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Avila Perspective, Chap. 58: The Journey of Chris Arreola and More

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  • Avila Perspective, Chap. 58: The Journey of Chris Arreola and More

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    By David A. Avila

    Chris Arreola knows this could be his final walk into the prize ring when he faces Adam Kownacki on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    It’s been 16 years since his pro debut and the circle of boxing is near completion.

    Arreola, 38, who quickly rose to fame from the California desert city of Riverside, knows all about victory, fame and defeat. He doesn’t want the journey to end.

    “Nothing negative against Adam Kownacki, he can knock me out and I can knock him out, we both know how to fight,” said Arreola. “We both just need a little opportunity to knock somebody out. Were both exciting fighters that put everything on the line.”

    In a battle that could be the end or the continuation of his career, Arreola (38-5-1, 33 KOs) battles Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs) who now lives in Brooklyn but is originally from Poland. They meet on Saturday. FOX will televise.

    During the turn of the 21st century the city of Riverside was quickly transitioning from a sleepy town more famous for citrus fruit, toward a refuge for Los Angeles residents seeking more affordable housing.

    The family of Arreola was one of these families that moved 60 miles from East Los Angeles to the growing town of Riverside near the 60-Freeway and 91-Freeway. Before World War II, Riverside was more defined by its many railroad crossings than freeways.

    Arreola was one of the dozen or so talented youngsters that saw boxing as a way to pass the time. Riverside’s closest mall on Central Avenue and Riverside Avenue was mostly avoided until it was rebuilt into the now bustling Riverside Plaza. Back in the 1990s kids like Arreola, Josesito Lopez and Henry Ramirez visited the Lincoln Gym. That was their refuge despite soaring temperatures in the summer.

    Those same kids and a few others helped spark a boxing revolution in the Inland Empire. It’s now an area that is home to several powerhouse boxing camps in Riverside, Indio, Big Bear and San Bernardino. That doesn’t include the many more boxing gyms that are scattered from Pomona to Coachella.

    As an amateur, Arreola was a tall skinny light heavyweight who caught the rest of America by surprise during a National Golden Gloves tournament in the early 2000s. He grabbed the championship by knocking everyone out.

    Arreola quickly grew into a heavyweight but Mexican heavyweights had never been a commodity. Though he packed a punch and was always entertaining, the promoters were wary about spending time and money on him.

    Even Thompson Boxing Promotions, a company famous for discovering hidden talent in the Inland Empire, passed on Arreola. They signed Josesito Lopez and took a flyer on Arreola.

    It was boxing scout Wes Crockett who urged Al Haymon to take a look at the Mexican heavyweight. He was subsequently signed by Goossen-Tutor Promotions and his career began to take off.

    Championship Potential

    Dan Goossen, the president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions, was always in pursuit of a heavyweight world champion. He stockpiled heavyweights hoping one would win a world title and help carry the company to the next level.

    Goossen also saw something in Arreola.

    Years ago during an informal press conference inside the Casa Vega Restaurant in the San Fernando Valley, the Southern California promoter Goossen whispered aside that Arreola was a promoter’s dream who possessed the gift of gab like Muhammad Ali.

    It was a quality you can’t teach.

    Early in Arreola’s pro career, mentor Andy Suarez, who trained fighters at the Lincoln Gym, worked the corner of Arreola and would point out the other Riverside fighters who had potential. He always saw championship quality in Arreola.

    Another who worked Arreola’s corner was Willie Schunke who served as the cut man and hand wrapper for years. He was a Native American so everyone called him “Indian Willie” to differentiate him from the other Willie in Riverside, a trainer named Willie Silva.

    Indian Willie built a gym on his hillside manor so that Arreola and Josesito Lopez could train there exclusively. It had the most spectacular views in the entire area. No boxing gym ever had a comparable panoramic view.

    Fighters like Mikey Garcia, Ronny Rios, Damian “Bolo” Wills, and even new WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz visited the hillside gym to spar in the gym with a breathtaking setting.

    On many occasions an old veteran boxing journalist named Bill O’Neill would trudge up and down the steep driveway to the gym to watch Arreola prepare for world title combat.

    O’Neill had covered boxing from the 1960s and was the foremost expert on the career of the great Jerry Quarry. He owned orange tree orchards and would often bring several bags of the largest and juiciest oranges you ever saw or tasted. He had seen many Mexican heavyweights pursue the world championship and always felt Arreola would one day grab the belt.

    First Title Shot

    Arreola first fought for the world title against Vitali Klitschko in 2009, but few believed he could defeat the Ukrainian giant at the time. He was 28 years old but still in a learning process. Yet, the fans flocked to the Staples Center in hopes of watching the crazy Mexican-American heavyweight capture lightning with a Mexican left hook.

    It didn’t happen but Arreola was still young.

    Perhaps the closest the Riverside heavyweight came to achieving his heavyweight title dreams was in May 2014 at the Galen Center at USC when he fought Bermane Stiverne for the second time on a Goossen Promotions card.

    “With Stiverne I was ready for that fight and ready to take that title,” said Arreola who was ahead on two score cards when Stiverne caught him with a knockout blow. “I was winning the fight.”

    It would be Goossen’s last heavyweight title fight card and also the last time anyone would see the beloved Southern California promoter. At the time very few were aware the gregarious promoter was suffering from cancer. Months later, Goossen would pass away.

    Other supporters of Arreola would pass away too.

    Back when Arreola first started his heavyweight journey his original trainer Andy Suarez died in 2006. Goossen passed away in September 2014, cut man Willie Schunke died in 2015 and journalist Bill O’Neil in 2018.

    All believed Arreola could be a heavyweight world champion when he started boxing professionally in 2003.

    Hilltop Gym

    Those memories of Arreola training in that hilltop gym as Schunke and O’Neill discussed boxing history and the old days remain permanently etched in the minds of everyone who was there. Or the lunches held at Sisley’s Italian Kitchen in Sherman Oaks at the foot of the office building that Goossen called headquarters.

    Maybe that’s why Arreola chose to train with Joe Goossen the brother of the late great promoter Dan Goossen.

    “The reason I went with Joe Goossen, I’ve known Joe for many years ever since the Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales fight,” said Arreola on Goossen who trained Corrales for that epic fight in 2005. “I’ve always wanted to keep it in the family. He’s old school, very old school. He is very methodical every minute of training camp. It was a great experience.”

    Or maybe it was an attempt to rekindle moments from the past, those unbreakable ties and memories like Indian Willie’s two bull dogs “Sherman” and “Tank” who passed away during a scorching Riverside heat wave. The two canines would often scurry around the gym licking the small children who entered the boxing facility including Arreola’s then young daughter. Or perhaps it was listening to O’Neill describe some of the battles Jerry Quarry had with little known heavyweights like George “Scrap Iron” Johnson who was small but fearsome.

    Some moments are more valuable than championship belts.

    “If I lose there’s no reason to be in the sport of boxing, I’m too old to be doing that. It’s a win or go home thing,” said Arreola. “I know Adam worked his head off to get me out of this sport of boxing but I’m not ready to go home.”

    On Saturday, the Riverside heavyweight looks to continue the journey of a thousand memories.

    Boxing Notes

    Roy Englebrecht Events presents a boxing card at the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. on Saturday. Aug. 3.

    A number of gifted prospects including Michael Norato and Triantafyllos Mavidis are ready to perform in separate bouts at the casino located off the 605-Freeway.

    Englebrecht has been providing boxing shows for decades and also teaches a class on the art of promoting.

    Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information call (949) 760-3131 or go to this link:

    Ramirez-Hooker Another FOY Candidate

    Several recent fights have propelled boxing to another level including last week’s super lightweight unification world title fight between Jose Carlos Ramirez and Maurice Hooker. It’s definitely a candidate for Fight of the Year.

    It was also one of those rare instances when two world champions crossed over to other media realms to challenge each other.

    Top Rank’s Ramirez who holds the WBC super lightweight title was allowed to crossover from ESPN to DAZN to challenge WBO titlist Hooker in Arlington, Texas. What transpired was an incredible battle between two equally talented fighters in a fight that lasted six incredible rounds.

    It was breathtaking while it lasted.

    Ramirez won by knockout but until that final moment no one knew who would ultimately win.

    “It just wasn’t my night,” said Hooker. “Ramirez is a great fighter, but it was his time. I’ll be back and better than ever in my next fight - I can tell you that.”

    Cheers to both media outlets for allowing the fight to happen and for the rival promotion company’s willingness to work with each other.

    Fights to Watch

    Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 5:30 p.m. PT - Erik Walker (18-2) vs Jose Abreu (14-5).

    Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. PT – Eva Wahlstrom (22-1-1) vs Ronica Jeffrey (17-1).

    Fri. Telemundo 11:35 p.m. PT – Yomar Alamo (16-0) vs Salvador Briceno (16-4).

    Sat. ESPN+ 2 p.m. PT – Michael Conlan (11-0) vs Diego Alberto Ruiz (21-2).

    Sat. FOX 6 p.m. PT – Chris Arreola (38-5-1) vs Adam Kownacki (19-0).

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Whatever weight “The Nightmare” comes in at, he should not be taken lightly given what Andy Ruiz did to Anthony Joshua. Boxing fans now know that looks can be deceiving as the variables of hand speed, stamina, techniques, and ring IQ become more relevant than muscle mass, an issue that this time around will be moot.

    Kownacki has been somewhat derided for his Pillsbury doughboy physique with his size seeming to get larger in the lower parts of his body, thus giving him that aforementioned schmoo-like look that older fans will recall from the 50s and 60s. Nevertheless, he has a super-exciting, fan-friendly style. He keeps coming and coming, initiating the stalk at the opening bell, wearing down his opponents with a high punch volume and deceptive power.

    His last outing against a panicking Gerald Washington was a blowout, but prior to that he fought a tremendous action fight against Prince Charles Martin which he won over 10 close rounds. While he showed a great chin and tenacity in this one, there were signs that he was tiring late, thus raising the specter of stamina.

    Like Arreola, "Babyface" was an accomplished amateur. He spars a lot with Jarrell Miller—the two are close friends—and he fights in a similar manner except that his shots seem to carry more pop than Big Baby’s.

    Nonetheless, "Babyface" will end Chris's career.


    • #3
      this is a fight where i hate to see either guy lose ...both guys are my kinda no-nonsense fighters who are not into excuse making's a given that who ever wins the loser is gonna give props to the victor ..and vice versa..that being said I have to go with my heart and pick an in shape Chris for the win by TKO


      • Kid Blast
        Kid Blast commented
        Editing a comment
        Chris attacks early and many of his stoppages come early, but this guy seems to have a granite chin. At any rate, it's a much anticipated fight for me. Can't wait.

    • #4
      Was a great fight! I remember almost every detail.
      Anyway, did you know
      Chris plays this casino Maybe it is just a gossip, but who knows...


      • #5
        Oh, I've already saw this post here