In preparing for his upcoming title defense, heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder sparred with two fighters who are not only similar in size and style to Chris Arreola, but who also lost to the enigmatic challenger.
“Aguilera and Molina are just about the same height as Arreola with a similar rhythm,” said Jay Deas, who trains Wilder along with former champion Mark Breland and Russ Anber. “Molina can slug and box, and Chris can slug and box.”
Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) will be defending his world championship for the fourth time Saturday when he meets two-time title challenger Chris Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
The 6-foot-4 Molina, 34, has the distinction of not only losing to Arreola by first-round knockout in February 2012, but also losing to Wilder in Birmingham last year, when he was stopped in Round 9.
Molina landed some good shots early against Arreola, and nearly dropped him with a big right hand about a minute into the bout before being caught soon afterward with an overhand right that ended the fight.
“Molina caught Chris with a straight right hand, and Deontay has tremendous power in his right hand,” Deas said. “Deontay and Molina [sparred] several rounds together because Chris is a dangerous fighter from the time the first bell rings and you have to be focused on him for every minute of every round.”
After losing to Arreola, Molina (25-3, 19 KOs) won five straight fights (three by KO) before taking on Wilder, who dropped Molina in Round 4 and twice in Round 5 in his first title defense after dethroning Bermane Stiverne in January 2015.
“I think Jay chose Eric [as a sparring partner] because he’s got the Mexican style,” Wilder said. “He’s a tough guy who has given me great work and a great look.
“Eric Molina has shown a tremendous amount of heart when he’s in a fight, and he brings a real punch like Arreola does. Eric says that if he fought Arreola again, he’d knock him out, but he’s willing to come and give me work even though he’s in the top 15 and we could easily fight again down the road.”
The 30-year-old Aguilera (20-9, 14 KOs) isn’t ranked as highly as Molina is, but the 6-foot-3½ Dominican’s losses have come largely against high-quality opponents such as former world champions Samuel Peter, Antonio Tarver and Tomasz Adamek, and contenders Dominic Breazeale and Gerald Washington.
In his loss to Arreola in May 2011, Aguilera was competitive for the first two rounds before Arreola battered him against the ropes throughout Round 3, leading referee Raul Caiz Jr. to stop the fight.
“Aguilera sort of moves like Arreola does and he’s very durable, which is good because we don’t want Deontay to be the big puncher who is insufficient in other aspects,” Deas said.
“Deontay has to be able to box like he did against Bermane Stiverne. We’re prepared for the best Chris Arreola, the one who has been given a new lease on life to potentially fulfill his dream with one punch in one night.”
For a complete look at Wilder vs Arreola, visit our fight page.