Chris Arreola: Talk About Bad Timing

09.04.09 - By Jason Peck - Poor Chris Arreola. If only he had come around five years ago, when the heavyweight division had hit its bottom. Back then, the fans would have ignored his lousy condition, questionable commitment and overall dearth of boxing skills. It wouldn’t have mattered , his KO numbers would have been enough to crown him king..

Remember Sam Peter’s blubbery entrance five years ago. Not only did the fans ignore Peter’s flaws (many of which Arreola shares) but they made him better than he was. For years I read nothing but praises for Peter’s ring mastery, remarkable improvements, and superlative jab – all things the Nigerian has never actually demonstrated. This time the fans aren’t buying; Arreola must defend himself before a public that’s become skeptical of pudgy heavyweights.

All of which is unfortunate. Arreola is nowhere ready for either Klitschko; a good tactical boxer like Sultan Imbragimov could probably outbox him. As a contender he fails. As a prospect, however, Arreola’s accomplishments should have earned him more credit than he’s been given. Which is to say, none.

Look over Arreola’s record, and serious red flags emerge. He carried too much weight, and his inexperience in the late rounds should give his trainer an ulcer. If anyone can get him past the 7th, there’s no telling what kind of beating an undoubtedly diminished Arreola would sustain.

Worse yet, Arreola has been down several times against fighters not renowned for their power. Critics poo-poo Wladimir Klitschko’s shabby chin, but at the very least he can say that he never went down off of someone who didn’t know how to hit. Ross Purrity seldom won, but when he did he usually won by KO. In his day Lamon Brewster was if nothing else a good puncher. Klitschko’s stock tumbled when he got KO’d by Corrie Sanders, but even Hasim Rahman (by now an experts in getting punched) admitted that no one hit him like Sanders did.

Also compare the opposition Arreola has taken against the resume that Sam Peter was to bring to his first title shot. Unlike his predecessor, Arreola actually fought up-and-coming prospects with actual potential, and beat them convincingly. His KO win over non-entity Malcolm Tann drew immediate scorn, but five years ago Sam Peter KO’d an even lesser fighter named Jeremy Williams. Somehow, that made him the next Mike Tyson.

This week Arreola squares off against Jameel McCline, by this point a mere gatekeeper for the division. But hell – fighting such a rugged veteran is more than we saw prospects do in years past. In fact, several prospects have been given title shots with far less.

But why is it there so much skepticism for Arreola, really? The answer lies with a simple, obvious fact that heavyweight critics are loathe to admit:

The division is just better now. Period.

Any man holding a heavyweight belt today – including Nicolai Valuev, an underrated fighter who inexplicably failed to impress against a washed-up Evander Holyfield – is pretty well-entrenched. Even the best prospects out there, including the loudmouthed David Haye, will still enter the ring as a heavy underdog. And in the past several years, both Klitshcko brothers – Wladimir in particular – have been maturing into something better than the best of a bad lot. Usurping on of the brothers is hardly impossible, but certainly improbable.

The heavyweight champs of today are indisputably more solid that the champs of Peter’s time, and it’s going to take more than a hype job to take their belts. But come on – I’m not saying that Chris Arreola belongs among the elite by any means. I’m just saying that his accomplishments thus far deserve more than scorn.

Article posted on 08.04.2009

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