Good guy Arreola overmatched with mammoth Klitschko
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I like Chris Arreola.
I've chatted with him a couple times, and, while we weren't cracking each other up trading lines from one of our favorite movies - "Coming to America" - I found him to be as engaging, frank and accommodating as any of my other favorite interview subjects in boxing.
We even share a birthday - March 5 - though my arrival was admittedly a few years before his.
But while I admire the guy and respect what he's made of himself and his career from an anonymous beginning, I sure as heck wouldn't want to be him come Saturday night.
Because in Vitali Klitschko - the reigning WBC heavyweight champion who'll risk his title at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles - I think my weighty Mexican-American pal has bitten off a bit more than even he can chew.
Based on recent performances and pictures sent from an outdoor workout earlier this week at Muscle Beach, the 38-year-old European-turned-Californian looks about as fit and ready as a fighter of his advanced years could hope 13 years after his debut.
Of course, the four years he spent on the shelf recovering from injury and flexing his political muscles in Kiev didn't hurt either, significantly reducing the mileage most fighters of his vintage have accumulated heading into a match with a testy young lion.
Though the hair has flecks of gray and the joints may not glide quite as smoothly as a decade past, Klitschko has been the clear superior to his last two opponents - prompting 28-year-old Sam Peter to quit after eight rounds and blasting out 35-year-old Juan Carlos Gomez in nine.
Chris Arreola beat fellow unbeaten Chazz Witherspoon 15 months ago.
Meanwhile Arreola, also 28, has no wins that approach those two in significance.
His first 23 victories were earned in relative obscurity along the California coast, with occasional junkets to play the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Suffolk Community College on Long Island and the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
The breakout win finally came 15 months ago in Memphis, when he beat down fellow unbeaten Chazz Witherspoon in three menace-filled rounds in front of the HBO cameras on an Andre Berto undercard.
Arreola weighed in at a solid - if not svelte - 239 pounds that night, and looked ready to parlay the exposure and an aggressive, fan-friendly style into something more.
Problem is, the only significant add-ons since have been to his waistline.
He tipped in at a sloppy 258 1/2 just three months later for a three-round blowout of Israel Carlos Garcia alongside a Paul Williams middleweight bout, then double-dipped with Williams again while weighing 254 en route to a three- round takedown of Travis Walker in November.
And though he promised more attention to fleshy detail following the Walker win, Arreola remained a plus-250 - 255 to be exact - in stopping an unwilling Jameel McCline in four rounds in April.
He's been inactive since, and laughed off suggestions that pounds will again be an issue this time, suggesting with a laugh that he'd be down to 200 by fight night.
Problem is...even that might not help.
Unlike the aforementioned Wladimir, who has shown a tangible discomfort with bull-like pressure fighters in the past - he was knocked down three times by Peter in a 12-round win - Vitali seems all too ready, willing and able to engage a foe whose ideal destination is his chest.
He won every minute of every round in his encounter with the unpolished Peter, similarly dominated a once-beaten Gomez and is still lauded for a gutty six- round duel with Lennox Lewis in 2003, which he led on all scorecards before being forced to submit by a ghastly cut alongside his left eye.
Nothing Arreola's done in 27 fights makes him likely to halt the momentum.
Especially of a still-motivated Klitschko.
"I enjoy this time. I enjoy this moment. I enjoy this moment by bringing my friends a title fight in Los Angeles," he said. "It's what I've wanted to do since I was a teenager. This time everybody is saying, 'Sorry, we don't believe you can do it.' I will show my skills and punch in the ring on Saturday.
"I'm always in shape. It's never tough to get in shape. I don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs. I always, always maintain the fitness."
Try as I might - and unless he's found his own similar path to late 20s conditioning Valhalla - I just can't see a way Arreola keeps up.
WBC light heavyweight title - Montreal, Quebec
Jean Pascal (champion) vs. Silvio Branco (No. 1 contender)
Pascal (23-1, 15 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in Montreal (18-0, 12 KO)
Branco (59-9-2, 36 KO): Fifth career title fight (1-3, 1 KO); Held WBA title in 2003-04
FitzHitz says: Pascal by decision
WBA super bantamweight title - Dublin, Ireland
Bernard Dunne (champion) vs. Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (interim champion)
Dunne (28-1, 15 KO): First title defense; Four-fight win streak (4-0, 1 KO)
Kratingdaenggym (38-1, 27 KO): Second career title fight (0-1); Unbeaten since 2006 (14-0, 12 KO)
FitzHitz says: Kratingdaenggym in 9
WBC heavyweight title - Los Angeles, Calif.
Vitali Klitschko (champion) vs. Chris Arreola (No. 1 contender)
Klitschko (37-2, 36 KO): Second defense of second WBC reign; Seven title-fight wins (7-2, 7 KO)
Arreola (27-0, 24 KO): First career title fight; Stoppage wins in 15 straight fights since 2005
FitzHitz says: Klitschko in 7
WBA super flyweight title - Osaka, Japan
Nobuo Nashiro (champion) vs. Hugo Fidel Cazares (No. 1 contender)
Nashiro (13-1, 8 KO): Second defense of second title reign; Four title-fight wins (4-1, 2 KO)
Cazares (30-6-1, 22 KO): Former WBO champion at 108 pounds;
FitzHitz says: Nashiro by decision
Last week's picks: 3-0
Overall picks record: 133-48 (73.4 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.