Round by Round: Weekly Boxing Notes

The Mexican Nightmare Faces the Big Time
↵March Madness is officially over and consequently, come tomorrow night, the marquee fights head back into the ring, as the Paul Williams vs. Winky Wright bout headlines tomorrow night’s HBO card. ↵

↵For my breakdown, and prediction, on that curious affair, check out my preview piece over at No Mas. Here I want to turn my attention to the primary undercard bout, which features a nearly extinct breed -- an American heavyweight with legitimate title aspirations. ↵

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↵That would be Chris Arreola, who is not only that unlikely American heavyweight contender, but also an even more unlikely specimen, a heavyweight of Mexican descent. You think of the great Mexican and Mexican-American fighters, you think of the little guys, the lightweights and welters, Salvador Sanchez, Ruben Olivares, Marco Antonio Barrera and, of course, the king, Julio Cesar Chavez. ↵

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↵You do not think of a gigantic burrito-eating machine with man-boobs. And yet, that is Arreola, and don’t let his, dah, unsculpted physique fool you. The man is strong as an ox, and he can seriously bang. ↵

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↵As far as the title aspirations go, Arreola’s name has been in the Wladimir Klitschko sweepstakes for about a year now. Tomorrow night the self-proclaimed Mexican Nightmare makes a huge step-up in competition and a possible step towards that Klitschko showdown when he faces off against a man who is at least the physical equal of Wlad, the 6’6”, 270 Big Time Jameel McCline. ↵

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↵While he’s faced most of the big names on the heavyweight landscape and fought three times for a share of the heavyweight title, McCline has never beaten a significant opponent. In other words, he’s a very big mountain of a trial horse, and one who has paved the way to the Klitschkos before. Calvin Brock’s KO of McCline in 2005 was an essential attention-getter in his march towards an HBO-headliner bout with Wlad Klitschko at Madison Square Garden in 2006. And Sam Peter’s (very ugly) unanimous decision over McCline in October of 2007 led him to a WBC title fight with Oleg Maskaev and then Vitali Klitschko last October. ↵

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↵The reasoning is clear. McCline, while nowhere near the class of the Klitschkos (Wlad stopped him in 10 in 2002) is at least Klitschko-sized. If Arreola can bang with a man this big, he proves that he can at the very least handle the sheer muscle of the Klitschko experience in the ring. ↵

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↵Myself, though, I have few doubts about Arreola’s ability to handle the muscle end of the equation. In fact, it’s the muscle part that he seems to have down pat. The skill is where he seems to be wanting. His last bout with Travis Walker, an athletic but very raw journeyman, had to fill any observer with doubts who was thinking that Arreola might prove a threat to either of the Brothers K. Check it out below -- you won’t be disappointed: ↵

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↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
↵Now that was, as are just about all of Arreola’s fights, exhilarating. But much as I love the grip-it-and-rip-it, I-hit-you-you-hit-me approach for sheer thrill points, a fighter who is expecting to face off with a Klitschko in the next year or so should NOT be getting summarily tagged, let alone dropped, by the likes of Travis Walker. Arreola came into this thing out of shape and over-confident, and for a round and a half he had Walker looking like the reincarnation of Evander Holyfield. In fact, Arreola is really lucky that Walker has no idea what he’s doing in there, because with a little patience on in that second round, he could have been in serious trouble. ↵

↵But look, Arreola has admitted openly that he wasn’t in shape for Walker, that he wasn’t motivated. He wanted a big name, he said, and when he didn’t get it, he got lazy. The guy is a great personality and eminently likable, not to mention honest to a fault. He is who he is, and that’s a big part of his appeal. ↵

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↵But he also has a great amateur background and in spurts has shown real boxing IQ in the ring. He’s made a name for himself thus far by pounding his opponents into oblivion and he’s gotten away with it cause he’s very strong and accurate with his punches. But the Walker fight showed how that approach can backfire on you when it’s not your night, and one thing is for sure -- if he goes into the ring with Wlad K. looking to bowl him over with a bunch of wide-angled megaton bombs, it will not be his night. Italso will not be a very long night. Klitschko is incredibly strong also, let’s not forget. The guy’s jab is the equivalent of a lot of heavyweight’s straight right hands. What’s more, Wlad has skills. Manny Steward has done a number on him. There would be a chance that Arreola might get lucky on him with an Oliver McCall/Lennox Lewis eyes-closed special, but that chance is so slim as to be infinitesimal. ↵

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↵No, if Chris Arreola is going to fulfill his potential and actually threaten Wlad Klitschko, he’s going to have to get in great shape, and he’s going to have to fight smart. I fully believe he has the capacity to do both of those things. But will he? Well, as the past has shown us, Jameel McCline is a great place to start the job. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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