By Thomas Gerbasi
Knockdowns are part of the game in boxing. So too, unfortunately, is a broken nose. Chris Arreola experienced both in his April 27, 2013 bout against Bermane Stiverne. But there was more to it than that. Try a nose broken in five places by Stiverne.
In the third round.
“Honestly, every punch that I got hit with was the most painful punch ever,” said Arreola. “I could feel the bones in my nose grinding against each other. It was like a shooting pain that shot across my face. But inside my head, I had no quit in me.”
He could have quit. No one would have said a word. Arreola has proved his toughness before, and with his nose completely shattered, he most certainly earned a pass to call this one off and move on to the next fight. But he kept going.
“My heart, my balls, and honestly, in boxing, you can hit a ten run homerun in the last round,” said the Californian. “It’s the puncher’s chance. I believe in my punching power, I believe in my boxing skills, and I believe all you need is one punch to turn a fight around. I was looking for that one punch, but it never came. Bermane was smart enough to not stay in the pocket and get any shots.”
Stiverne won a lopsided unanimous 12 round decision over Arreola, apparently sending “The Nightmare” back to the end of the heavyweight contenders’ line. But in boxing, especially heavyweight boxing, there is always that ten run homerun, and if Arreola got past Seth Mitchell last September, he had the opportunity to punch his ticket back into the title picture.
And punch it he did.
Leading up to the bout, Arreola wasn’t just sporting the usual confidence; if he was a betting man, you got the impression that he would have bet his house on the final outcome: not a win, but a knockout win; not a knockout win, but a quick knockout win.
It took just 2:26, and Arreola had dispatched the former Michigan State University football player.
“The difference between a fighter and a regular athlete, we come from a different pedigree,” he said. “We’re bred different. We’re accountable for what we do because we are usually just a one person team. There’s no time out, no hold up, no ‘wait, let me fix my gear.’ Boxing is go, go, go. And you can’t just jump into boxing like that. Amateur experience is very important, and that goes for every single sport. It doesn’t matter if it’s football, baseball, cricket, whatever it is – it’s important to have some kind of amateur experience so you can get used to being in front of people and get used to overcoming adversity. You gotta get used to stuff like that, you’ve got to get used to getting punched in the face and punching someone right back. A lot of people don’t have it in them. If you watch that fight with Seth Mitchell, when I punched him, his eyes looked like ‘oh f***, I need to get the f*** out of here.’ You can see it in his eyes. I’m a bred boxer, he’s a bred football player. I’m used to getting hit, and when I get hit I keep coming forward. He looked like a deer in the headlights.”
That blunt honesty isn’t just appreciated by the media, but by the fans that have stuck by the often erratic, but always entertaining Arreola. And as he prepares for his May 10 rematch with Stiverne at Galen Center in Los Angeles, he insists that the days of him half-assing it in the gym and ring are over.
“Like I’ve said before, I’m my own worst enemy,” said the 33-year-old. “I can look great one fight and the next fight I could get content with what I’ve done, which is absolutely ridiculous for me to do. But that’s one thing that I won’t go back to. I don’t want my daughter seeing me get my butt kicked like I did against Stiverne. I don’t want my daughter remembering that about me.”
What he does want her to remember is the night he became heavyweight champion of the world, something he hopes will take place in May. It’s the dream of every fighter, and while Arreola came up short once against Vitali Klitschko in 2009, he still wants nothing more than to get that WBC belt in his possession.
“I’ve always wanted that green belt,” he said. “The WBC has always been my dream. I remember seeing Chavez with that belt and I was like ‘dude, I want that.’ I remember seeing Tyson with that belt and I’m like ‘damn, that looks dope on him.’ I just want that around my waist and go to the club wearing it.”
He doesn’t laugh, because he’s serious. It’s a new look for Arreola, but after having his nose shattered in his first bout with Stiverne, there’s nothing more important than getting some payback, and the way he sees it, taking such punishment the first time and refusing to go down allowed him to win round one of the rematch’s psychological battle.
“I know I put a lot of doubt in his head,” said Arreola. “He couldn’t take me out and I was a wounded animal. I was hurt, I was done, but he couldn’t take me out. That does put a lot of doubt in someone’s head, just like Jake LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson.”
“You couldn’t put me down, Bermane.” Doesn’t have that Raging Bull ring to it, but hey, it’s just another reason why Chris Arreola continues to captivate.
“To have fans everywhere that I go, it’s very surreal,” he said. “It’s weird that people give a f*** about me. I’m just me. I’m lucky that I had my dad pushing me when I was a kid when I didn’t want to go to the gym. I’m lucky for all that. But I just see myself as a regular guy. I’m honored that everybody recognizes me, I’m honored that I have fans to stick with me, and those are the fans that are gonna be coming on the 10th of May and watching on TV and placing bets, and the thing is, I don’t want to let them down anymore. I can’t. I can’t let them down, I can’t let myself, my family, and my team down.”