Arreola is no ordinary joe

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

LAS VEGAS – A word of warning to all you "Call of Duty Modern Warfare" players on the PlayStation 3 out there: Be careful of who it is you're trash talking during the game.

Because there's a pretty good chance that it's not just another bored 15-year-old on the other end. There's at least a chance that it's a 6-feet-4, 245-pound heavyweight contender with 23 knockouts in 26 professional fights on the other end of the game controller.

Unbeaten Cristobal Arreola, the top-ranked heavyweight by the WBC, fights veteran Jameel McCline on Saturday in an HBO-televised card at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

He's as prepared for Saturday's fight as he has been for any in quite some time, he insists. And part of the reason for that is that he remained home, in Riverside, Calif., to train instead of heading to the mountainous solitude of Big Bear, Calif. That decision kept him happier and much closer to his PS3.

But – and this is a big but, considering Arreola's crushing punching power – as much as he loves his games, he's not a big fan of getting trash talked by his online opponents.

"That thing gets me crazy," he said, chuckling. "I don't wear the earphones, because they start talking and I get mad. They yell at me and it gets me going. I'm like, 'I'm so lucky I'm not wearing the headphones, because I'd be going off.' I want to say to them, 'Do you know who I am? I'm going to come and whip your ass!' I love these games. I'm a big gamer."

Arreola's trainer, "Electric" Henry Ramirez, and his promoter, Dan Goossen, both insist they expect a much better Arreola on Saturday, even though McCline is the best and most experienced opponent he's met.

That's because he was so out of sorts every time he went to Big Bear to train. He was bored out of his mind and wound up barely preparing. He was knocked down in the first round of his last outing, a third-round technical knockout of Travis Walker on Nov. 29 in Ontario, Calif., an occurrence that didn't surprise Ramirez in the least.

Ramirez said he predicted to Arreola's confidantes that Walker would deck him at least once, because he'd seen the lackluster way Arreola prepared. Arreola was way over weight in each of his last two fights, looking like a middle-aged sports writer with a paunch over his belly, at 258 1/2 and 254 pounds, rather than a potential heavyweight champion.

But his own estimation, he trained less than 10 days for his Sept. 25 victory over Israel Carlos Garcia and was functioning at less than 10 percent of his capacity. He worked a little more, though not much, in preparing for Walker and estimated he was at about 50 percent of what he could have been.

Ramirez, who probably knows Arreola better than anyone other than the fighter himself, knew what was coming. By training at home, he's seen a more content man willing to put out effort.

"Absolutely, he was in a better frame of mind by training at home," Ramirez said. "That's in everything: His demeanor, his attitude toward everybody, his approach to working in the gym as far as being receptive.

"In Big Bear, for whatever reason, it wasn't there. It was a huge difference. His body was there, but his mind was somewhere else. He didn't want to be there."

Ramirez wasn't shocked when Arreola was dropped by Walker, because he knew how little Arreola had pushed himself. Arreola said his problem was twofold. First, he was disappointed that a potentially lucrative fight against either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko failed to come off. Then, he was disappointed that a bout that looked like it might have been made against David Tua didn't come to fruition.

It was, he said, beyond frustrating, though he says he's never going to allow himself to think about potential opponents any more.

"I don't care at this point," Arreola said. "Honestly, I don't. The most important guy is the guy I'm fighting. I love to fight and get in there and beat the (expletive) out of someone and to be honest with you, I learned my lesson."

Even more than the disappointment of losing out on a big fight, though, was the solitude in Big Bear. So many fighters look it, because it eliminates many of the day-to-day distractions they face.

Arreola, though, has a hyper personality and needs to be doing something. In Big Bear, he said, there was little to do other than to work out and spar and think boxing.

"I like to think I'm a real person and what you see with me is what you get, so I'll be honest and tell you: I hate Big Bear," Arreola said. "Hate it. You do your workouts, morning run, afternoon weights, evening boxing. But in between, you're in the room and there is nothing else to do but think about boxing. You get tired of it. Having it there constantly drives you crazy almost. It depresses me.

"I stayed at home (to train) for this fight and it was great. It's the greatest thing. I'll get up and go run, then come home, play video games, go to the store, do whatever I want. But I don't have my mind on boxing. Come 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock, the days I have to lift, I go do that. I'll do some cardio and then I'll go home and go see my daughter. At night, I go to the gym, come home and I can just be me. That's what I want. To be me."

And what he is is an average guy who just happens to love to fight. He's shown the kind of power in both hands that will make him one of the game's most popular fighters if he's able to bring it at the highest levels.

He professes great respect for McCline, who has fought for the title four times, but said he wants to make a statement.

"I want to make Henry Ramirez famous," he says, joking. "I want to win a lot of fights and knock a lot of guys out. Make him the Trainer of the Year. This is a big year for me. I want people to say, 'Oh my God,' when they watch me fight. This fight, if I could be the guy that can (KO) Jameel McCline, that would be a huge statement.

"I have a good game plan and I'm in the best shape I've been in for a long time. I can't be more excited to fight."

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