Arreola vs Klitschko: Does Arreola really stand a chance?

By Bill Patrice Jones - Much has been made recently of the upcoming heavyweight title clash between reigning WBC champion Vitali Klitschko and America’s top ranked heavyweight Chris Arreola. In the immediate wake of the breakdown in negotiation between Vitali and David Haye (who now faces WBA champ Valuev) we have seen another big fight get signed very quickly. Most fans out there are already getting excited about this clash, sensing a possible test for Klitschko and an obvious big opportunity for Chris Arreola.. However before we start to save up for the PPV fees, buy our tickets or stock up our popcorn and beer for fight night (as we fans so often do) I think a reality check is in order. On paper this is a fight between a champion and a top contender, so technically speaking we should be excited. Boxing should in essence be a sport in which the champions are forced to meet the most esteemed challengers to their throne. Yet why in this instance is the fight leaving such an uncomfortable feeling in my gut, and why is it somehow saddening to acknowledge that Vitali Klitschko Vs Chris Arreola qualifies as a fight between a champion and a top contender?

Boxing fans can complain all they want that division’s seldom see the big fights between the very best take place, yet somehow it remains more depressing when those fights do take place and there is little to get excited about. I can not help but envision the Arreola Klitschko bout descending into an ugly mismatch, and it is when we see the Klitschko’s fight the supposed ‘best to offer’ that we are forced to see just what a sorry state heavyweight boxing is in. The Klitschko brothers are in a tough predicament: Head and shoulders above the rest of the division but a division in which the likes of Chris Arreola are top contenders. If Vitali Klitschko easily handles and breaks down the big Mexican you can be sure to find the reception among boxing fans to be divided between: “Man Klitschko was awesome” and “Who the hell are the Klitschko’s actually fighting”. No matter how impressive some of their performances are, and recently they have been it is still impossible to adequately gage just how good they actually are. The level of dominance someone like Wladimir Klitschko is displaying of late must be heralded to a certain degree, but ultimately the legacy of such a fighter will constantly be in limbo if he is never provided with worthy challengers. There can be no doubt that both Klitschko’s are premium champions and both a match for most heavyweights in most eras. The truly sad fact is though that in spite of their pursuing totally without fear the best in the division, the best is just plain awful.

Chris Arreola does have some ability, I like how natural he seems in the ring and with a good solid amateur background he has emerged as a decent boxer puncher. Yet we do not see this heavyweight hopeful coming into the ring in top shape or in fact anything remotely resembling top shape. The single biggest factor contributing to the demise of our heavyweight division is weight and Arreola is another example. There was a time when heavyweights came into the ring at athletic weights for their height and frame remember: (Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis?). These days we have to fret and worry almost every time a fight comes around over whether or not the combatants will get into decent shape and in recent years many of our top heavyweight contests have seen unfit heavies compete, most notably the Klitschko Peter bout last October. If we know that the likelihood of Arreola coming into the ring at 235 is slim to none then why are we bothering with the fight at all? His management have already predicted a weight too high for him and it is likely to be higher than that. An out of shape puncher is simply not going to beat a great champion who is in shape even if he is 38. Many recall the excitement in the build up to Klitschko VS Peter and the gross disappointment the bout actually was. Yet in all fairness we had much more reason to be excited about that bout than this one. At least then we had the unanswered question of Vitali’s ring rust, and at least then we had a boxer in Peter who had in the past come into fights in top shape. Now we know that Klitschko is back to something resembling his best and we have a boxer in Arreola who has NEVER been in top shape.

Many people will call me a killjoy for writing this. Why can’t I be happy that a fight between Vitali and one of the best is taking place? I am no killjoy; I am more than excited over the prospective Williams Pavlik or Cotto Pacquiao bouts, just not this one. Especially because I am desperate to see one of the Klitschko’s in a competitive fight. Vitali is a great fighter and if I had to analyse his style for weaknesses I would say that he perhaps lacks fluidity, does not punch so well going backwards and struggles somewhat to work at close quarters. In spite of this his power and chin are superb, he reads fighters brilliantly, is calm and assertive in the ring, possesses and powerful and debilitating jab and is athletic for someone of his size. As George Foreman said ‘show me a big man with a left jab and I’ll show you a man who’s hard to beat.’ I perceive the only way to possibly exploit Klitschko’s weaknesses would be a supremely athletic energetic fighter who is skilled and in top shape. That is why the David Haye fight had my attention (though I would still go with Vitali every time). The Arreola fight I will watch but ultimately can foresee only one ending and a one sided one at that. Arreola will go looking for Klitschko but find he is unable to get past his jab, he will grow frustrated and each time he tried to open up Klitschko will catch him with something. As the rounds go on an increasingly tired and swollen Arreola will get hit more often with Klitschko’s right until eventually he either quits or is knocked out. It will be sad to see Arreola Klitschko show us that beyond the Klitschko’s this division is in a dire situation.

Article posted on 15.08.2009

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