By Francisco Salazar
Heavyweight Chris Arreola may have all the advantages to secure a victory over hard-hitting Joey Abell on Friday night. Fighting about 45 minutes from his hometown, having fought the better opposition of the two, and the ability to come back from a knockdown, as was evident in his comeback victory over Travis Walker. One would think that Arreola would be satisfied to play with those cards on Friday, but the popular Mexican-American fighter may have found an ace in his deck now that he has respected trainer Ronnie Shields in his corner.
Arreola will face Abell in a 10 round Heavyweight bout this Friday at the Pechanga Casino Resort in Temecula, CA. The bout, which will be televised on ESPN2’s popular “Friday Night Fights,” will headline a six-bout card, presented by Goossen Tutor Promotions.
Since beginning his professional career in September of 2003, Arreola (29-2, 25 KO’s) has had the services of trainer and friend Henry Ramirez. Arreola was adamant that Ramirez will always remain in his corner as his head trainer. However, Arreola could not pass up on the opportunity to have Shields in his camp before his upcoming fight.
“Ronnie has a great deal of experience,” said Arreola recently to Fightnews.com from his training camp in Houston, TX. “Ronnie has been working with the flaws in my punches. He’s just fixing the flaws that I have. There’s not going to be any changes with my style. I’ve been boxing this way for the past 17 to 18 years. That’s Henry’s job. It’s just been a great team effort between Henry and Ronnie in my camp.”
Arreola and Ramirez flew to Houston more than a month ago to train at Shields’ gym. It has been a great change of pace for Arreola to be in the Lone Star state, as he has recently trained for fights in his hometown of Riverside or in Big Bear, CA.
Whereas fighters have explained the positives of training in Big Bear or in their hometowns, Arreola was more than content to be out of California for this fight.
“To be honest, I (sic) hate Big Bear. The main difference with this training camp was that I did not have any car keys. I’m either in my room or at the gym. Or I walk to the theatre or store. I’m just happy to be in Houston.”
In his last fight in August, Arreola won a 12 round unanimous decision over Manuel Quezada. Arreola dropped Quezada three times in the fight to win in a lopsided fashion.
He will face Abell, who has won all but one of his 27 bouts by knockout. He is unbeaten in his last eight bouts, including a no contest, and has victories over fringe Heavyweights Galen Brown and Teke Oruh.
Whereas some might point out that Abell is from the Midwest circuit and has not faced as strong of opposition, Arreola is quick to dismiss that he is looking past Abell.
“He has a lot of amateur experience, over a 100 amateur fights. To me, that means he’s a smart fighter. He’s a lefty and he’s used to fighting big guys. I know that he is getting up for this against me. I’m sure this might be like the Quezada fight, where he’s going to have a lot of heart. You can’t take away a fighter’s heart.”
Much has been written and spoke about Arreola’s weight in recent fights. Arreola weighed in at 256 pounds for the Quezada fight, five and a half pounds more than when he fought Tomasz Adamek in April.
After hearing so much from critics and boxing writers about his weight, Arreola decided to take responsibility with regards to his weight. Sort of.
“When it comes to my weight, I see that everyone has their points. Some are wrong because they think it’s because of alcohol or drugs. My problem is food. I love to eat. I know I need to come in shape. My thing is I’m a pretty big guy. Before a weigh-in, I take off my shirt and people think that they have one on me because they see I’m fat. However, I do well in the ring and afterwards, no one says anything.”
Arreola has become popular because of his aggressive style and knockout victories over Israel Garcia, Travis Walker, and Jameel McCline. However, fight fans also saw Arreola lose to Adamek and to Vitali Klitschko in September of 2009.
Arreola understands that the road back to a title shot or a big money fight will take time. He is patiently waiting for his time to come, but knows that a defeat will set him back significantly.
He is eager to prove that he learned from his two defeats to Klitschko and Adamek. He no longer wants to use excuses or regret not accomplishing his goals of becoming the first world champion of Mexican descent.
“I have to earn my title shots. I know that I need to put on better performances. I just hope to fight four times this year and fight for a title at the end of the year or early next year. Not only do I have to win, I have to win impressively.”
“I need to get back into the spotlight. I do not want to take my talents and skills for granted. I’m done with using the words ‘would’ve,’ ‘should’ve,’ and ‘could’ve.’ I know that there is a lot of politics in boxing, but I would hope that a tournament is created for the heavyweight division. Just like in the 168-pound division.”
Win or loss, Arreola has always had a consistent fan base. Whether at STAPLES Center or at the Pechanga Resort and Casino, Arreola has a sense of being rewarded in having fans cheer his name when he fights.
“It feels great. When you have fans cheer for you, it brings a sense of pride over me. I just try to be like Timothy Bradley and do a great job in the ring and bring goods fights to the fans.”
Arreola may not be your typical heavyweight, but he definitely packs the fans into arenas. His gift of gab before and after fights is creative just as his aggressiveness in the ring.
He knows that Joey Abell is a dangerous fighter, but not someone he could not handle. The former high school basketball and football star at Ramona high school in Riverside is just eager to start 2011 in spectacular fashion.
“2010 was one of my worst years as a boxer. I just want 2011 to be one of the best. I’m going to work my ass off. Camp has been great. I just want to give fans what they want to see.”