For Chris Arreola, it’s now or never

LOS ANGELES — Chris Arreola has had his chances to be the heavyweight champion of the world. And he has failed to capitalize.

In 2009, he fought Vitali Klitschko for Klitschko’s World Boxing Council heavyweight title and got pummeled, the referee stopping the contest in the 10th round. In 2010, he was beaten by Tomasz Adamek, losing a 12-round majority decision as Adamek claimed the International Boxing Federation’s international belt.

On April 27 last year, Arreola had a chance to get back in the title picture by beating Bermane Stiverne. That turned out to be a disaster as Stiverne broke Arreola’s nose in the third round and went on to post an easy 12-round unanimous decision.

Tonight at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center, Arreola, 33, gets one final chance to prove he’s championship timber while also having the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge against Stiverne, 35. The scheduled 12-round fight, which will be televised nationally by ESPN at 5 p.m., came about when Klitschko retired in December and his WBC belt was up for grabs. The WBC decided to let Arreola and Stiverne meet for the vacant title.

“I’m very desperate,” Arreola said. “It’s time for me to man up and handle my responsibilities in more ways than one — in the boxing gym, in my fight and life in general.”

Arreola knows this is likely his last chance to win the heavyweight title.

“I’m going to make sure that I make it count,” he said. “I’m going to make every punch count. I’m going to make this fight count.”

Arreola (36-3, 31 knockouts) claims he wasn’t in shape when he faced Stiverne in Ontario, Calif., last year. He was in better condition when he returned to the ring Sept. 7 and knocked out Seth Mitchell in the first round. For tonight’s rematch, the Riverside, Calif., native moved his training camp to San Diego to minimize distractions. Henry Ramirez, who trains Arreola, said his fighter has stayed focused for tonight’s fight.

“Chris has been busting his behind,” Ramirez said. “I don’t have to sit at the gym and wonder, ‘Damn, is he going to show up today?’ because when I walk downstairs and I knock on his door and say, ‘It’s time to go,’ he’s ready to work.

“Chris says he’s a desperate fighter. I can tell you he has trained like a desperate man.”

Arreola said he will fight Stiverne differently than in their first go-round.

“He was able to put combinations together, which I wasn’t able to do,” Arreola said. “I was just looking for that one shot, and that’s one thing that I won’t be making a mistake with this time. I’m not going to be looking for just one shot. I’m going to be on him. I’m going to be accumulating punches, and I’m going to make him work every minute of every round.

“I don’t like losing, especially when I’m the idiot that causes the loss.”

Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs) laughed at the notion Arreola can change this late in his career.

“He’s an emotional fighter,” Stiverne said. “He fights with his heart, not his head. I don’t care what he says now. It’s too late for him to change.”

The fighters exchanged nasty barbs during Thursday’s final news conference at USC, and things got a bit contentious at Friday’s weigh-in at the Radisson Hotel after Arreola weighed 239 pounds while Stiverne was 239½. Arreola ran his mouth at Stiverne during the stare-down for the photographers, and while there may or may not be bad blood between the fighters, Arreola agreed with Stiverne about one thing — he is an emotional fighter — and he will bring that element into the fight tonight.

“I can’t separate myself from my emotions,” Arreola said. “That’s what gets me through my fights. That’s what wins fights for me.

“I feed off my own hunger. I feed off my insecurities because every fighter should have some kind of insecurity when they’re in the ring because it keeps you from getting knocked out. I don’t want to get knocked out.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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