The three-time world title challenger is rejuvenated and hungry as ever ahead of his showdown versus Andy Ruiz Jr. Saturday night on FOX Sports PPV.
Chris Arreola walked out for his swing bout against journeyman Maurenzo Smith on the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury I card as fans filed out of Staples Center immediately following the main event in 2018. Those who remained, it seemed, were more concerned with letting the crowd thin out than the heavyweight fight that was about to start.
That scene contrasts sharply with a 2009 card at the same Los Angeles arena, when a young Arreola challenged heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko in the featured fight in a packed house.
The difference between Fight A and Fight B was painful for Arreola, who decided then and there that he never wanted to experience such indignity again and took steps to make sure he wouldn’t.
“I was like, ‘Holy Jesus, nobody gives a s--- anymore. I have to make something happen,’” Arreola said.
It took the fight with Smith – when he was 37 years old – for him to finally wake up. He stopped Smith after six rounds in his first fight in 2½ years, a hiatus that followed his knockout loss to then-champion Deontay Wilder in 2016.
Then Arreola made good on the promise to himself, working as hard as ever did with then-trainer Henry Ramirez for his fight against Jean Pierre Augustin on the Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garcia card in March 2019 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Arreola, fit and determined, blew out the Haitian-American in less than three rounds to announce that he wasn’t finished as a player in the heavyweight division even as he approached his 40th birthday.
An old Los Angeles-area acquaintance did the analysis on FOX that night.
“I have to tell you that I was enthusiastic in my commentary on Chris,” said Joe Goossen, whose main vocation is training. “And I think it was well-deserved on Chris’ part. He came out of the chute really hot.
“He overwhelmed his guy and stopped him. Chris had a lot of fire. He really impressed me.”
Arreola around this time was drifting apart from Ramirez, his longtime mentor. They maintained a close personal relationship but Arreola, who wanted 100% of his trainer’s focus when they were together, thought Ramirez was spread too thin because of a growing stable.
So he went shopping for a new trainer. And who did he settle on? Joe Goossen.
Arreola had long been an admirer of the veteran cornerman, who has worked with many champions. However, one thing that clinched the decision for him was a moment in the classic fight between Diego Corrales (trained by Goossen) and Jose Luis Castillo in 2005.
In the 10th and final round, Corrales, seemingly on the verge of being knocked out, was in his corner to have his mouthpiece replaced when Goossen said for all to hear, “You gotta f-----g get inside on him now.” Moments later Corrales stunned the world by stopping Castillo.
“I never forgot that,” said Arreola. “I felt his style suited my style.”
Evidently it did. Goossen trained Arreola for his fight with contender Adam Kownacki, which occurred in August 2019 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Goossen worked with his new charge one on one, with no other fighter in sight. And he never allowed him a moment to slip back into old habits.
When Arreola stepped into the ring to face Kownacki for their scheduled 12-rounder, he couldn’t have been more prepared.
The numbers bear that out. Arreola fell short on the scorecards, losing a unanimous decision, but nearly broke CompuBox with his punch output. He threw a heavyweight-record 1,125 punches, almost 100 per round. He and Kownacki combined to throw 2,172 punches and connect on 667, both of which also are division records.
How does he explain what happened?
“ I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be great. ” Heavyweight Contender - Chris Arreola
“Hard work. Simple as that,” Arreola said. “Working with Joe is hard work. Before, I used to do three rounds. The [heavy] bag, three rounds. The speed bag, three rounds. The double-ended bag, three rounds. With Joe it’s five rounds with the rope, five rounds with the sled, 10 rounds with the speed bag, 10 rounds with the double-end bag.
“I’m serious. The first week I was like, ‘When do I get to go home?’ The hard work in the gym made the fight that much easier. I could’ve gone three more rounds, to be honest.”
Of course, Arreola was disappointed by the outcome. At the same time, there was a silver lining. Arreola used the momentum he built leading up to that fight to help him prepare for Ruiz, the former titleholder. He and Goossen have been working most of the past 21 months on defense, counterpunching and whatever other tweaking Arreola has needed this late in the game. And, of course, fitness is a high priority.
Any complaints from Goossen? Not one. He said Arreola gives him what every trainer wants from their fighters: “Chris has done everything I’ve asked him to do.”
That’s saying something given Arreola’s age and mileage. He turned 40 on March 5, an age when most fighters are well into second careers. And he has been fighting professionally for 17-plus years, which is reallysaying something given his devil-may-care styling of fighting. He loves to trade punches.
“Some guys are just built for this game and longevity,” Goossen said. “If you didn’t know Chris was a boxer, if you just ran into him somewhere, you wouldn’t think that he’s a, what, 18-year veteran who slugs it out with the biggest, baddest fighters in the world.
“He doesn’t wear the sport on him, he doesn’t fit the profile.”
So an obvious question is this: What motivates him to endure the rigors of the sport?
“I have a 6-year-old son,” said Arreola. “He really doesn’t know who his daddy is. He knows me only as the big, mean man who tells him what not to do.
“I’m trying to lead by example, to show him what hard work is all about, what hard work can get you.”
Arreola is already a success story. He has failed in three attempts to win a major world title, which allowed Ruiz to gain the distinction of becoming the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion when he stunned the world by knocking out Anthony Joshua.
But how many heavyweights can say they’ve earned three such opportunities? How many can say they’ve been a legitimate heavyweight contender for a decade-plus? Not many.
A victory over Ruiz, a heavy favorite, would place him at the head of line to face one of the titleholders in the near future.
Wouldn’t that be something for a 40-year-old who fought a nobody as janitors were beginning to sweep up a near-empty arena only a few years ago?
“I kind of feel like George Foreman,” he said. “A lot of people thought he was too old. He can’t beat Michael Moorer. Michael Moorer is just going to hurt him. He shouldn’t be fighting him. We know what happened in that fight. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I’m actually trying to follow in the footsteps of the great George Foreman and The Road Warrior, Glen Johnson. Glen Johnson said, ‘I’m not the best but I’m willing to fight the best.’
“That always resonated with me, it always stuck with me. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be great. And to be great, I have to fight a great fighter like Andy Ruiz.”
For a closer look at Chris Arreola, check out his fighter page.