Arreola stands at 6'4”, 230-plus pounds, with a 77-inch reach. Now that's one scary Mexican; especially if you’re standing in the opposite corner of the ring. Cristobal comes from boxing stock. His father was a fighter right here in California. In fact, he boxed out of Hoover St. Gym, at one point; under trainer Hector Rodriguez, so it's not surprising that Arreola has evolved into what he has become: boxing's next heavyweight contender. More than that, boxing's first real Mexican heavyweight contender. His rise has been historic, not entirely meteoric, but evolving accuracy; largely due to the guidance of Dan Goossen of Goossen-Tutor Promotions and manager Al Haymon.
An animated, good-natured voice came through my cell today. It was Chris Arreola, “The Nightmare.” I was immediately aware of the confident and relaxed nature of this guy. You could hear the years of experience he has had in boxing gyms, and no doubt life itself, in his voice.
Margherita Valenti: You turned pro in 2003, shortly after you missed the cut-off time to register for the 2003 National Golden Gloves Championships (Arreola started boxing at 8 years old. By 16, he had about 120 amateur fights, then didn't fight again until he was 20. After just three months of training, he won the 2001 National Golden Gloves Championship at light heavy, against Dallas Vargas, who had 300 fights at the time. After another break from boxing, he turned pro *) Most fighters grow up aspiring to be world champions. Was that the case with you?
Chris Arreola: I always thought, growing up, I wanted to turn pro. My dream has always been to become a world champion. I grew up in east L.A. I saw guys like Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya (at the Resurrection Boxing Gym which is now the De La Hoya Boxing Gym; where Arreola trained as a youth) come into gyms, talk with kids and sign autographs, take pictures with them, spend time with them. I liked that. Julio Cesar Chavez was always so down to earth and humble.
MV: One of your exclusive endorsement deals is with Dethrone Royalty INC; which is very fitting considering some of the fighters you have defeated: Damian Wills (son of Mark Wills and Arreola’s HBO debut), Chazz Witherspoon (son of Tim Witherspoon), Travis Walker (Golden Gloves champion), and Jameel McCline (tough journeyman and former WBO/NABO heavyweight titlist (former WBC heavyweight titlist Sam Peter had a lot of trouble with him when they fought. Peter also went down in that fight). Did you expect a KO (over McCline)?
CA: A fight's a fight.
MV: Where do you see yourself on the heavyweight ladder a few years down the road?
CA: I just think about fighting, to keep fighting, keep winning. Each fight brings me one step closer to becoming a world champion.
MV: Cristobal Arreola is a name in the heavyweight division, a true contender and an exciting and dangerous fighter to watch. You would be the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent in boxing history. How do you feel about that?
CA: It makes me proud. I never thought I would be a heavyweight, I thought a middle, super middle, light heavy even. But not a heavyweight...becoming the first Latino heavyweight champion would open a lot of doors for a lot of people in my community (Editor’s note: former two-time WBA heavyweight titlist John Ruiz is recognized as the first actual Latino heavyweight titlist; being of Puerto Rican descent. If Arreola wins on September 26, he will be the first heavyweight titlist of Mexican descent). It would give people more pride and encourage them to try to become what they want – to try. I want to show other Latino fighters coming up that they can do it too.
MV: Did you develop your fighting style in your amateur career or was it something you came into after you turned pro?
CA: I have always fought like this. I fought like this my whole career.
MV: You are a young and talented fighter. You have a nice overhand right and hook, nice combinations and your defense is deceptive. Your opponents think you’re not a defensive-minded fighter, but you have quick head movement and hands. You move well.
CA: I'm not just a one punch KO (artist). I always throw punches in combinations. I look to set up my shots. I like counterpunching, slipping, sometimes a dip. I think all the years of practice and experience in the amateurs and gyms, sparring with guys a lot older and bigger than me when I was just 13, gave me invaluable lessons. So many years of training, always in the gym… It's not easy (laughs)! Sometimes I would fight five different guys in one tournament (amateur career)! That's five different styles. I am very comfortable in the ring. Those experiences were really important.”
MV: Where do you want to see yourself in the lineage of heavyweight champions?
CA: I will be in the history books. I will win the title.
MV: You are fighting Vitali Klitschko on September 26 at The Staples Center for the WBC heavyweight championship. What will you bring to the ring that his last opponents didn't?
I also spoke with Henry Ramirez, trainer of Cristobal Arreola, whom Arreola has said was “always giving guys confidence and I liked that. I had other trainers but they didn't fit my style.” *
MV: Where did you and Arreola first meet?
Henry Ramirez: At a boxing gym in Riverside, CA. The Lincoln Boxing Gym. I was an assistant to the late Andy Suarez (His son, Mark Suarez fought for the vacant IBF welterweight title; but lost to Kermit Cintron) and worked with a lot of amateurs as well as some pro fighters. That's where I first met Chris. We had a lot of the same friends. We would go out to clubs, hanging out, and on one of those nights, Chris and I got into a conversation and he says to me, “I want you and Andy to train me.” Originally, I wanted Andy Suarez to train him and I would assist, but Andy got too busy and here we are eight years later!
MV: How is the new camp going (Arreola is training in Van Nuys, CA for the fight with Klitschko, from the second week of August up until the fight, with new strength and conditioning coach Darrell Hudson. Hudson has worked with Shane Mosley, Winky Wright and Chad Dawson. He usually trains exclusively in a private gym in Riverside, CA, where he resides.)?
HR: It's going great! We've been going a week and a half, two weeks now, kicking into gear. It's going really good. Very happy.
MV: What are your thoughts on this upcoming fight?
HR: Excited! Chris gets the chance to make history. He gets a shot at becoming the first heavyweight of Mexican heritage to become a world champion. We're very happy about being given this opportunity. It's a tall mountain to climb and we're ready. Chris is very motivated.
“This is the fight of my life”, says Arreola.
He's right. This is a pivotal and career-changing fight. Vitali Klitschko has fought the best heavyweights in the world and has, most times, come out on top. He has a solid chin, as was apparent in the 2003 Lennox Lewis fight. His style differs from his brother IBF/WBO heavyweight champ Wladimir. Vitali has a long reach and tends to throw punches at odd angles. He is strong and very aggressive and has a world of experience that he brings into the ring with him. Arreola is as aware of his defense and countering as he is of his potent offensive game. He has a chin too. Nice combinations, coupled with a devastating overhand right. The power is there and at 6'4”, 230-plus pounds. It is very real and it has dropped some notable opponents. Arreola is young but has a lot of experience in the ring. The best thing about Cristobal Arreola is that he is so relaxed in the ring. I think his conditioning will play a big part in him winning this fight.
(*quoted from Wikipedia.org: Cristobal Arreola)
Cristobal Arreola: Living On Dreams
Cristobal “The Nightmare” Arreola
27-0 (24 KO)
Date of birth: March 5, 1981
Hometown: Riverside, CA.
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA.