoughts are with the people of the Ukraine and especially the city of Kiev which he keeps tabs on and where he keeps running for political office. The land of his birth has gone through much strife over the years: e.g. the Chernobyl disaster, the break up with the Soviet Union, the long troublesome history from the Huns to the Cosacks, from the Nazi occupation to the rule by the USSR.

On Thursday, at the news conference, Klitschko showed he has a sense of humor when he turned to Arreola and said, “I see you have respect for older people. Please, don’t hit me too hard. I’m 10 years older than you.” From what happened on Saturday night, it appears Arreola took him literally.

Talk about hitting hard, the Los Angeles Times boxing beat writer, Lance Pugmire, wrote this timely ditty:  “Surprisingly, actor Sylvester Stallone was sitting next to former California State Athletic Commission chairman Timothy Noonan, who resigned Thursday amid an ethics probe launched after The Los Angeles Times revealed that Noonan had distributed free fight passes to friends, including Stallone. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to whom Noonan submitted his resignation, sat next to the pair as boos cascaded from the rafters.”

Don’t be a hater

It appears the powers to be have little regard for public opinion even after being exposed in the city’s largest newspaper. But then again, Sly, Arnold and Timothy may have purchased those seats at the regular price, $500 a piece. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Often times, dignitaries and boxing notables are invited by the promoter to attend a major fight and are paid handsomely for making an appearance, pose for a few photos and sign autographs. I’m sure the promoters received requests from Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson and Leonardo DiCaprio, who were also in attendance. One of Arreola’s biggest fans is Pete Rose and I always see him in one of the first three rows.

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