By Jake Donovan
It’s hardly a secret that heavyweight contender Chris Arreola has served as his own worst enemy throughout his career. The California-based knockout artist has hovered around the Top 10 of the sport’s historically most storied division, but rather than make history has instead served as a gleaming example of everything that’s wrong with today’s heavyweights.
To his credit, Arreola is doing his part to change that. More than a year after being humiliated by Bermane Stiverne in their heavyweight title eliminator, the 33-year old has stepped it up considerably in training camp for their May 10 rematch in Los Angeles, California. Having weighed 247 lb. for their first fight, Arreola is already lighter and still sculpting his physique for their upcoming vacant title fight, which will air live on ESPN.
“I’m like 244 lb., 245 lb. right now. Henry (Ramirez, Arreola’s head trainer) is trying to tie me up and force me to eat,” Arreola claimed during a recent conference call, cracking on his past habits of putting food and booze before conditioning.
The loss to Stiverne was one of three to date for the 11-year boxing veteran who still has aspirations of becoming the first fighter of Mexican descent to claim a portion of the heavyweight crown. The closest he’s previously come was landing a Sept. ’09 title fight with Vitali Klitschko, but suffering a massive beating en route to a 10th round knockout loss, the lone stoppage defeat of his career.
Arreola (36-3, 31KO) weighed 251 lb. for the title fight after having previously topped out at nearly 260 lb. for a fight, never how much he’s weighed prior to a training camp. A follow-up loss to Tomasz Adamek in April ’10 served as a true eye opener.
Following a comeback win over Manuel Quezada, Arreola hasn’t weighed above 250 for any of his past eight contests. His weight was 247 lb. for the first fight with Stiverne, but came in at a trim and ready 242 lb. in his two-round demolition of Seth Mitchell last September.
For that fight, Ramirez – tired of his fighter finding ways to distract himself from training – relocated camp to Arizona, far away from their Southern California home base and with nothing to do but train. The investment reaped major dividends, as Arreola literally punched his way back into title contention.
Due to conflict, returning to Arizona was not an option for this camp. However, Ramirez found an isolated location in San Diego, and is enjoying similar results.
“This fight is going according to plan,” insists Ramirez, who has trained – and has done his best to babysit – Arreola for his entire pro career. “Just like the camp in Arizona – and I’m not comparing the two – he’s on a regimented routine. He puts in a few hours in the gym, then works for hours on his conditioning.
“He weighs 244 lb. right now. We’ve actually had to slow him down and keep him on track for his optimal weight. His best weight is around 237 lb.”
Arreola was 239 lb. for what many believed was his breakout performance, a 3rd round disqualification win (really a knockout) over Chazz Witherspoon in their June ’08 battle of then-unbeaten heavyweights. It was the last time he weighed below 240 lb. for a fight until 2011, when a plan to keep him active in the ring saw a stretch where Arreola weighed in the mid 230’s for three consectuvie fights spanning less than two months.
The upcoming title fight will mark his first fight since last year’s knockout over Mitchell, meaning he’ll have fought just two rounds in 15 months come fight night. It’s only slightly better than that of his most recent conqueror, as Stiverne has not fought since that night.
However long it’s been, Arreola promised a new and improved version this time around.
“You may see a little bit of abs on me,” Arreola quips. “The point is that I'm going to in amazing shape on May 10.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.