Klitschko Arreola: The Calm before the Apocalypse?

Chris ArreolaBy P.H. Burbridge - The interest in this fight is starting pick up and itís obvious who people think will win. Much of the mainstream sports media is of course picking the betting favorite. Very few writers are providing any in depth analysis of how Arreola could possibly win this fight. If you listen to some of these ďexpertsĒ it sounds like Chris shouldnít even bother showing up for the fight. He canít win! Iím assuming that most of you want more serious commentary supported by logic and experience in boxing so thatís why you come to ESB. Sure youíre going to get some over the top ESB articles from time to time but at least you get someoneís honest opinion. From me thatís always what youíll get. I make every effort to support my conclusions with logic and analysis. That doesnít mean Iím going to be right all the time but it does mean that Iíve given it a decent amount of thought and have done SOME research. I donít expect kudos for being right but I definitely expect criticism for being wrong. That comes with the territory.

Iíve said this many times but, Chris Arreola matches up well against Vitali Klitschko.

Stylistically, this is the right match up for Arreola and if I had to choose between Wlad and Vitali as his first opponent for a world title attempt I would always choose Vitali..

Wladimir presents a much more complicated challenge technically and stylistically.

In a communication I had early last Wednesday with trainer, Henry Ramirez he advised me that sparring has been excellent. Chris is currently training at Joe Goossenís Ten Goose Gym in Van Nuys, California. In particular, Ramirez is very pleased with the intense pace that Chris has been keeping in the ring and his stamina looks to be great as does his work rate. In that communication Henry also assured me that Chris was peaking at the right time. Independent reports seem to support that statement. Towards the end of last week they increased the number of sparring rounds to 10 and this week it will increase to 12. Henry confirmed for me last Friday night that they had another 5 sparring sessions left in camp which started Saturday so we can expect Arreola to finish up on all heavy contact sparring towards the middle to latter part of this week. My sense from Ramirez is that all is good and that theyíre extremely confident.

Arreola is definitely geared to bring everything he has and intends on leaving it all in the ring.

Even though there has been a lot negative commentary about his weight currently reported to be in the 259 lb range I think you have to put certain things into proper perspective. Arreola has been training very hard and heís already in excellent condition even though he may not look it from a conventional appearance. Heís working with Strength and Conditioning coach, Daryl Hudson for the first time and presumably theyíve incorporated weight training or some other strength building exercises into his regimen. Now, the addition of muscle could be the cause for his seemingly limited weight loss. I know that the popular assumption is that Arreola is carrying ďbadĒ weight but according to a number of sources heís ďlookingĒ more toned and muscular than ever before. Daryl Hudson has also recently stated that their main focus is not on Arreolaís weight but rather "on his agility, movement and stamina in the ring." Hudson has changed Arreolaís diet significantly and according to Chris he has the extra energy to prove its working. Ramirez has also indicated that he expects Chris to be 10-12 lbs lighter by fight time I think with under 2 weeks to go that would take a herculean effort and Iíd be comfortable if he comes in somewhere in the low 250ís. Itís unlikely heís ever going please the general public with his physique and I wouldnít expect any drastic changes in his appearance. But, I do expect that his stamina and movement will be at its optimal level. Arreolaís stamina has never been truly tested in a long fight but donít take that to mean that he has poor stamina. The reality is that we just donít know. Thereís certainly a big difference between going rounds in an actual fight as compared to in the gym. Itís a fair question but the fact of the matter is that no one has ever seen Arreola visibly fatigued in a fight. Now, you can point to the level of competition and the potential increase in a fighters stress level upon stepping up in class to support your argument but, we just donít have any proof at this point in time. Until he goes the distance Arreola will continue to be a victim of his own success. He knockís guys out and when a fighter does that in earnest this question gets raised.

In this case obviously itís compounded by his seemingly soft appearance which has created a perception problem that I donít think is even worth worrying about at this stage. Going the rounds is the key and if theyíre getting their rounds in then thatís whatís important. In the past, Arreola has shown to be very relaxed in the ring ala James Toney and because of it heís less likely to gas out. You must place as much emphasis on the mental aspect of fighting as you do on the physical. A trait of a good veteran is that he appears composed and relaxed in the ring. James Toney KNOWS that he can fight so he doesnít have a huge black cloud follow him into the ring ready to rain down buckets of self doubt. The 2nd version of Big George Foreman was the same way. Some guys have this and some guys donít. Arreola is not quite as relaxed as James Toney at this point in his career but he certainly gives the appearance of being very comfortable in the ring. He doesnít over extend himself or get wild. He does his work in a calm and flowing manner. Now, could the big lights, world wide attention and the hysterical support of those in attendance at the Staple Center increase his stress level? Of course but, I wouldnít bank on it and Iím pretty sure Vitali isnít either. Arreola seems pretty cool and confident about his ability to extend this fight.

And contrary to the popular sentiment I think the longer this fight goes the more advantageous it is for Arreola. There have been some low volume rumblings that Vitali has had some minor set backs in training. Nothing more serious then a very sore calf muscle but even that can serve as a confidence builder for Arreola. The harder and longer he extends VK the more likely one of these minor injuries turns into a major problem for Vitali.

Get this fight into the 7th, 8th, 9th round, Arreola!

It sounds like theyíve done everything they could in preparation for this fight to do exactly that. Theyíve also enlisted some pretty big sparring partners in Lance Whitacker and Tye Fields who are both 6í 8Ē. That was obviously a strategic move on Ramirezís part to replicate some of Vitaliís trade mark moves. In truth itís pretty darn tricky to find any fighter who could realistically emulate Vitali in sparring. He really presents some interesting challenges with his great height and reach as well as the awkward and unorthodox nature of his arsenal. But, by bringing in guys who are equal in size you can gauge distance and establish some working rules related to range. Chris is going to have to study him once heís in the ring and gauge his power while making the necessary adjustments to get inside. As I outlined in my earlier piece ďDeconstructing KlitschkoĒ thereís no great secret here in terms of what Arreola intends to do. Heís going to apply pressure by staying close and get inside of VKís jab. Henry Ramirez from day one has said they were going to do it so thatís what we can expect to see. Vitaliís jab is persistent but itís not overly powerful. Itís a bothersome jab that he uses in a pawing manner at times. Itís a measuring stick and if you stay outside for too long it starts to add up. This is also not a secret. You can get through it just as Juan Carlos Gomez proved early in their fight. Itís not an impossibility. Arreola will be able to find his way inside. His footwork is underrated and heís good at stepping WITH his opponent and getting in position. In every single fight that Iíve reviewed heís done it. Itís a natural move for him much as it was Julio Cesar Chavez. This is the way he fights. Vitali for his part will try to turn Arreola and keep turning him to deter his ability to get set and fire. This has been a very effective tactic for VK and Arreola will have to step over to VKís opposite side to cut off the ring to stop it. The longer the fight goes the more stationary Vitali will become. My analysis shows that VK uses the spin tactic heavily in the first 5 rounds. Heís hitting you with the jab and affecting your equilibrium at the same time by making you change direction constantly. Trust me it works. Arreola cannot allow himself to be turned in this manner. He needs to make VK throw shots in close quarters and keep him close. If the spinning gets to be too much then CA needs to hold him and shut it down. There is going to be a fair amount of grappling in this fight.

VKís comfort zone is on the outside where he has tremendous snap on his shots. In close, his punches will have less power and heíll be open for Arreolaís faster, shorter combinations. If Arreolaís legs can keep him close it will force Vitali to raise his punch out put or to hold. I hate to use this comparison but I think it makes a lot of sense. In spots, Arreola needs to smother Vitali in a similar fashion as Ricky Hatton did to Kostya Tszyu. Vitali in terms of his stance and jab has always reminded me of Tszyu. Tszyu was an excellent technical fighter who often controlled distance and dictated the pace with his jab always trying to get into position to deliver his booming right hand but when he was crowded and bullied (which really only happened once) he lost his effectiveness. His power diminishes on the inside. Vitali Klitschko in my opinion is that same type of fighter.

In close, Arreola has more options available to him because he has the wider punch variety. Heís capable of throwing uppercuts with either hand, he has an excellent over hand right as well as a solid straight right hand. He pumps his jab to the body and to the head and of course he has an excellent left hook. His most underrated punch which I personally feel will tell the story of this fight is his right hook to the body. Heís very good at landing that shot on the inside or when an opponent is on the retreat. Itís one of his quicker shots. It will find a home when Vitali leaves his jab out there which is one of his tendencies.

In analyzing VK Iíve noted a consistent flaw that seems almost too obvious. He lowers his guard as the rounds toll. Late in fights he utilizes his patented lean back move and at times he relies on it almost exclusively from a defensive posture. His hands at times are practically at his side and he gets into a very wide leg stance. That stance should be a trigger for Arreola. This is the position he takes when he wants to start opening up with more lead right hands. Heíll paw with the jab 2-3 times or heíll throw a highly extended left hook that looks more like a slap to bring his opponent into range so he can whip that right hook across over or heíll pivot to his left and deliver a hard straight right hand. He even throws a little up jab that starts around his belt line at times. Most guys get punished for doing that but to date VK gotten away with it. In my eyes regardless of his success rate itís still a flaw and itís a flaw that Arreola could potentially exploit. He can do it with his baseball pitch over hand right to the head. No, Iím not changing my original prescription for this fight plan. Chris still will have to focus almost exclusively on the body early because he needs to damage VKís rib cage or at least create some level discomfort so he can capitalize later in the fight on that lean back move. The longer the fight goes that slower that move becomes. This is a timing tactic. I donít expect Chris to be able to land this punch consistently early when Vitali is fresh. But I do expect him to land it later and with great frequency once those hands start creeping down and once VK getís into that wide stance.

The position of his feet wonít allow him to get out of the way and he wonít have the distance to avoid that shot by leaning back. It will land if Chris can deliver it.

Vitali is as tough and as proud as they come and itís going to take everything Arreola can muster to execute the things Iíve discussed here but the point is that he HAS the tools.

This is a more than winnable fight!

It may start out to be a bit of a shoot out but I think it will evolve into a bit of a chess match where Arreolaís greater punch variety and activity inside will be the difference.

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

Article posted on 15.09.2009

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