Photos by Sumio Yamada
CHRIS ARREOLA vs JAMEEL McCLINE
Undefeated heavyweight Chris Arreola had a scare in his last fight when he was dropped by Travis Walker. He came back to overwhelm his big-muscled opponent, but a hint of vulnerability was revealed. Arreola is a tough fighter but he cant simply walk through everything. Any fighter can be caught and hurt, especially early in a fight, and Arreola is no exception, and the fact that he was in trouble against Walker must give encouragement to Jameel McCline, who meets Arreola in Saturdays 12-rounder on HBO.
McCline turns 39 next month and he has given some disappointing performances, but he is a very big man and he can dangerous. In three of his losses he had his man down and looked close to winning. There were the fights with Chris Byrd, Calvin Brock and Samuel Peter. Each time McCline let the opportunity slip away from him, and I always get the sense with this big man that lack of confidence is his undoing as much as anything. He simply seems to lose his self-belief during a fight, and it was disappointing to see the much smaller Byrd bullying McCline around the ring in the later rounds.
This, though, has to be considered Arreolas toughest fight. McCline is experienced, he has some boxing ability and he has shown that he can put people on the floor.
Arreola seems to me to be the wrong sort of fighter for McCline to be meeting, though. Arreola puts pressure on his opponents, constantly going at them and banging away. He hits hard but he also throws fast punches for such a heavy-set man, and when his combinations start flowing he simply overruns the other mans defences.
McCline likes room to box, and he likes to be given some breathing space after throwing his punches, and Arreola will not give him either. Arreolas method is to keep right on top of the other man and to keep hitting him until something gives, which seems to me to be the style that traditionally has given McCline the most trouble. Even the limited Mike Mollo, a willing slugger who was giving away a lot of weight, was able to win the early rounds against McCline. Mollos lack of experience told against him. He expended a lot of energy early and he was almost exhausted by the later rounds. McCline paced himself better and he was able to outbox and outsmart Mollo in the second half of the fight. The struggle against Mollo makes me wonder how McCline is going to be able to keep Arreola at bay.
If McCline is unable to catch Arreola early he will have to hope that his opponent runs out of steam. This is a possibility, I suppose. Arreola has never been past eight rounds and his last six fights have ended inside three rounds. I did think, though, that Arreola was punching just as busily in the eighth round as he had been at the start of the fight when he stopped Malcolm Tann.
I think that Arreola will be able to maintain a high workrate should the bout go late. The early rounds will, I think, be the risky ones. It isnt just the second-round knockdown against Travis Walker that concerns me. Arreola was taking a lot of shots early against Chazz Witherspoon, too. The positive aspect concerning these fights is that each time Arreola fought his way through the crisis and imposed his will. I have a big heart and I will never quit, he once told me in a phone interview.
Arreola weighed a beefy 254 pounds for the fight with Walker, which is 15 pounds more than he had weighed for the fight with Witherspoon five months earlier, but he assured me: Im never going to be one of those big buffed guys but one thing that I will do, I will come in shape and ready to go all my rounds.
I think there is a chance that Arreola could have some shaky moments on Saturday, most likely at the outset, but I see him imposing his will and outworking and outpunching the 270-pound Big Time. McCline has a tendency to go defensive when an opponent confidently attacks him, and this was especially so against John Ruiz a year ago. Ruiz came forward in a very positive way and at times he was practically running McCline out of the ring. I see something similar happening on Saturday. McCline does have an excellent chin and he has been in a number of 12-round fights, so it will be difficult for Arreola to stop him. I think that Arreola can win this inside the distance, though, with his high punch-output wearing down McCline by the 10th round.