By Thomas Gerbasi
As Luis Arias prepares for his bout with Arif Magomedov, things couldn’t be going better in his boxing career. The 27-year-old is unbeaten, ranked in the top 15 of the IBF thanks to his USBA middleweight title, and he’s fighting on the Pay-Per-View portion of Saturday’s Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev card in Las Vegas.
But when he describes his journey to this point, he likens it to the EA Sports video game Fight Night.
“In Fight Night, when you’re playing the career mode, you’re fighting in the small venues and you build your way up. I’ve had to go that route.”
He’s not the first and he won’t be the last to take that path, but where Arias differs from most is that as a highly-touted amateur who won two U.S. National titles, he was expected to take the fast track, and when he signed with Mayweather Promotions, the process was seemingly going to accelerate.
Yet here he is, finally getting the big fight he’s been craving since he turned pro in 2012, and he can’t wait to hear the opening bell to ring this weekend.
“That’s exactly how I feel – finally,” Arias said. “A lot of people in the game know exactly who I am and they know what I’ve been through. But the world doesn’t know who I am. I’ve had my ups and downs, but finally, my opportunity is being presented to me and I plan on taking full advantage of it.”
When asked the last time he’s been this excited for a fight, he laughs, but he’s serious in his response.
“Probably my pro debut,” he said, and while he’s compiled 17 wins without a loss since that win over Josh Thorpe, it hasn’t been what he expected, especially during the time when he had a future Hall of Famer in his corner.
“Even when I was with Floyd, I wasn’t getting hand fed,” Arias said. “Floyd had several opportunities to put me on television and chose not to. Obviously I was getting a lot of publicity because of the Mayweather name, but things were not going perfect over there.”
In late-2014, Arias and Mayweather Promotions parted ways and the 9-0 (1 NC) Milwaukee native had to start over. As he posted on Twitter on May 27, he moved to Vegas with his gym bag and made it happen, and he moved to Florida and did the same thing.
“I just rolled the dice,” he said. “I literally moved to Las Vegas with just my gym bag, but I knew I had the talent. I knew that I had something that once it was presented to the world, I could go as far as I wanted to. Things didn’t go so good in Vegas, I moved over here to Florida with my gym bag, and it was the same thing.”
Arias would begin working with John David Jackson, and he signed with Roc Nation. Since the break with Mayweather, he has won eight fights, grabbing the vacant USBA middleweight title last August with a fourth-round TKO of Darryl Cunningham. Now he’s in position to make some noise, but all the while, he kept his focus on what he could control.
“I know my fighting ability and I know what I bring to the table and I know I can control the things I can control, which is what happens in that ring,” he said. “The promoters, the managers, at the end of the day, if you’re not winning fights and looking good, all of that doesn’t matter.”
It’s a mature outlook and a patient one as well, and he’s needed both maturity and patience to deal with a fight game that almost never goes the way you expect or want it to.
“I know what I bring to the table and I know what kind of fighting ability I have and what kind of style I have,” he said. “And I just focus on the main goal. It’s not a hundred meter race, it’s a long marathon. A lot of these fighters look good in their first five, ten fights, but when it’s time to buckle down and really show up when the competition gets stiffer, they fold. So I just focus on the end goal, which is to be a world champion. It’s only a matter of time.”
How much time? Arias already has his Fight Night career mode mapped out, including the boss battle at the end.
“The boss fight for me is going to be the winner of GGG-Canelo,” he said. “After this fight, I crack the top 10 and then I’ll get a guy at number seven, number four, number three. And by the end of the year or early next year, I’ll be the number one contender and the big fight will be the winner of GGG-Canelo, and that’s what I want. I’m going to force GGG or Canelo to fight me.”
No cheat codes either?
“No cheat code needed,” he laughs. “I didn’t get the cheat code, so I have to play the game from top to bottom.”