By Francisco Salazar
Three years is a long time. Too long for some people.
Heavyweight contender Chris Arreola is too familiar with what happened just three years ago on April 24th, 2010. Arreola fought and lost a close majority decision to Tomasz Adamek.
As if the loss was bad enough, Arreola lost before family and friends in attendance at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA, just a short drive west on Interstate 10 from his hometown of Riverside.
In the three years since the defeat to Adamek, Arreola has won his last seven fights in a row. Within that span, Arreola kissed an opponent on the cheek after stopping him, fought in Mexico for the first time in his career, and candidly calling a promoter a racist.
That is Chris Arreola for you. But, it has gotten him one fight away from fighting for a world title opportunity.
Arreola will be familiar territory again on Saturday; fighting at the same venue he fought Adamek. Only this time, he will face Bermane Stiverne in a 12 round elimination bout.
The bout will be the main event in Ontario, but the opening bout on a three-bout HBO
“World Championship Boxing” telecast. Goossen Tutor Promotions will promote the event, in association with Don King, who promotes Stiverne.
The bout between Arreola and Stiverne was originally scheduled for March 9th, but was postponed when Arreola came down with a case of bronchitis. HBO still made a commitment to show the fight and will televise it along with the Sergio Martinez-Martin Murray and Antonin Decarie-Luis Carlos Abregu fights for Saturday.
Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) is coming off a long layoff since his last fight: a first round knockout over Eric Molina on February 18th of last year. Despite the layoff and the time spent away from the gym due to illness, Arreola anticipates being at his best on fight night.
“I’m ready for the fight and I admit that I’m antsy to get in there,” said Arreola recently. “Contrary to what people have been saying, I’m not frustrated in having to wait. I’m just ready to fight.”
Known for his power, Arreola will face an equally hard-hitting fighter in Stiverne. Originally born in Haiti and now residing in Las Vegas, NV, Stiverne is unbeaten in his last 11 bouts since a technical knockout loss to Demetrius King in July of 2007.
Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs) is coming off an eight round unanimous decision over Willie Herring on April 14th of last year.
Despite not having fought the level of opposition Arreola has fought in his professional career, Stiverne still possesses qualities that could give Arreola problems, this according to trainer Henry Ramirez.
“I saw Bermane fight on the undercard of (Zab) Judah-(Carlos) Baldomir,” said Ramirez, who has been Arreola’s trainer for 11 years. “What I was impressed with him is that he has good hand speed and good power. Although he’s still dangerous, has good ability, and fights at a moderate pace, I see Chris knocking him out.”
“I know he doesn’t know what he’s in for. He wants to make a name for himself out of beating me. As far as I’m concerned, he’s in the way of my future and my legacy. I respect every fighter, but once we’re in the ring, it’s all business.”
The winner of the Arreola-Stiverne fight will be the mandatory challenger to Wladimir Klitschko. Arreola suffered his first professional loss to Vitali Klitschko in September of 2009.
No heavyweight today has been able to seriously challenge the Klitschko brothers.
Despite the loss, Arreola believes he is the heavyweight who can not only challenge but defeat either Klitschko.
“I don’t mind fighting either one. Wladimir has more belts and throws better combinations. But a rematch with Vitali could be better. All I know is that this is my time to shine. My experience will help me out, as well as my guts and grits.”
Although Arreola talks a good game and has the gift of gab when talking smack to or about another fighter, there are those who wonder how serious he is about the sport.
It has been well-known Arreola has dealt with issues regarding his weight. Arreola weighed 250 pounds in his loss to Adamek and acknowledges food being the more “difficult” opponent than ones he has faced in the ring.
“My downfall was food and I would always be dying to have some during camp. I just had to make better choices for myself and for my career. I went from making $300,000 in the Adamek fight to making $25,000 against Manuel Quezada four months later. That fight shouldn’t have lasted 12 rounds. I got deflated and then realize ‘Whose fault is it?’”
The Quezada fight may have been a blessing in disguise for Arreola, considering he is 32 years of age. He hopes to score an impressive victory over Stiverne to ensure that mandatory fight with Klitschko or even another lucrative fight against a heavyweight contender.
Arreola may have gotten ahead of himself before fighting Klitschko years ago. However, he, like many, has learned from their mistakes and is eager to redeem himself. That will be the key on Saturday night.
“I don’t take anything for granted like I did when I was coming up. I believed I was good and I believed my own hype. I’m glad all of that crap is out of my ears. It’s the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”
Francisco A. Salazar has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper. He could be reached at [email protected] or on twitter at @Salazar_soccer