Boxing


The Nightmare Diary: Raising the Dead!

Arreola vs MintoBy P.H. Burbridge - The first loss for a professional fighter is always traumatic. It’s especially difficult when you’re a high profile prospect who is seen as a possible future champion. There’s a healthy segment of our fan population who get as much pleasure out of watching a fighter fail as others get enjoyment watching him succeed. When you lose in this sport people are all too happy to dismiss you. With his recent loss to WBC heavyweight champion, Vitali Klitschko, Cristobal “The Nightmare” Arreola (28-1, 25 KO’s) has entered a stage in his career that a lot of fighters never emerge from. “Prospect purgatory” is a phrase I’ve coined to describe fighter’s who once showed great promise but when all is said and done that’s the only thing you remember about them.

Chris Arreola is in danger of having his name added to that list if he doesn’t make some significant and PERMANENT changes..

Some guys have to work very hard just to be average while others start out on a higher technical plain but find themselves drowning in the same sea of mediocrity. Such is the case of Chris Arreola. A fighter who overall appears NOT committed to achieving his full potential. As fans, we lose interest very fast and find it far too easy to reach for the remote to find something else that’s more entertaining on.

Well, a lot of people have changed the channel on Chris Arreola. There are fewer and fewer write ups than the case just 4 short months ago and the dominating consensus amongst the bloggers and forum warriors is that Arreola has peaked out. People rooting against him feel vindicated and those who believed in him are believing just a little bit less. I’ve chronicled his emergence as a force in the heavyweight division for a little over a year now and recognize that he’s currently arrived at that “make ‘em” or “break ‘em” point of his career. A lot of people hoped his success would reignite American interest in the division and for his part Arreola did do that temporarily. But, at this stage something earth shattering needs to take place to put him back on the global radar.

What Arreola must now realize is that his fight with Vitali Klitschko back on September 26th of last year COULD be the high point of his career. It shouldn’t be but it could be. That night at the Staple Center should be his turning point not the event he points to when people ask him what kind of career he had 20 years from now. An athlete’s career is very short and as stated earlier people lose interest faster than fast. There is no true loyalty in this sport. The most famous and successful of fighters have been worshipped and then vilified by the fan base for this reason or that reason and it can be brutal and unforgiving. There’s no benefit of the doubt here and either you embrace change or you accept the results of your efforts as the best you could do even if you know the truth is that you could have done more. Arreola KNOWS he could have and SHOULD have done more. He’s a smart kid. He knows the deal.

There STILL is a path to immortality for Arreola and one way or another in 2010 we’re going to find out if he gets on that path!

The Nightmare Diary was created to chronicle his historic quest of becoming the first fighter of Mexican ancestry to win the heavyweight championship but it’s evolved into a chronicle of a conflicted fighter. One who has the talent but who seemingly refuses to perfect it. It’s about a fighter who loves the combat but hates being a soldier. It’s also about a young trainer who in the beginning of his career might be facing the toughest challenge anyone in his line of work could ever dream of trying to extract talent from a fighter whose lack of effort makes him question his own ability to teach. If Ramirez trains fighters for the next 30 years he may never run across another fighter who tests his will as much as Chris Arreola.

In truth, Henry Ramirez is trying to raise the dead! He’s still trying to get his guy’s mind right and its quite clear that Arreola is somewhat immune to just about every kind of criticism. Every negative thing that can be said about a fighter has been written about Arreola. Ramirez reads many of these stories and tries to use it to motivate Chris so far he’s gotten mixed review.

He knows his fighter has the tools and the attitude once you get him into the ring but he also knows that talent is only part of the equation. The other main component is commitment. Full time commitment! Arreola’s training and mental focus has been questioned over and over again amongst the talking heads and its no secret what people think about his work ethic. There’s also questions about his team. Does he have the right people around him to make him a champion? I’ve raised that very same question myself but now I’m convinced he’s got the right team in place. Frankly. Ramirez may be the only guy that can reach Arreola. Ramirez in my view is an up and coming trainer who could easily parlay his work with Arreola into a long career as a top flight trainer. He’s young but I’ve been impressed by him over a few in depth discussions. I don’t think that’s the problem. Ramirez showed very strong judgment in his decision to pull Chris out of the last 2 rounds against Vitali. He patiently allowed Arreola every opportunity to execute or at least attempt to execute their fight plan until it became painfully obvious that allowing him to absorb another second of punishment could have a LONG TERM and detrimental impact on his career. That was a savvy move and one a lot of young trainers wouldn’t have made especially when their fighter was trying so hard.

It was correct on a number of levels but most importantly from the perspective of a fighters psyche. Most fighters whether they admit it or not have very fragile and easily broken self images. When a fighter is knocked out for the first time it’s as if he’s forced to deal with his own mortality. It’s comparable to the average person having a heart attack in what they consider to be the prime of their life. No one thinks its going to happen to them and when it does no matter how successful your recovery it’s ALWAYS in the back of your mind. It never leaves so similarly once a fighter is forced to acknowledge his own limitations he starts to question everything about himself and that’s BAD. Very bad! Ramirez saved Arreola from that reality because he can now tell himself “I could have finished!” or “he didn’t REALLY knock me out!” which is exactly what you want your fighter saying to himself. It’s much easier rationalizing the end result that way than the other trust me on that.

So, because Ramirez ended it rather than Vitali the experience won’t break Arreola’s spirit long term. In fact, it might end up being the best thing that ever happened to him. Winning that night might have validated certain behaviors and given Arreola carte blanche to continue on in the same path that has made him such a controversial figure amongst boxing insiders.

He’s known for his out of ring behavior and although part of his charm is his “más cerveza por favor” it’s also his Achilles heel. The bout with Vitali wasn’t lost in preparation for that one fight it was lost due to his lack of preparation over his entire career. Arreola came into training camp for the Klitschko fight at a rumored weight of 290 + lbs. Ramirez and his conditioning coach, Daryl Hudson amazingly were able to get him down to 251 lbs in under 9 weeks which was nothing short of a miracle. Now, when a significant portion of your preparation time is spent focused on the weight it takes away from your overall tactical planning. You can’t spend a major part of training camp focused on your weight especially when you’re staring down the barrel at Vitali Klitschko. You’re sacrificing mental preparation and you’re making it IMPOSSIBLE for your trainer to focus on his fight plan. The team’s collective effort needed to be on the various tactical scenarios NOT biting their nails in front of a scale. Now, I’m not saying the only reason he lost to Vitali was due to his weight and I’m also not saying that he would have won if he started training camp at 250 lbs because I think VK proved that he was better technically across the board. But, I’ AM saying that Arreola would have had much more success in the fight IF he had more speed and was able to move his head more. His core strength was lacking meaning his abdominals were a big part of the problem. You MUST lose the weight around your midsection in order to increase your flexibility and ability to move your head from side to side. Bottom line he needed to avoid some of those shots coming in and he just couldn’t and that was a direct result of his lack of core strength impacted by his weight. Ramirez told me they fought the only fight they could given the circumstances and I believe that.

They weren’t going to outbox Vitali they had to attack him which they did.

I spoke to Henry just before the Minto fight and he was philosophical about what they learned from the Klitschko fight. You could sense his grief in discussing the end of the bout and he did tell me that Arreola was angry at him for a short time. Chris eventually came around once he was able to put things into proper perspective but we all saw he was quite emotional after the loss. Ramirez was also depressed.

But I could also sense that Henry was also hopeful that the experience might serve as a turning point for Arreola. A wake up call if you will!

Beating Brian “The Beast” Minto (34-3, 21 KO’s) last December on HBO was important because it validated to a certain extent that Arreola was serious when he vowed to “come right back”. He kept his word however, he took one step forward and two steps backwards because his weight went from 251 lbs against Vitali just 10 weeks earlier to a career high 263 lbs against Minto. I would have much preferred that Arreola come back a little bit later in much better shape rather than coming back right away in the shape he showed up in. People are not going to take him seriously until he starts tipping the scales in the mid to low 240 range. Anything less than that and it will be perceived as more of the same so showing up at a career high did more damage than the positive of his getting right back in the ring. There’s only one way he’ll ever get past this and that’s to show NOTICEABLE improvements in his physique over the course of 2010. He doesn’t need to do it all in one fight. He can do it over the course of 2-3 fights just as long as it’s noticeable. He must also fight credible name guys. Not to imply Minto wasn’t worthy because I believe he works hard and gets the most out of his talent. He just was not on the same talent level of Arreola which was clearly apparent the second the first bell rang. Arreola appeared to be on auto pilot throughout and looked content to put some rounds in until he got hit a couple of times then decided to go ahead and get him out of there. It was the expected result in pretty much the expected time frame.

The choice of Minto was not to push him to his limits it was to get him back in the swing of things and in that regard Brian was tailor made. So, Arreola is back.

There’s been some talk about fighting former cruiserweight champion, Tomasz Adamek (39-1, 27 KO’s) who is currently campaigning at heavyweight and scheduled to take on Jason Estrada on February 6th. Adamek recently destroyed Andrew Golota in an all Polish battle. Adamek has looked good so far but you have to question his opposition. Golota was 41 years old when they fought and a shell of himself so you have to put that win into perspective. The Estrada fight should tell us a lot. At this point in time I think he’s also perfect for Arreola because he’s not a big heavyweight and he doesn’t have a big punch. He also offers decent name recognition which will please HBO. An Adamek- Arreola fight should be a fan friendly affair because Tomasz trades at times when he should not and that always makes for interesting exchanges. In reality, Adamek’s a very good fighter who ruled a weak division and he was also visibly shaken in a number of his title defenses. His chin may be fine at cruiserweight but I have some real concerns about his ability to absorb shots from big heavyweights which Arreola certainly is. I also don’t think he has enough power to really bother Chris so this is a nice set up fight for Arreola as well. If they do sign expect Chris to walk Adamek down and get him out by round 9.

Arreola is too big, too strong and throws too many punches for Tomasz to make it out on his feet.

Beyond Adamek there’s a brave new world with David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko on the horizon and a chance to make people believe again.

This year could be the most important and pivotal of his career and only HE can change his narrative.

There still are believers….

But, Arreola first has to prove that he’s ONE OF THEM!

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

Article posted on 02.02.2010



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