LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Arreola once wanted to win football championships at Southern California. Now that he’s heading to the USC campus with a shot at a heavyweight title instead, he’s determined not to waste it.
Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs) has never been a boxer who seemed to worry much about missed opportunities, but the hard-hitting brawler from Riverside, Calif., realizes what’s at stake when he faces Bermane Stiverne on May 10 at the Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles.
“This is everything I always wanted to have, so I can’t let it get away,” Arreola said.
The winner gets the vacant WBC heavyweight title, replacing the retired Vitali Klitschko. Nearly five years after Klitschko beat him just down Figueroa Street at Staples Center, Arreola has another chance to become the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion.
Those stakes are enough to get the attention of Arreola, whose wavering professionalism and weight problems have defined him nearly as much as his punishing punches.
Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs) beat Arreola a year ago in a clear decision, announcing his own arrival as a contender by breaking Arreola’s nose in the third round. Arreola acknowledged giving a poor effort in training for the bout at home in Riverside.
“I’ve been ready for this fight since I got out of the ring with (Stiverne) last year,” Arreola said. “I’ve got to stay in the gym. I’ve got to stay committed to the sport I love so much.”
To that end, Arreola’s trainer, Henry Ramirez, has moved their camp to San Diego, hoping it’s far enough away from Arreola’s familiar haunts and questionable influences in Riverside. Ramirez moved Arreola to Phoenix to prepare for his fight against Seth Mitchell last September, and a fit, focused Arreola responded by stopping Mitchell in the first round.
Arreola is aware of the biggest obstacle in his boxing career, and it isn’t his opponent.
“I’m my own worst enemy,” he said. “I’m my danger. When I’m at home, it’s 15 miles to my gym, and I’ll find something. I’ll get a flat (tire) on accident. In San Diego, there’s only one set of car keys. If I want to do something, I’ve got to run or walk, and you know how much I like to do that.”
Stiverne, a Haitian-born heavyweight living in Florida, is a relatively late arrival to title contention, although that didn’t stop his promoter, Don King, from referring to the 35-year-old fighter as “a young Tyson.”
Stiverne hasn’t lost since July 2007, but hasn’t fought since soundly beating Arreola. Stiverne hoped for a shot at Klitschko late last year, but Klitschko had an injured right hand.
Arreola’s rematch with Stiverne is the second of three high-profile boxing shows in the Los Angeles area in a four-week span this spring.
Lucas Matthysse, Keith Thurman and Omar Figueroa Jr. all will appear on an outdoor card in Carson on April 26, while Juan Manuel Marquez faces Mike Alvarado on May 17 in the sport’s return to the refurbished Forum in Inglewood.