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Arreola makes a quick return to the ring

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

Two weeks ago, heavyweight contender Chris Arreola, 31-2 (27), returned to ring for the second time this year following a one-round blowout of Joey Abell in January. This time, it was Nagy Aguilera’s turn to be taken out by Arreola, in three rounds. The difference was that Arreola, who in recent years, has been plaguing himself by coming into fights well below optimum shape, showed up weighing 234 pounds. He was slim (by heavyweight standards), quick, and full of combinations for three rounds as he unloaded on Aguilera, ate some leather in return and did his part to restore some of the faith fight fans lost in him as his weight increased.


I caught up with Arreola this week as he prepared to head off to Reno, Nevada to co-headline ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” this week.


“I give myself a C-. I just think that there is always room for improvement,” Arreola said about the Aguilera fight. “I can give myself more space to throw combinations and not fall in between punches. I got hit with punches I should get hit by. I guess that is ring rust. I’ve only had one round between fights so that is why we’re fighting so soon.”


Coming in at 234, a serious drop in weight from the 249½ pounds vs. Abell and the previous 256 the previous August against Manny Quezada may have contributed to Arreola’s performance. At 234, he is much lighter than he is used to, now adjusting to the new abilities that come with being lighter and consequently faster. Not that it is isn’t a welcome change to have to make.


“Part of it has to do with that,” said Arreola. “It’s just it is kind of different. I just have to get used to it. I have to get used to throwing combinations. Before, I was just throwing one punch. That’s not me. I am not a one-punch fighter.”


Aguilera did have his moments. At times, he was able to land flush on Arreola, much to the open-book fighter’s chagrin. I asked Arreola if at some point, he took the power of Aguilera, finding it lacking and walked through it.


“The thing about that is, I’m a heavyweight, man, and so is he. One punch can knock a mother**ker out,” said Arreola. “It’s just that me, I’m just too hard for my own good. When I get hit, I just get it in my head, ‘It’s time for me to fight.’”


Looking at the tape and from ringside, it was clear Arreola still has some things to improve. Spacing was a big issue for him. While he threw combos, he was too in close and smothered his power.


“Yeah, man. That is what I was saying. I didn’t give myself enough space to throw the right punches,” said Arreola. “There were three or four punches that if I would have connected, the fight would have been over a whole lot sooner.”


Another issue was that Arreola kept going at Aguilera’s head and didn’t set things up by working the body and then going upstairs. For his opponent on Friday, the 22-14-2 (10) Kendrick Releford, that strategy is going to have to come into play. Releford, despite the record, is a fighter who can go rounds. He is tough, scrappy, and knows how to survive. Arreola will need to break him down to the body before going for his chin.


“That is the thing with everybody, though, you know?” explained Arreola. “It was something we were working on for [Aguilera]. We were trying to get body, head, body, head but I ended up just headhunting, man. It is something we are working on, starting at the body and working our way up. But you know me. I am a stubborn guy and I just want a fight. [Releford] is a good fighter, though. His record doesn’t say much but he is a good fighter,” said Arreola. “I just got to get rid of this guy and then get ready for my next fight.”


Arreola was not scheduled to fight this soon but when stablemate Josesito Lopez had to drop off the card due to a hand injury, Arreola stepped right up. Fighting often is just what Arreola wants for this year.


“Me? I’m a fighter, man. All I want to do is fight,” said Arreola. “That’s all I want to do is fight. I do not like time off, man. I get myself in trouble, man. I give myself too much time with games and sh*t. Then I’ll figure out something else to do other than boxing. I know me. I want to fight. That’s just me. I’m hoping to fight at least five or six times this year. I love being active. Why sit around?”


As for his weight, it remains low. Despite saying he would resume training the Tuesday after the Aguilera fight, Arreola found his way back to the gym on Monday, ready to work. By Tuesday, he was sparring again with the likes of Lateef Kayode. Fighting often and training constantly is enabling Arreola to finally become the fighter he always wanted to be, one who reacts to the moment rather than hoping for something to happen in his favor.


“I felt fine [at 234 pounds] because like I said, this weight isn’t…we’re not cutting it,” said Arreola. “I’m just working, work, work, work, just work. It’s not like a fat camp where I came into camp weighing 270. It’s just work. It’s easy. But as far as how I feel in the ring, I feel like, more active. I am able to react to certain things. I am able to throw punches when I want to throw them. My mind doesn’t think. It just goes.”


While not a tape watcher, Arreola wanted to get a look at what he looked like at 234. Arreola told me he was surprised by how many punches he threw against Aguilera.


“I love throwing. It’s great. You know I didn’t even think I threw that many punches,” said Arreola. “I thought I threw just a couple combinations and that’s it. I wasn’t tired or gassed and whenever I did throw or was going to get gassed, I said, ‘Let me think about it. Let me regroup and figure this guy out again and then go back to work and I seen that I kept crowding myself. And I got caught with stupid sucker-punches that I should have never got caught. So that is added motivation for me to work harder.”


I started to ask Arreola if he wanted this fight to go a little longer so he could work in adjustments to his game.


“Hell no,” Arreola interjected. “Hell no. It never benefits me to go more rounds. I hate going rounds, man. The quicker I get them out, the better. I don’t like going rounds. It’s just that it gives them more opportunity to knock me out also. It gives them more opportunity in the fight. I’m not trying to do that. I don’t want to do that. I don’t like going rounds. They don’t pay me by the rounds. They pay me by the fight. So if the fight ends quick, I make the same amount then if it went 12 rounds. It doesn’t matter to me. I want to get the hell out of there. I work in the gym; that’s where I win my money. Everything that we do in the gym, that’s where I get paid at. Not in the fight.


But doesn’t it benefit him to know how effective he can be at this weight in a long haul fight against a Klitschko or someone like that?


“I’ve been in long fights and I don’t like them,” Arreola answered. “I come out with a black eye and a busted lip and sh*t like that. It takes about a week to get better. I don’t like that at all. I’m not trying to make rounds. I’m not trying to do none of that. I’m trying to get the hell out of there. Sh*t, I’m trying to get back in the gym. I can’t get back in the gym with a hurt hand and face or whatever it is, you know?”


As we wound down our interview, I asked Arreola what he predicted for Friday.


“Excitement. Plain and simple,” said Arreola. “That’s what I want to bring as a fighter is excitement, a fan-friendly fight. That’s my job. My job is to put out something that people want to see on TV. I’m an entertainer and that is what I have to do is entertain. People don’t want to see a Klitschko fight, especially Americans. They want to see excitement. That’s what they want to see and that’s what I bring them.”


Arreola’s answer was pure prizefighter. The man understands who he is, what he brings to the table and most importantly, what fans expect of him. Say what you want about his weight, doubt he will keep up this current disciplined streak, question his power or make fun of the crying display he had after losing to Vitali Klitschko. What Arreola wants to deliver, he does. Friday night will be his next chance to prove that. 


For a recent peek at Arreola’s training, please visit the following link, courtesy of the Maxboxing YouTube page:


You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.



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