Chris Arreola would be a great heavyweight champion were he ever to win the title. He's, funny, engaging and charismatic and appeals to a wide cross section of fans.
He's a hard puncher who is willing to take two, or three, or four, or even five, in order to give one in return. He's the kind of guy who is always up for a brawl and would never say no to any opponent.
But in the 11th year of his professional career, he remains one of the great enigmas in boxing.
Arreola's tagline could easily be the infamous words that promoter Bob Arum once uttered while drinking with friends and arguing about who was the greatest fighter ever: "Yesterday, I was lying. Today, I'm telling the truth."
That line has been a calling card of Arreola's because before virtually every fight, he speaks of how he's learned from his past failures and has insisted he's a changed man. And then so many times when the bell rings, it's clear Arreola has not been in the type of shape he's needed to be in. Clearly, he hasn't had a full-time commitment to greatness.
On Saturday, Arreola will rematch Bermane Stiverne at the Galen Center on the USC campus in Los Angeles. In addition to avenging an unexpected loss from last year, Arreola has the added motivation of fighting for the title.
Arreola-Stiverne II will be for the vacant WBC heavyweight title that Vitali Klitschko voluntarily surrendered last year.
"This is my pinnacle and this is my time to shine, and honestly, I've been working out so hard," Arreola said at a recent media workout. "I've been working my [expletive] off in San Diego."
Prior to his first bout with Stiverne, which was on April 27, 2013, in Ontario, Calif., Arreola said, "It's not the new Chris Arreola. It's the improved Chris Arreola."
Arreola showed plenty of courage when Stiverne badly shattered his nose in the third round and went on to win a clear decision. Arreola kept fighting despite the pain.
Arreola's promoter Dan Goossen has stayed by his fighter's side throughout, even when it had to be exasperating at times. Arreola is in a way like a first-round NFL draft pick who doesn't always perform, but who gets chance after chance because of when he was chosen, a cushion a seventh-rounder wouldn't enjoy.
With Arreola, one is always forced to question whether his heart is in it and whether he's put the time in to take advantage of his skills, which are considerable.
"It's 100 percent accurate to say that Chris has talked a good game in the past," Goossen said. "Chris is a great, great talker, but one thing that speaks for itself is his abilities as a fighter. He's got all the assets to become a world champion. The one thing that has dragged him down is not doing what he said he was doing. He got caught up in things and knew what his demons were, but he still wasn't dealing with them."
Not surprisingly, Arreola said this time is different. He's coming off a highly impressive win over Seth Mitchell in which he appeared to be in great shape and fought like he was committed to gaining the title.
But Arreola's history suggests that a great effort in one fight is not a precursor of a great effort in the next one.
He's saying what he knows everyone wants to hear, but until he proves his commitment repeatedly, in a string of important fights, he's still going to be questioned.
"Absolutely, I have to put up or shut up," Arreola said. "That's why I'm over here in San Diego working my butt off, man: No excuses. In the past I would give myself a reason to have an excuse. I wouldn't show up at the gym. I wouldn't do what I'm supposed to do as a professional. And times have changed, man. I feel like I'm a mature fighter. I have what it takes between my ears and in my heart and in my balls. Now it's time for me to let it all hang out at the boxing gym, and really that's where the fight is won. The fight is won in the gym.
"You know, I hate using excuses. I hate doing excuses. The last time, Bermane beat me. I don't want to say that it wasn't because I wasn't in shape or blah, blah, blah, whatever, whatever. He beat me. He was the one that broke my nose. The fact that I wasn't in shape doesn't change the fact that he broke my nose. That's the main thing."
Arreola referred to himself as desperate and said, "I've done a lot of dumb stuff in my life and it's time to stop."
Goossen has long been tired of all the excuses, but he's never going to give up on Arreola and won't regardless of the outcome of the fight.
Goossen is convinced that this time, Arreola has actually done all the hard work he's claimed to have done in the past.
"If Chris is not successful on Saturday, I would still at least know that he's given himself every opportunity to be successful," Goossen said. "That's all you can ask. If a better man beats you, and you've given it everything you have to overcome that, I'm always with that fighter. Chris has always been a pleasure to promote. I do see Saturday night as a game changer with an Arreola victory. It would be a game changer for the whole boxing landscape, because America hasn't had that great heavyweight for many, many years.
"We saw the competitiveness Arreola had the first time he fought Stiverne under conditions [badly shattered nose] none of us should have been able to withstand. He's put himself into a position where he's done everything that's been asked of him. If you put yourself into position, as he's done, then that's all you can ask and I'm confident Chris has done everything he needs to, to be in a position to win this fight."