Friday September 11th, 2009

LOS ANGELES -- Mike Tyson was made of iron, Hasim Rahman was known as "The Rock." Chris Arreola? He's a jelly donut with legs. With pectorals that sag to his midsection and a midsection that sags to the floor, Arreola hardly cuts an imposing figure. And he knows it.

"I don't have a muscle body," said Arreola. "I don't have a chiseled frame. Some people can carry 250 [pounds] and look like an Adonis. Then you look at me and I look like I just got off the field after picking some oranges."

Arreola's not picking oranges, or anything else for that matter. He's preparing for a shot at boxing history. On Sept. 26, he'll will attempt become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent when he challenges WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko (37-2) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He will also be attempting to silence a stampede of critics who say a heavyweight champion needs to be cut out of the Tyson/Evander Holyfield cloth.

"[The criticism] bugs me sometimes," said Arreola (27-0). "It's not a lack of conditioning; it's a lack of looking like I'm in good condition. In my last fights, I could have gone 10 or 12 rounds."

Still, Arreola admits the obvious: He hasn't always fought in the best of shape. Arreola looked winded and was dropped in the second round in a knockout win over Travis Walker last November. And in April, Arreola looked like he was starting to tire by the fourth round of a knockout victory over Jameel McCline.

"People really haven't seen me in good shape," admitted Arreola. "I understand that. I created that by myself. There is no one else to blame but me."

In an effort to improve his conditioning Arreola has brought in personal trainer Daryl Hudson, who has put the 6-foot-4 contender through a two-a-day boot camp while stuffing him with good food (chicken, vegetables, fish) and weaning him off the bad. The biggest thing he cut out of his diet before this fight: beer. On Thursday, Arreola told reporters that he was down to 259 pounds and trainer Henry Ramirez expects him to drop another 10-12 pounds before the day of the fight.

"Sometimes he just takes a little more time off between fights than I would like," said Ramirez. "[But] he's peaking at the right time."

At least one member of Arreola's camp believes his renewed commitment has something to do with his opponent. "It's like being a reporter covering a story that you aren't that interested," said Arreola's promoter, Dan Goossen. "When you have a story that you're really not enthused to go after the passion isn't there. Chris wanted the big fights. Sometimes the adrenaline [wasn't] as high. But this is a very big fight."

Against Klitschko, being at anything less than your best simply is not an option. The 6-foot-7 Ukrainian has won his last two fights since returning from a four-year layoff and has done so in spectacular fashion: an eight-round demolition of former champion Samuel Peter and a nine-round pounding of former cruiserweight champion Juan Carlos Gomez. Klitschko's strategy in both fights has been to pepper his opponent's head with jabs and, when they tire from the excessive pounding, punish them with straight right hands. Arreola plans to counter that strategy by applying pressure to Klitschko early and forcing a slugfest.

"All my career I have been a pressure fighter," said Arreola. "I know no other way to fight. People have tried to keep me at bay with their jab, but once I put that pressure on, there is only so much you can do. When I'm coming forward I'm going to hit you with everything [and] a few rounds later, you are going to be tired."

Some believe Klitschko's dominance over Peter, who's a brawling knock-out artist like Arreola, is proof the WBC champ will win this matchup. Not so, says Team Arreola.

"[Peter] didn't want to put that pressure," said Ramirez. "He would throw a jab but never follow up with anything to close that distance. Besides, Peter is more of a clubbing one-punch guy. Chris is a combination-punching fighter who is stubborn as hell and will not be jabbed to death. It's not going to happen."

"Chris always seemed to me to be a lightweight in a heavyweight body," said Goossen. "He will reel off combinations that you usually don't see that in a heavyweight. He won't stop throwing bombs."

Big punches: things every great heavyweight champ has in common.

GRAHAM: Crash course to Klitschko vs. Arreola

MANNIX: Klitschko has eyes set on WBA title

VIDEO: Arreola goes to work

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