Is McCline too much for Arreola?

By Geoffrey Ciani: Heavyweight contender Chris Arreola is slated to take a big step up in class when he squares off against perennial contender Jameel ‘Big Time’ McCline. The bout is slated to take place Saturday night in Vegas on the undercard of the highly anticipated middleweight showdown between Winky Wright and Paul Williams. For Arreola, the fight with McCline is supposed to represent the next step towards an inevitable battle with one of the Klitschko brothers. If all goes according to plan, Arreola will get a title shot sometime this year. Unfortunately for Arreola, McCline might have something to say about that..

Jameel McClineI had never seen Arreola fight prior to his match with Travis Walker, but based on everything I heard from fellow fans and ring side commentators, I had very high expectations for him. He sounded like an exciting young fighter with the potential to make a big splash in the heavyweight division. After seeing him fight, however, I was thoroughly underwhelmed and ultimately left disappointed. Is this the man who was supposed to represent the next big thing in the heavyweight division? If so, the division is in a whole lot of trouble.

The first thing that jumped out about Arreola was that he did not appear to be in the best fighting shape. There is simply no excuse for a heavyweight prizefighter to be in poor physical condition, especially for a fight of that magnitude being showcased on HBO. In addition to his apparent weight problems, Arreola also appeared noticeably slow and had a suspect defense. He was being overwhelmed by Walker’s work rate, and even managed to get dropped by a straight right in round two. To his credit, he did rise to his feet and was able to twice drop Walker in that very same round before finishing him off in the third.

One would think a heavyweight contest that saw each fighter taste the canvas before ending in a third round knockout would resonate an aura of excitement amongst fans in a lackluster division, but that was not the case. Despite all the “fireworks”, fans were instead left with the inevitable feeling that it was only a matter of time before Arreola is fodder to one of the brothers Klitschko. It actually looked as if that was going to happen sooner rather than later, as rumors surfaced regarding him squaring off against both Wladimir and Vitali. Instead, he will be afforded an opportunity to redeem himself against McCline, but is this step up in class too much for Arreola?

Despite falling short in most of his big fights, including four title shots, McCline is an experienced boxer who certainly has the tools to derail ‘The Arreola Express’. He has fast hands, decent pop, lots of ring experience, and has proven to be a fairly durable commodity throughout his career. The big knock on McCline is that he is too passive inside the ring. For such a big strong guy, McCline often fights as if he is the smaller man, and this has arguably cost him in some of the biggest fights of his career. Many point to this lack of aggression and killer instinct as evidence of an Arreola victory, but I am not convinced.

People tend to forget, McCline has shown the ability to be a fast starter, and based on Arreola’s performance in the Walker fight, I expect McCline to go right after him. Jameel first burst into the heavyweight picture when he bludgeoned Michael Grant with the first punch he threw in what was supposed to be nothing more than a formality comeback fight for the former ‘Heir Apparent’ Grant. McCline also got off to a fast start when he became the first and only fighter to floor Sam Peter, en route to losing a unanimous decision which saw Peter taste the canvas three times. If McCline can get off to a similarly fast start against Arreola, he has the power to stop him and stop him early—an outcome not too many are expecting come Saturday.

The fight with McCline is supposed to propel Arreola to a title fight. If he is going to win, he best be prepared for an early onslaught from McCline, because Jameel carries some nice pop when he commits to his punches and has much faster hands. It also would not hurt if Arreola entered the ring in a bit better shape than he did in his last outing, because despite the buzz on the streets, this is not a ‘give me’ fight for Arreola. If he is going to beat McCline, he is going to have to work to do it because it is extremely unlikely that Jameel will fold as quickly as Walker. Even if Arreola does manage to beat McCline, this in no way means he will “be ready” for either Klitschko. The reality is he will never “be ready” for those two.

In the meantime, I am hoping the Walker fight was a fluke and that the real Chris Arreola shows up this weekend, but an early knockout victory for McCline would not surprise me in the least. In fact, Arreola might well rue the day he agreed to fight ‘Big Time’ McCline.

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Article posted on 08.04.2009

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