The Nightmare Diary: Blood In Blood Out!

By P.H. Burbridge - For the much maligned and often misunderstood #1 ranked heavyweight in the world, Cristobal “The Nightmare” Arreola the time has come. Time for a new beginning. All the preparation has been completed and now he’s simply managing his mental focus leading into what most people believe is a suicide mission. His critics have been out in full force pointing out every perceived flaw while dismissing all the positive reports that came out of his training camp and playing up rumors of his continued lack of commitment. “He doesn’t have enough world class experience!” “If Walker knocked him down what do you think Vitali will do to him?” “He still looks overweight!.” That’s pretty much what you’ve been hearing or variations of that. Has Arreola opened himself up for all this stuff? Yeah, no carefully guarded secret there. Will he ever be free of this criticism? Probably not! At least not completely. Boxing fans can be the most loyal in the world but at the same time they can be as fickle as hell. No one dismisses an athlete faster than boxing fans. They turn their backs on fighters all the time and there’s a segment of the population who enjoys a fighters decline just as much as they enjoyed his ascension. As a fighter you can’t think about that stuff. You put in an effort that you can be proud of and you try to learn. That’s all.

Klitschko - ArreolaFighting for a living can be humbling!

The fight with Vitali Klitschko represents Arreola’s opportunity to legitimatize his status and make a statement on the world stage that he’s for real. His focus and dedication leading into THIS fight has been exactly what you would expect from a world class fighter. Remember they were a substitute and prior to this agreement Arreola and team were aiming for Oleg Maskaev in October. If this fight was in October chances are Arreola WOULD have made it down to 245. They did the best they could in the time that they had. The fact that they landed this fight is a testament that he’s got the right people in the right paces to make a huge impact in this sport. His career has been handled beautifully from promotional standpoint. Dan Goossen and Al Haymon have skillfully guided him through the often confusing and nonsensical business of boxing right to a heavyweight championship match. Haymon is known for his rolodex and Goossen is known for spotting talent early. His trainer, Henry Ramirez has brought him along as only he could while displaying incremental growth fight after fight. The reason I make that statement is because Ramirez is also the only guy Arreola listens to. Their relationship has been scrutinized because at 33 years of age Ramirez is not much older than the 28 year old Arreola. But, a victory Saturday night will establish Henry Ramirez as one of the best young trainers in the business.

The proof will be Arreola himself!

For any trainer, he would have been a massive challenge. The kid’s a free spirit and say the wrong thing or ask the wrong question and you might find yourself alone in the gym. To get him to the track took a great deal of tact and patience. For Ramirez, he knows he has a talented fighter but he also knows that Arreola doesn’t live a conventional fighter’s life style. So, what do you do? You try to skillfully navigate your way through the situation by extracting the best you can get from your man. We’re not talking about Arreola’s level of commitment here. We’re talking about Henry Ramirez’s dilemma. Now, Ramirez could have walked away a long time ago with a line trainers like to use a lot, “come back when you’re serious!” But, he didn’t and made a commitment of his own by embarking on this bumpy ride. Arreola and Ramirez have developed an older – younger brother relationship that has brought them to the brink of history. This is their first try at a world title and regardless of the outcome they’re both going to emerge from this experience better than when they entered. This is only partially about attempting to make history. It’s also about restoring American heavyweights to a place of prominence in the sport and gaining world class experience while you’re doing it. Afterwards they’ll be able to make a true assessment of where they stand and where they must go.

Is this too soon for Arreola to fight for a title? I don’t think so. It’s no secret that I think he has the skill set required to win the championship and all he as to do is execute. But for some they would have liked to seen him in with a higher caliber opponent before challenging for the title. It’s hard to argue against that but the bottom line is that you DON’T turn down an offer to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. You just DON’T do it! If the champion expresses some interest in defending against you and you’re of the required ranking then you fight. Period! Any fighter who would turn down that opportunity would be crucified in the press and ridiculed by fans. It would be a bad career move to say the least. Well, Team Arreola wasn’t about to make that mistake and they chose to jump in where David Haye decided to jump out! I agree with that strategy. This is a win-win for Arreola. He and his team know they have a better chance than people are giving them plus this is the experience people are always accusing him of lacking. Depending on who you speak to he’ll be challenging either the best or second best heavyweight in the world.

The stage has been set. Everybody has done their job and now it’s time to capitalize.

It’s pretty obvious what a win will do. Arreola has a built in fan base amongst boxing’s largest consumer base, Latino fans and they’re dying to anoint him as king of the box office if he can pull this off. The sky will open if he wins and he’ll be busy fighting Klitschko’s for the next 12-18 months. If the fight is close then Vitali will undoubtedly want a rematch. If things end badly for VK next on deck is little brother, Wladimir and THAT fight would turn back the clock and remind us of the Mike Tyson blockbusters of the late 80’s. Ridiculous money! Intrusive fame and all the other trappings that come along with it. Good and bad.

But you KNOW Vitali won’t be going quietly. He’s popping up on more people’s GOAT lists these days and for good reason. He’s a dangerous fighter.

So, what happens if Chris loses? That depends on how he loses. If he has his moments and experiences some successes but drops a decision this fight will be a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Dan Goossen will re-tool his narrative and Chris will become one of the staples and remain in the top 5. He can STILL become the 1st fighter of Mexican ancestry to wear the championship but it just won’t be now. Vitali lost on his way up and so did Wladimir not to mention countless others including the great Joe Louis. Look at what they did after their defeats. Chris could enjoy a similar fate if he stays committed to his current regimen. He’s done the right thing by bringing in an experienced Strength and Conditioning Coach like Daryl Hudson and along with Henry Ramirez they have the nucleus for a long term winning team. Things are starting to fall into place and Arreola’s stock will continue to rise over the next 3-4 years IF he starts living the life of a dedicated top tier prize fighter.

Once this fight is over no one will ever again accuse him of lacking world class experience. But the question is what will he do with it? If Chris is knocked out in this fight his road will be much tougher and he’ll have fewer believers. The expectations will be lower. The volume of his past sins will reach a deafening roar for a short while but eventually he and Henry will be left alone to have some important discussions. The questions they’ll ask themselves are “what could we have done to be better?”, “What changes need to be made to get to that level?” and the biggest one of all “do we want to continue?” There’s no short answers to any of those questions except for the last one and I’m fairly confident Arreola will answer that one in the affirmative! He’s a natural fighter and at this age I think it’s highly unlikely that he’ll simply move on. Anything is possible but I wouldn’t bet on that scenario.

How he responds to those other two questions will define the second half of his career. But, even before they’ve traded one punch Vitali Klitschko has brought out the best in Chris Arreola. This is the most serious we’ve ever seen him and a lot of people definitely like what they see including me.

So, it’s your time now Arreola fight fans can forgive a loss but they can’t forgive a poor performance.

Preparing for this fight has been all about the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put in.

And, Saturday night will be about how much you can take out!

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

Article posted on 24.09.2009

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