By Cliff Rold
Entering the ring at his lightest weight since the summer of 2008, 29-year old Chris Arreola (30-2, 26 KO) of Escondido, California but didn’t get much time to show what it meant, stopping journeyman 29-year old Joey Abell (27-5, 26 KO) of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, in the opening round on Friday night at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California. Arreola, who sealed victory with a kiss, appeared to benefit from a quick stoppage but the result was inevitable.
Arreola came into the bout, his first with veteran trainer Ronnie Shields in his corner, almost seven pounds lighter than in his last appearance at 249 ½. Abell outdid Arreola on the scale, almost nine pounds lighter than his last fight at 236 ½.
Abell continued the outdoing in the ring…for about two minutes of the opening round. With Arreola coming forward patiently, Abell used his southpaw right jab and accurate power shots to pass time before Arreola opened up. A right hand while Abell was against the ropes wobbled the Minnesotan. Arreola clubbed Abell with a series of follow up shots, a final right and left sending Abell’s legs splaying.
Abell did not fall and seemed to have his faculties as referee Tony Crebs waved the fight off immediately at 2:18 of the first. With Crebs between them, Arreola leaned in and kissed Abell mockingly on the cheek while talking trash to punctuate the victory. To the delight of the crowd, Arreola seized the microphone and promised a big year in 2011.
In post-fight comments Arreola was more subdued. “This is just one fight. I have a lot more to prove…to fans, to everybody that doubted me, everybody that believed in me, my promoter, my managers, everybody. I got a lot to prove. This doesn’t mean anything.”
It was hard to argue with the statement.
Arreola, regardless of fluctuating weight and professionalism throughout his career, has never really struggled to defeat Abell-level opposition. What Arreola must prove in 2011 is that he is a real contender, a level of fighter he has yet to defeat despite already receiving an ill-fated shot at a belt against Vitali Klitschko in 2009.
The elder of the two Klitschko brothers dominated Arreola before forcing a retirement in the tenth round. Arreola’s championship dreams remain. “It’s always a world title. That’s the master plan. If you don’t believe you’re going to be a champion, you don’t belong in boxing. I believe I’m going to be a World Champion…2011, every fight is just going to show my dedication.”
Time will tell if such is the case.
The telecast opened with a contest that showed off the wide gap in quality between a Heavyweight division considered to be at historically low ebb and a Jr. Welterweight class that, in 2011, is one of the very best in boxing. Two young men still trying work their way into universal recognition as top ten players provided the evidence.
With rankings at 140 lbs. in place already from all four major sanctioning bodies, 26-year old Josesito Lopez (29-3, 17 KO), 140, of Riverside, California, overcame a deficit of speed and skill to wear down and stop previously undefeated 24-year old Mike Dallas (17-1-1, 7 KO), 139 ¾, of Bakersfield, California in seven rounds.
Lopez jumped right on Dallas, a big right hand and left hook snapping the head of Dallas back near the ropes. An awkward tangle saw the two collapse to the canvas briefly and the respite slowed the pace to a more normal opening round’s feeling out process. A Dallas counter right pushed Lopez back near the minute mark but, of greater import, a clash of heads opened created crimson stream above Lopez’s left eyebrow.
The blood was quickly flowing again in round two, Lopez leaving himself open to sharp counters as he looked for a bomb before the blood threatened a chance for victory. Dallas exploited the openings with some clean, long counter rights and short left hooks. Lopez was able to work in some thudding blows in the many clinches and connected with a right, at the bell, to wobble Dallas.
Lopez was getting the better of things in the third before a kidney punch bought Dallas a needed breather. Even with the precious seconds, Dallas struggled to slow the rushes and grueling physicality Lopez presented. Lopez continued to press the advantage in the fourth and fifth, Dallas boxing well in spots only to have Lopez force him, uncomfortably, into stretches of fighting.
Dallas’s resistance was slowly being chipped away, Lopez breaking him down with raw determination and committed body shots. In the sixth, Dallas collapsed to all fours out of a wrestling clinch and his legs looked weary even as he rose immediately to continue. He would be far worse off in the next round.
After taking some bruising blows along the ropes beginning about a minute into the seventh, Dallas was able to clinch to safety at mid-ring. Another clinch again saw Dallas on the floor, aided by a Lopez push and Dallas again showed weary legs. A pair of left hooks just inside the halfway mark of the round left him no legs at all. The second of them sent Dallas reeling towards the ropes, his hands grasping at the air around him for defense but instead leaving alleys for a right hand to land behind a left to the body. Referee Raul Caiz Sr. stepped in to break Dallas’s final fall at 1:47 of round seven.
Lopez can hope to ride his rousing victory into improvements on current ratings of #8 by the WBC, #15 by the WBA, #10 in the IBF, and #13 in the WBO. Lopez has won seven in a row since a majority decision loss in 2008.
Also on the broadcast, 25-year old 2008 U.S. Olympian Shawn Estrada (11-0, 10 KO), 167, of Los Angeles, California, scored three knockdowns in a first round stoppage of Minnesota’s Jon Schmidt (10-2, 6 KO), 161 ½, in Super Middleweight action. Referee Raul Caiz Sr. waved the bout off after the third drop at 1:48 of round one.
The final broadcast bout of the evening made it a perfect sweep of early exits, 23-year old Jr. Bantamweight Matt Villanueva (5-0, 5 KO), 114 ¾, of Burbank, California, dropped 31-year old Jose Luis Cardenas (5-12-1, 3 KO), 115, of Santa Ana, California, twice in round one and again in the second to draw a stoppage at 47 seconds of round two
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Goosen Tutor.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]