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There are a lot of couldas, wouldas and shouldas when it comes to Chris Arreola’s career. As he heads into a pay-per-view bout on Saturday against former heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. in Carson, California, Arreola carries a 38-6-1 record with 33 knockouts.
He’s been one of the most exciting, and most fun, heavyweights of his generation.
But that’s not enough. It’s not enough when you’re as talented as Arreola, when you have the kind of talent that others only dream of having.
It’s been good, but yeah, it hasn’t been all that it can be.
“There’s no sense living in the past,” Arreola told Yahoo Sports. “... I have to move forward. I can’t live in the past, but I hope I’ve learned from it and that that will help me enjoy the future.”
He’s 40 now, and the finish line is in sight, win or lose against Ruiz (-2500 favorite at BetMGM) on Saturday. He’s only ranked in the Top 15 by one of the four sanctioning bodies, and he’s just eighth by the WBA, a spot behind Charles Martin and one ahead of Agit Kabayel.
He’s 0-3 in heavyweight title fights. He was an undefeated 28-year-old when he was stopped by Vitali Klitschko in 2009. He was stopped by Bermane Stiverne in 2014 in what was his late promoter Dan Goossen’s final fight before he tragically died, and he was stopped by Deontay Wilder in 2016.
He loved to fight and he could punch, but he also loved to laugh and joke, chug a few beers and enjoy his family, friends and food, and not always in that order.
So while his career has largely been successful, he’s been haunted by the fact that it could have been so much more. That second loss to Stiverne, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on the USC campus, particularly haunts him.
He had an extraordinarily close relationship with Goossen, who constantly raved about him. The colorful and charismatic Goossen loved fighters with big personalities, and he acted like Arreola was his adopted son. And he believed in Arreola so completely.
After Arreola was stopped by Stiverne on May 10, 2014, Goossen turned ill and died of cancer about four months later. That loss sticks in Arreola’s craw.
“It makes me sad to think that that was Dan’s last fight because I came up short in what I wanted to accomplish,” Arreola said. “There have been a lot of people who believed in me that I feel I let down. Dan Goossen is definitely one of those. West Crockett is another. My [late] cut man [Willie Schunke]. Dan was behind me all the way, and I feel I owe it to him and all those others in my life who have believed in me to be the best Chris Arreola that I can on May 1.”
Arreola has turned to Joe Goossen, Dan’s younger brother, to train him. He hired Joe in 2019 to train him for his bout with Adam Kownacki. It was a blazing, fun affair with both men slugging it out.
Kownacki won a unanimous decision, but Arreola was in a different kind of condition than he’d been previously. That’s always been a hallmark of Joe Goossen fighters.
Ruiz has made a similar transformation, losing more than 50 pounds from a high of 310 he said he was at, so the bout figures to be not only entertaining, but fought at a high level.
“When you have two guys of the same talent, how do you determine who wins the fight?” Joe Goossen said. “It’s the fighter who’s in better shape. That’s the underlying thought process here. Both Chris and Andy have talent, but our goal is for Chris to be in the best shape possible. The difference plays itself out in those last few rounds.”
The question is whether there will be late rounds in the fight. Canelo Alvarez, the super middleweight champion who is Yahoo Sports’ No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, is banking on Ruiz, his new teammate, to win quickly.
“With Andy facing Chris Arreola, this is the first time that two, high-quality Mexican heavyweights are going at it,” Alvarez said. “Arreola will bring aggression, but I expect a very quick knockout victory from Andy.”
Arreola is as committed to winning, he says, as he has been at any point in his career. He split with long-time trainer Henry Ramirez to hire Joe Goossen, not because of any issues with Ramirez, but because he liked what Goossen brings.
And a little bit of that is nostalgia. When he looks at Joe, he thinks of Dan and remembers Dan’s bad jokes, his cackle and his unwavering belief that he’d someday be heavyweight champion.
“I think about Dan a lot and I think we talk about Dan, his name comes up, at least once a week,” Arreola said. “When I look at Joe, a lot of times I see Dan. They look alike and they have the same mannerisms and they like a lot of the same things. But with Dan, we had a lot of good times and good talks. One of the things that always resonated with me is the one time that we had this private discussion and Dan called me ‘a silver-tongued devil.’
“I’m like, ‘What? What do you mean by that?’ He told me that I knew how to say all of the right things and how to sweet talk someone. He said that when I was telling that story, no one could know if I was telling the truth or just bulls***ting. That’s something that always stuck with me and resonated with me. It’s OK to be a silver-tongued person, but after that, I always wanted to be a silver-tongued person who said what he meant and meant what he said instead of blowing smoke.”
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