Boxing


Arreola and Chambers: Enter the American Heavyweight’s

By P.H. Burbridge - The trials and tribulations of the American Heavyweight! Lately, America has been on the ropes when it comes to heavyweight contenders. We’ve taken a back seat to the Eastern Europeans who currently dominate the division. In America our best athletes are now opting for sports such as football and basketball. In those sports if you show some proficiency as a young man you’ll at least get to go to college.. Boxing doesn’t work that way. There was a time in America when colleges did offer boxing scholarships but those days are long gone. These days our best young athletes are opting to go to school and focusing on making millions of dollars as a pro football or basketball player. That just seems like a wiser decision than getting hit in the face with the very real likelihood of ending up with nothing to show for it. For a boxer aside from requiring major talent to be successful you also need a certain amount of luck.

You have to be lucky enough to end up with the right promoter who has enough influence to get you a title shot. AND then winning the championship requires a whole other slew of miracles to take place. When you consider the number of fighters worldwide who set out to win a championship compared to the number of championship belts that are out there you quickly realize that the odds are stacked against you. Plus you factor in the politics and bureaucracy of professional boxing and it just doesn’t seem like the most practical option if you’re an athlete. Boxing is full of stories of guys who were the “next big thing” but for one reason or another just never got their shot. Sometimes it was due to bad management or promotional sabotage or incompetence or just plain getting screwed by their manager. Suffice it to say that just having talent in professional boxing isn’t enough. You need to be with the right people and knowing who the right people are isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world because there are a lot of bad people hustling their way through a career in our sport. That’s one of the reasons why very few young American athletes take the boxing seriously. Boxing has a reputation which goes all the way back to its beginning when fights took place in clandestine locations and money was made on side bets. The mob connection, fixed fights and unexplainable or unethical sanctioning body rankings are what we’re best known for. Some of those same elements are still with us today albeit in a more sophisticated manner. We suffer from a perception problem and for a lot of regular type folks perception is reality. Parents are not allowing their kids to fight and opting for more organized team sports. Ones with an education tied to it. As a consequence we have seen fewer and fewer elite level American athletes go through the amateur programs and emerge as that special heavyweight fighter. Very few of today’s American heavyweights have that “natural” athletic ability. No one has that truly great hand speed or phenomenal balance or amazing hand eye coordination. It’s just not there. Those guys are running routes in the NFL or flying from the baseline to the hoop in the NBA. So, we’re left with some tough guys who are good fighters but who lack that certain physical prowess or mastery. Maybe in the coming generation we’ll get another freak of nature like a Muhammad Ali or a young Mike Tyson but at this point in time it’s just not there.

In a sense our best athletes have moved on. In the mean time fighters from other parts of the world have improved at the professional level and are now fighting under the big top. We used to own the big top! It’s a big adjustment for us to make and we haven’t been all that graceful in making it. American boxing writers explain this shift in dominance by saying that boxing is going through a dry spell and that the division is “weak” or devoid of a “real champion”. Rather than just acknowledging a group of fighters who simply work harder than our fighters do in the gym not to mention in their fights. That’s real the story. Aside from Wladimir Klitschko who actually does have true athletic gifts the rest of the Eastern European field can’t really boast all that much prowess and mastery of their own. It’s their work ethic and commitment to the goal that make them formidable. There isn’t this huge gap in raw physical talent between those guys and our guys. But, in the gym there is. If our top guys were equally as dedicated as their Eastern European counterparts then I’m positive the landscape would look quite differently.

Cristobal “The Nightmare” Arreola (27-0, 24 KO’s) and “Fast” Eddie Chambers (34-1, 18 KO’s) are the top two American heavyweights on the scene today. And Dan Goossen’s got them both. Each is very talented and YOUNG. They reside on opposite ends of the fistic spectrum stylistically but both share the same barren American stage. Whether people like it or agree with it these two fighters have emerged as elite heavyweights. They also share a common criticism. Criticism brought on by their physical appearance. Arreola is accused of having the talent but not the commitment which is reflected in his weight and the smaller Chambers is accused of maintaining an artificial weight to compete at heavyweight rather than in the more appropriate cruiserweight division. Neither guy is a threat to be on the cover of a fitness magazine. But, the good news is that they both can fight and have the right attitudes about their careers. In the ring, Arreola reminds me a little of Sonny Liston and Chambers reminds me a little of Ezzard Charles. Arreola hurts his opponents with everything he lands and you can see the desire to win slowly disappear from their faces the longer they’re in there with him.

Chambers opponents get that same look on their faces but for a different reason. His opponents get tired of missing and being slapped in the process.

In today’s heavyweight smorgasbord Eddie Chambers’ defensive skills put him in a class all by himself. Currently ranked #5 by the WBC, Chambers is on the rise. There’s not another elite heavyweight who can match his defensive wizardry. You want proof? Go check the top 10 rankings for ANY sanctioning body at heavyweight and tell me who is better defensively than Eddie Chambers. I already know the answer. No body! The dilemma for Fast Eddie is obvious. He’s a small heavyweight who doesn’t bring much power. Against the larger heavy’s he’s going to have difficulty if he maintains his current weight because it’s hampering his movement. He’s carrying “bad” weight. I’ve said this before but Eddie has no problem from the waist up. He can stand right in front of you and make you miss all night long. The problem is his lack of foot movement and that will be his undoing against the larger champions. He’s adept at staying in punching range and making opponents miss with a shoulder roll or that lean back move of his and then countering. He’s outstanding at it. He’s got that old school style that purists should love. But in today’s heavyweight mosh pit his future opponents will be giants and some of those maneuvers will not work because of their tremendous reach. He’s going to have to move and box for full 12 rounds if he’s to be successful. He’ll need to move in and out and utilize greater lateral movement against those guys. He showed flashes of it against Samuel Peter but beating a 6’ 2” Peter is one thing and finishing a fight on your feet against 6’ 6” ½ Wladimir is something all together else. You don’t need knockout power if you have the motor and the wheels to get in land your shots and then get out. Hit and don’t be hit is the name of the game. That’s the type of fighter Chambers is but he can’t win without better lateral movement. That’s issue number one.

Issue number two is the mental aspect of the game. He should have beaten Povetkin. He has the talent but just didn’t execute his game plan and allowed Povetikin to dictate the pace of their fight from about the 5th round on. Chambers landed right hand after right hand early and then just stopped. He didn’t appear outwardly fatigued so the obvious conclusion is that it was physiological. He demonstrated the ability to out maneuver and out punch Povetkin but then everything just ceased. You must always fight your fight and do the things you know you can do. You can never take your foot off the gas. You condition your body and your mind to win every exchange. A fight is won one exchange at a time and against Povetkin, Chambers had a breakdown of sorts. Maybe he was worried about having enough to finish the full 12 rounds or maybe he was just having difficulty solving the Povetkin puzzle. Which to be honest isn’t that much of a puzzle. Povetkin just works harder than his opponents. Chambers sure looked like he had all the answers. Whatever it was he just didn’t execute. Many great fighters have lost on the way up. Joe Louis was knocked out before he became champion. In Chambers case he didn’t get destroyed or embarrassed and I think the loss will actually make him better long term. At the end of the day he now knows first hand what can happen when you don’t maintain your mental focus in a fight. On the physical side he must remove the spare tire and turn those pounds into muscle around his neck, shoulders and arms. He must increase his lateral movement. If he can do that then I think Eddie Chambers can be a force and potentially win a championship. He’s listed at 6’ 1” but I doubt he’s actually that tall. He’s probably closer to 6’ but that won’t be a deal breaker because if boxing history has taught us anything it’s that a great boxer can out land a bigger opponent if his timing is right.

In Chambers case the stars will all have to align for him to be successful. Outside of the ring he’s an intelligent young man who represents himself well and is a great spokesman for our sport. He just delivered a terrific win over Samuel Peter and that’s a sign that his career is back on track. I do expect him to keep busy and stay sharp by fighting another name opponent. Lately he’s been calling out Nikolai Valuev but that fight won’t happen because NV is tied up with Ruslan Chagaev and probably will be for the rest of the year. I think Chambers matches up well against either one of those fighter and hope that his team can line up a match with the winner of that fight. I think Rulsan has the edge in that rematch.

He absolutely matches up well with the 6’ 1” Chagaev and should Ruslan emerge victorious against Valuev and Dan Goossen can arrange this fight I’m positive “Fast’ Eddie Chambers will win the WBA title!

Chris Arreola’s situation is completely different than Chambers. After last Saturday’s destruction of Jameel “Big Time” McCline, Arreola is now ranked #1 by the WBC. The #1 contender for Vitali Klitschko’s crown. Vitali has already publicly stated that he would like to fight Arreola and would even do it in L.A. The stage has been set. In my opinion, Vitali is the Klitschko who Arreola matches up best with. Arreola looked awesome Saturday night and his baseball pitch right hand seems to get harder every time out. He just walked the bigger McCline down and it only took 4 rounds which was a huge surprise to me. I thought Jameel would extend him. Obviously, the McCline of 2009 is not the same durable fighter we’ve seen in the past. But, that only slightly diminishes Arreola’s accomplishment. Even at this stage people just don’t walk him down. Chris did. Frankly, when the fight ended it appeared that Arreola was just getting in to his groove. I think he had much more in store for McCline and could have increased the pace. The offensive tools are there and it’s clear that he’s a SERIOUS threat to Vitali. Vitali’s fight with Sam Peter was impressive but it was against a one dimensional fighter who doesn’t approach Arreola skill-wise. Don’t get me wrong neither one is Muhammad Ali but Arreola absolutely has the better tools. My concern with Vitali comes from his most recent fight where he took a number of clean shots early from Juan Carlos Gomez. He allowed Gomez to get on the inside almost at will which is a bad sign. He can’t allow Arreola to get inside because Chris throws hard to the body and is rough in clinches. Vitali’s best shot is to keep the fight on the outside. So, that’s the million dollar question. Can Vitali maintain his distance and keep Arreola spinning? If he does then he’ll win this fight. Personally I don’t think he can and will eventually be overtaken by Arreola’s pressure and rough tactics. He’ll be 38 by the time this fight happens and he has all the signs of a fighter in the beginning stages of decline. His reflexes have slowed ever so slightly and that was made obvious by the shots he took against Gomez. I don’t think VK can take those shots from Arreola and if Chris doesn’t knock him down or out I’m inclined to believe that VK’s face will not hold up to the battering which could lead to a TKO. This may be the fight where Vitali get’s old before our eyes.

The thing that concerns me most about Arreola is the obvious opening for the straight right hand. Chris still needs to shore up his jab by snapping it out and bringing it back to guard position immediately. His head movement was better in this fight but he still shows a tendency to range find with his jab in kind of a pawing motion and leaving himself open for the straight right hand. Jameel was close with it but never landed right on the button. In one sequence Jameel actually fired at that opening and hit Chris with his elbow. Arreola took that elbow with no problem which tells you something about his chin. But, Jameel’s not Vitali. Vitali has an excellent right hand and he is very accurate. In one sequence in the McCline fight Chris looked a little stunned by a left hook that he took coming in. It was enough for him to slow the pace for just a second before regaining his composure and getting back to work. You never going to go through a fight and not get hit so all in all it was an excellent performance. It showed that Chris is getting better with every outing and is at an all time high confidence-wise. He should be.

I think Vitali is perfect for Arreola. I don’t think VK is fast enough at his stage to get out of Chris’ way or will be able to absorb his power punches for an entire fight. In flashes against McCline, Chris showed some terrific combination punching and again proved his power is world class. He knocked out a man who has been TKO’d but rarely off his feet. It was a message to anyone who doubted his ability to hurt a really big heavyweight.

If Arreola does beat Vitali as I expect he will write a new chapter in the history of boxing by being the first fighter of Mexican ancestry to win a heavyweight championship. It’s a big deal for Mexican and Mexican-American fans.

Trust me it is and it’s clear from Larry Merchant’s comments that HBO is firmly behind Chris Arreola and may be looking at him as the heir apparent to Oscar De La Hoya.

With HBO’s help Cristobal“The Nightmare” Arreola will become the most famous and marketable fighter on the planet and America will re-emerge as a force once again on the world stage!

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

Article posted on 17.04.2009



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