Arreola: "I learned from what happened to me"
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's only been three rounds.
Actually, just a shade more than six minutes.
Yet in terms of his development as a heavyweight contender and expectant one-day champion, it's seemed like far more for Chris Arreola.
"I learned from what happened to me. I can remember what it felt like to get hit and be down on my knee, and I'm making sure it doesn't happen to me again," said the now 28-year-old Californian of his tumultuous November TKO of Travis Walker.
In that fight, Arreola - who entered at a pristine 25-0 and was widely expected to handle the once-beaten but untested Walker - was instead driven to the canvas in the second round following a 100-plus punch opening-round barrage from his 6-foot-4, 231-pound foe.
He rose in time to beat the count from referee Jack Reiss, however, and quickly regained control to batter the rugged, but suddenly fatigued Floridian - dropping him twice before scoring the stoppage early in the third.
Chris Arreola, above, will face Jameel McCline on April 11.
Still, the memory remains.
"It was my fault. I fought his fight for four minutes. I've got to give him some credit. He came in shape and to win, but I was disgusted with myself," Arreola said. "I'll always have the image of seeing my daughter and wife crying, and it'll motivate me."
Arreola, who weighed 254 pounds against Walker - a full 15 heavier than he'd been just five months earlier against Chazz Witherspoon - claims the near-miss has driven him to more intense preparation for his next test, set for April 11 in Las Vegas.
There, he'll meet former multi-time heavyweight title challenger Jameel McCline, a 14-year ring veteran who stands 6-foot-6, weighs in the neighborhood of 270 pounds and has fallen just short in four separate grabs at championship hardware.
McCline was stopped in 10 rounds by WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko in December 2002 then lost a narrow 12-round decision to IBF claimant Chris Byrd in November 2004 before being forced to quit with a knee injury after three rounds with WBA belt-holder Nikolay Valuev in January 2007.
He dropped another 12-round nod to Sam Peter - unanimously, in spite of scoring three knockdowns - for the vacant WBC crown nine months later.
McCline has split a pair of scorecard verdicts on the road since the Peter loss - losing a 12-rounder to equally resilient contender John Ruiz in March 2008 in Mexico, before out-pointing fringe prospect Mike Mollo eight months later in China.
"I have more motivation to run and to get up and do my work in the morning, which I hate doing, and to do an extra round in the gym," said Arreola, "because I want to be there. I am an elite fighter and I don't want to just play the role, I want to be one. I don't want to be the guy who looks the part, but ain't really the part."
And to those still sure conditioning will be his downfall, he says not so fast.
"I've been sparring and I've been putting in my rounds," he said, "and just because my body looks like crap doesn't mean I'm not in shape. I'm in boxing shape.
"Just look at the Walker fight. He threw 110 punches in the first round, but he was wasting a lot of shots. He probably only landed 20 percent of the shots, and by the second round he was huffing and puffing like he'd fought 12 rounds. But if you look at me, I was calm and composed and still ready to go."
That said, Arreola expects to show up at a trimmer 240 or 245 for McCline.
"That's a better fight weight for me and it'll get the critics off my back. Maybe they'll stop talking so much about my weight," he said. "I do hear what they say. What I don't hear are the accolades I get. That's the stuff I don't want to hear. I'd rather hear the negatives because they're more motivating."
Speaking of motivation - a soon-to-be title shot works pretty well, too.
"He's an old lion that still wants it," Arreola said of McCline, who'll be 39 in May. "He's been there and done that, but he still wants more. I've seen him fight a few times. I saw the Byrd fight and the Valuev fight, and against Peter he had his man out but something happened. He couldn't finish the job.
"To be honest, the reason I think I'll beat him isn't so much isn't something I see in him as much as it's something I see in myself. He's not the type with one-punch knockout power. I'm going to keep coming to him and keep bringing the pressure, and eventually those pipes are going to burst."
Should they burst in his favor, the next test could involve alphabet jewelry.
Already in possession of the WBC's Continental Americas title as well as the NABF's crown, a win against McCline figures to move Arreola to the head of several lines awaiting championship fights, be it against one of the reigning Klitschko brothers, the WBA's "world" champion - Valuev - or its "champion in recess," Ruslan Chagaev.
He was rumored on the verge of a June match with Wladimir Klitschko several times in the wake of the Walker win, with daily headlines seeming to rotate between he and European import David Haye as the opponent of choice.
Neither is officially signed as of this point, though, when asked if a title shot is likely before the end of 2009, Arreola said, "Yes sir."
Vitali Klitschko will defend his WBC title Saturday against Juan Carlos Gomez.
Elsewhere, Chagaev returned from a year-long injury sabbatical with a sixth- round stoppage of Carl Davis Drumond in February, while Valuev last defended in December with a majority decision over veteran Evander Holyfield.
No matter to Arreola. He's not picky.
"I want to earn my title shot, not just get one because of my big mouth," he said.
"And I'm willing to do it the right way, by fighting and beating the best. I don't want to be just a fighter. I want to be considered the best. There's no reason to keep doing this unless that's what you're looking to accomplish."
* * * * * * * * * *
This weeks title-fight schedule:
IBF mini-flyweight title - Guadalajara, Mexico
Raul Garcia (champion) vs. Ronald Barrera (No. 1 contender)
Garcia (25-0-1, 15 KO): Third title defense; Decisioned Barerra in February 2008
Barrera (26-5-1, 16 KO): Winless in two title fights; Won four of five since Garcia loss
FitzHitz says: Garcia by decision
WBA super bantamweight championship - Dublin, Ireland
Ricardo Cordoba (champion) vs. Bernard Dunne (No. 12 contender)
Cordoba (34-1-2, 21 KO): First title defense; Draws in two title fights at 118 pounds
Dunne (27-1, 14 KO): First title fight; Three wins since KO loss in August 2007
FitzHitz says: Cordoba in 10
WBC heavyweight title - Stuttgart, Germany
Vitali Klitschko (champion) vs. Juan Carlos Gomez (No. 1 contender)
Klitschko (36-2, 35 KO): First title defense of second reign; Wins in six of eight title fights
Gomez (44-1, 35 KO): First heavyweight title fight; Ex-WBC champ at 200 pounds (10 defenses)
FitzHitz says: Klitschko in 9
Last weeks record: 2-1
Overall picks record: 69-31
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.