Boxing


The Nightmare Diary: Stepping stones and one GIANT leap for Chris Arreola

By P.H. Burbridge: Well, fight night is right around the corner and training camp for Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola (26-0, 23 KO’s) is pretty much over. He and his trainer, Henry Ramirez are just maintaining their mental focus leading into Saturday night. A trainer doesn’t want to overwhelm his fighter by flooding his senses with a bunch of different scenarios leading into the final two days before a fight because that can add an element of stress but he does want his fighter to remember key things that are critical to their strategy..

Chris ArreolaSo, he plays the balancing game by giving him a little information here and there. As a fighter you want to relax a little during those final days so when you do enter the ring you’re thinking clearly and feeling energized and excited about executing your strategy. As a trainer your job is to develop a schedule and monitor all aspects of training. You pick the sparring partners on the basis of how closely their skills and size mirrors that of your opponent. You make sure they mimic your opponent’s strengths so you can practice counter strategy in real time.

This is one of the truly difficult aspects of a trainer’s role. In order to be effective you need as much information and fight footage of your opponent as is available. It’s also beneficial to bring in past sparring partners who have worked with your opponent for technical advice. While ex-sparring partner may not mirror the exact profile the information they have could be critical in identifying key opportunities. While the fighter sleeps the trainer and in some camps the tactical advisors are sitting in a room watching fight footage and making notes.

They’re looking for weaknesses and strengths. This data is used to feed the sparring partners who are instructed to emulate certain aspects of the opponent’s style. This is typically where fights are won or lost from a tactical perspective. The more accurate your sparring partner’s emulate your opponent’s style the more likely your success will be in the actual fight. If a trainer and his team miscalculate in their assessment then you can find yourself improvising in the ring and that’s no place to try on a new pair of shoes!

The trainer’s goal is to run you through every possible scenario so there’s nothing you see on fight night that you haven’t already seen in training. A good trainer will also prepare for wildcard situations that might come up based on impressions of what the opponent MIGHT be able to do. For example, what happens if all of a sudden your opponent goes from a 30 jab per round career average to firing 50 jabs a round against you?

A good trainer will have a plan B and C in his back pocket and be able to re-align his fighter’s tactics accordingly. There’s no doubt that the head trainer gig is a tough one. Just like the fighter he’s under a micro scope and is going to be scrutinized. That being the case, in addition to preparing his charge for battle a trainer also needs to control and maintain aspects of his own mental focus. He has to understand how critical it is to guide his man through the firestorm that is professional boxing in a calm and controlled manner. He must understand that his role is to support his fighter and to be that calm voice of reason in the corner.

The fighter/trainer relationship is a close one that works best when there is mutual respect. If that one element is missing then the relationship will not work long term.

For all the criticism that Henry Ramirez has received by writers and pundits alike including yours truly he and Chris Arreola have that one aspect covered. They understand each other. Henry knows how hard he can push Chris and how hard he can’t push Chris. After one of my more colorful tirades / articles where I essentially made the case for Arreola to find a new trainer Henry and I had phone conversation. Now I expected this to be an unpleasant “clarification” session. I expected some “things to be said!” After all, I’m Chicano and grew up in what I assume are similar conditions as Ramirez and Arreola so of course if you come out of that environment you know that everybody’s a “tough guy” or like to think they are! And I have to admit to spicing up my barrio speak from time to time with a few choice swear words in Spanish. I’m not proud of it. So, I expected the same from Ramirez. When I finally did get on the phone with Henry I was a little taken aback at how cool he navigated from topic to topic. I quickly realized that I was speaking to someone who was very intelligent and focused. Ramirez explained some of the circumstances that contributed to Arreola’s conditioning and some of the negative career occurrences that tested his patience. We ended up talking about a lot of things including the dry run Team Arreola endured back in December ’08 when talk of a possible showdown with Wladimir Klitschko just stopped. We discussed some technical aspects of fighting and I left that conversation feeling pretty confident that Ramirez knew what he was talking about but more importantly that he had the ability to hold his emotions in check.

You can’t be a successful trainer without that and Henry definitely has it.

The issue of Chris’ weight is not some mystery to Ramirez. He and Chris both know that it could be their downfall if not corrected. They are one win away from a title shot and Arreola to his credit has been more focused on that one aspect of his conditioning than at any other time in his career. It’s being addressed and Arreola is anxious to prove his commitment this Saturday night with an impressive showing.

This fight is a statement opportunity and no one knows that better than Arreola and Ramirez.

As with everyone else we’ll just have to wait and see how he looks but more importantly how he performs. Chris can look anyway he wants to just as long as he moves his hands and his feet. This isn’t the Mr. Olympia contest so I don’t place too much importance on the look of a heavyweight fighter but rather on how quickly he delivers his shots. If Arreola comes in at 245 lbs then that’s an improvement from the last time and a signal that he and Henry are putting in the work so just as long as they continue to make positive yardage we can expect Chris Arreola to fight for the title by years end.

It’s easy to pick the winner of this fight.

One guy has an undefeated record, the eyes of the boxing world on him, a chance to become the first fighter of Mexican heritage to win a heavyweight title and a fighters pride while the other always fights just hard enough to lose.

Arreola by late round TKO or unanimous decision.

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at PHBboxing@yahoo.com with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 09.04.2009



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