LAS VEGAS – Chris Arreola had just knocked out Jameel McCline to score the most significant of his 27 career victories, but he still wasn’t entirely happy.
“It felt good, man – but I just wish there were a few more people here,” said the 28-year-old American heavyweight prospect. “I want everyone to know what I’m about.”
Yet even though there was only an announced 5,425 fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center to view Arreola’s fourth-round knockout of McCline, the undercard of Paul Williams’ victory over Winky Wright, attendance could be the least of his worries in his next fight.
Arreola is now the No.1 contender to Vitali Klitschko’s WBC belt, and provided some legal machinations can be smoothed over, a summer blockbuster at the Staples Center in Los Angeles looms large.
"Large" is the word that springs to mind when contemplating Arreola, a giant of a man with personality and confidence to match.
The Southern California public has already started to warm to him and he got national exposure from an HBO audience Saturday night. Packing the Staples Center for a Klitschko bout should not be a problem.
“I come to fight and I put on a show,” Arreola said minutes after finishing off McCline with a brutal combination that took his record to 27-0 with 24 knockouts.
“I am sick and tired of talking about who I am going to fight next and what is going to happen. People can decide if they think I am ready or if I am good enough. I do my talking with my fists and I think I spoke pretty loudly tonight.”
Arreola has the opportunity to create a unique slice of history if he can become the first man of Mexican heritage to win a heavyweight title, proclaiming himself as a “Mexican Jack Johnson in the making."
While Arreola has some distance to cover to reach the kind of heights scaled a century ago by Johnson, the first black heavyweight titlist, it is clear that he does bring entertainment and value to the stuttering heavyweight class.
“He has power and charisma and that X factor that people want to see” said promoter Dan Goossen. “We think we have a guy here who can go all the way to the very top – and it’s going to be an incredible ride.”
But is he ready for Klitschko? Following a recent court case, Klitschko does have an obligation to fight Oleg Maskaev of Kazakhstan, but the Russian’s management group would prefer to take on Arreola in Tinseltown.
Arreola would stand to make around $2 million for that contest, a dramatic leap from his $400,000 purse for beating McCline. Would he be cannon fodder or stand a have a shot at pulling off arguably the greatest victory by an American heavyweight since Hasim Rahman stunned Lennox Lewis in 2001?
“He is ready,” trainer Henry Ramirez said. “Don’t worry about that. Some people have questioned him because he was in and out of boxing when he was younger. But this is his time and the best thing is that he can still improve a lot – that is why people are so excited.”
Wherever and whenever Arreola’s next fight is, then HBO is likely to be at the front of the queue. HBO senior vice president Kery Davis was effusive in his praise, citing Arreola as the “most exciting heavyweight on the planet.”
“I don’t even know who would be a close second,” added Davis.
Such is the state of the heavyweight division that the extent of Arreola’s potential will only become clear when he fights someone of Klitschko’s caliber, as there are not enough accomplished interim contenders for him to come up against.
For him, the future may be all or nothing.