Arreola craves starring role at heavyweight
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Make no mistake, Chris Arreola wants all those "regular" things.
The championship jewelry. The recognition. The financial windfall. To name just a few.
But when it comes time in a few years to look back at a successful tour through the heavyweight ranks, he's hoping for the sort of notice that transcends belts, rankings and checkbooks.
"You remember the movie 'Coming to America,' and the scene in the barbershop where they're talking about boxing?" the giggling slugger asked in a FitzHitz phone interview. "I want to be the guys that those guys are talking about. I love that scene.
"Where the one guy keeps saying Rocky Marciano and the other one won't stop talking about Joe Louis. It's the funniest part of the whole movie. And when my career is over, I want to be one of the great ones that guys like that are arguing about. That's really my goal."
Chris Arreola is ranked in the top 10 by four major sanctioning bodies.
In the meantime, though, the 27-year-old is revved-up by other discussions.
A pristine 25-0 and ranked in the top 10 by four major sanctioning bodies, Arreola nonetheless continues to draw fuel from persistent naysayers who contend he's as much a product of favorable matchmaking as genuine in-ring domination.
He gets another chance to state his case Saturday night in Ontario, California -- just 20 miles down the road from his home turf in Riverside -- where he'll face fellow heavyweight wannabe Travis Walker in an IBF title eliminator at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The bout is the scheduled opener of a two-pronged HBO card that also features two-time welterweight belt-holder Paul Williams in a 154-pound interim title clash with veteran Verno Phillips.
The 29-year-old Walker is 28-1-1 with 22 knockouts.
The broadcast begins at 10 p.m. ET.
"I love it when people are thinking they're better than me," he said. "It brings me back to basketball, when I used to show up at the court wearing old Nikes and a sweatshirt, and there would always be another guy there who'd show up in a nice new pair of Jordans, and they'd pick him first.
"I always loved proving them wrong after they based things just on appearance."
A pro since 2003, Arreola began reaching mainstream radar at the outset of 2008, when he stopped journeyman Cliff Couser in 82 seconds on the undercard of Carlos Quintana's upset decision over Williams for the WBO welterweight title in February.
He dumped previously unbeaten Chazz Witherspoon in three rounds in HBO's complement to Andre Berto-Miki Rodriguez four months later, then took care of matters in three once again while erasing Israel Garcia alongside Williams' middleweight debut on Versus on September 25.
"I appreciate when people say I remind them of Tyson and I really do want to be considered and known as a guy the fans love," Arreola said, "but I'm looking to do it in a different way than he did it. I want to be an all-out exciting fighter, sort of like a Corrales or a Castillo or a Margarito.
"You know, an all-out, balls-to-the-wall fighter, but as a heavyweight. That'd be unique."
Another big win Saturday could set up a match with a fellow top-10 resident in early 2009, and, if things go well there, an eventual championship chance at the European-based triumvirate of Klitschko (IBF/WBO), Klitschko (WBC) and Valuev (WBA).
"I try not to pay attention to the good stuff that's said about me, whenever it happens," he said. "I mean, I like to hear it, but I just take it and put it in my back pocket. I appreciate it, but I'm not a guy who wants his head to blow up too much. The criticism is more of a motivational tool."
Arreola, who ballooned from 239 pounds against Witherspoon to 258 for Garcia, said he's returned to full-time intensity in preparation for Walker, including double-digit rounds of sparring throughout the final pre-fight weekend and into Monday.
And, rather than following conventional tapering-down wisdom, he claims the all-out gym work will continue well into the last few days before the opening bell.
"I don't believe in slowing down the momentum at all," he said.
"I know a lot of guys will peak and then cool down, but I want to carry everything I have in the gym right into the ring with me on Saturday. I don't want to lose any of it."
But regardless of fitness, once the introductions are concluded... instinct takes over.
"When I get into the ring, I am completely ready to go," he said. "I'm not mad or scared or anxious. I just have a feeling inside, I really can't describe it, but it's calm and anxious at the same time with about a million things running through my head.
"And when the bell rings, it all comes pouring out. I live for that moment."
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That sort of zeal, however, isn't inherent to every fighter on network.
In fact, provided it's not a complete dud, the Williams-Phillips/Arreola- Walker doubleheader will have little trouble jumping the bar set rather drowsily by its predecessor last weekend in Las Vegas.
Or, more specifically, the Paulie Malignaggi portion of the Nevada twinbill.
The brash Brooklyn native took a giant step toward the Hector Camacho end of the credibility scale Saturday night at the MGM Grand, where he lost nine of 10 rounds before his corner called a halt to the, errr... action... less than a half-minute into round 11 against Ricky Hatton.
For his trouble, Hatton retained his IBO light welterweight title and repositioned himself in the sport's big money sweepstakes, but, to these eyes anyway, the result was far more indictment of Malignaggi than endorsement of his conqueror.
I'll admit, I was among the minority who thought Malignaggi had a serious chance to win the fight.
In fact, I thought he'd do so in much the same way -- if not with quite the same level of excellence -- that Floyd Mayweather Jr. turned the trick last year in the same ring.
And for three minutes anyway, I was feeling pretty smart.
Until Malignaggi got hit, that is, and made all his supporters look a little dumb.
In the first round, Malignaggi was ripping Hatton with the jab and eluding his replies with sound movement. Until, that is, he got caught with a big shot in the second and decided he didn't want to fight any more.
Yet, after the fight, he's angry that it ended early, whining "I'm too good to get stopped."
For the life of me, folks, I can't see the difference.
If he'd have actually fought the last several rounds like he was trying to win, people would have respected him either way -- KO or no KO -- just like they did in the Cotto fight, when he gutted it out to the finish line with a busted-up face.
But if this is a true indication of what he's all about, I'll know better next time.
Good for Buddy McGirt for tossing in the towel. Saved me six more minutes of frustration.
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This week's big-fight capsules:
Vacant WBA super featherweight title - Panama City, Panama Jorge Linares (No. 2 contender) vs. Whyber Garcia (No. 9 contender) Linares (25-0, 16 KO): First bout in 11 months; former WBC 126-pound champion Garcia (20-5, 14 KO): First world title shot; two KO losses in last five bouts FitzHitz says: Linares in 6
WBC light flyweight title - Mexico City, Mexico Edgar Sosa (champion) vs. Juanito Rubillar (No. 1 contender) Sosa (33-5, 17 KO): Seventh title defense; unbeaten since 2003 - 21 bouts Rubillar (46-10-7, 22 KO): Lost previous title bouts at 105 and 108 pounds FitzHitz says: Sosa by decision
12-round junior middleweight bout - Ontario, California Paul Williams (No. 2 WBO contender) vs. Verno Phillips (No. 3 WBO contender) Williams (35-1, 26 KO): Two straight wins by first-round KO; former WBO 147- pound champion Phillips (42-10-1, 21 KO): Three-time champion at 154 pounds; unbeaten since 2005 FitzHitz says: Williams in 8
12-round heavyweight bout - Ontario, California Chris Arreola (No. 4 IBF contender) vs. Travis Walker (No. 13 IBF contender) Arreola (25-0, 22 KO): Stoppage winner in 13 straight bouts; never fought past eighth round Walker (28-1-1, 22 KO): Three wins since lone career loss -- by first-round KO -- in 2007 FitzHitz says: Arreola in 5
Last week's record: 1-3
Overall picks record: 42-17
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides "In The Ring" commentary for Cold Hard Sports on MVN (coldhardsports.com), is a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.