By Jake Donovan
BIRMINGHAM--The past two years of Chris Arreola’s career has been much like his nickname – a nightmare.
Boasting just one win in his last four starts as well as a second suspension stemming from a failed drug test, the veteran contender from California has exhausted the patience of many in the boxing industry. With that, there was little shock in the collective groan that was met with his being granted a crack at Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title, their fight taking place this weekend at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Saturday, FOX, 8:00 p.m. ET).
Arreola (36-4-1, 31KOs) has fallen well short in two previous cracks at becoming the first-ever heavyweight of Mexican descent to claim a major title. His first career loss came at the hands of then-champ Vitali Klitschko, suffering a 10th round knockout loss in their one-sided Sept. ’09 title fight.
He managed to go 7-1-0-1NC in his next nine fights before suffering a pair of losses to Bermane Stiverne, the latter coming in their vacant title bout in May ’14, where Arreola was stopped in the 6th round of a fun slugfest. He’s since scraped out a win over journeyman Curtis Harper, struggled to a draw versus Fred Kassi and saw a disputed split decision win over Travis Kauffman last December convert to a No-Contest after testing positive for marijuana.
A planned comeback bout versus Dominic Breazeale due to take place this past April was scrapped when Arreola suffered a freak ankle injury, further delaying his ring return.
It goes without saying that desperation time has long arrived, creating a sense of urgency to prevail on the road this weekend.
“I'm ready for this fight,” Arreola promised during the final pre-fight press conference Thursday afternoon in Birmingham. “I'm more ready than I've ever been. I'm hungry.
“This isn't a cakewalk. I respect Deontay, that's why I trained for you. Come fight time, there's no respect, it's time to fight.”
The level of respect was extended with at least two handshakes between combatants while on stage, a far cry from the usual interaction Arreola has experienced with past opponents. Looking trimmer than usual – conditioning always a major factor (in a negative way) several times before on the big stage – and speaking highly of the defending titlist, there comes the sense of a long-promised focus that has finally come to surface.
Some also view this fight as a “nothing-to-lose” scenario for the 35-year old, who refuses to accept a future that has him serving as a stepping stone for the heavyweights of tomorrow.
In order to prevail, however, he will have to overcome the obstacle of fighting on the road against an opponent whose last loss came in the amateur ranks.
That said, Arreola realizes that – even with a title shot he didn’t necessarily earn – there’s no time like the present to live up to some of the items remaining on his boxing bucket list.
“One thing no one can question about me is my heart,” notes Arreola of what he always brings to every fight. “I'm going to come at him but be smart. My goal is to take home that title and make history (for Mexican and Mexican-American boxers).”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2