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Avila Perspective, Chap. 58: The Journey of Chris Arreola and More

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Chris Arreola knows this could be his final walk into the prize ring when he faces Adam Kownacki on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It’s been 16 years since his pro debut and the circle of boxing is near completion.

Arreola, 38, who quickly rose to fame from the California desert city of Riverside, knows all about victory, fame and defeat. He doesn’t want the journey to end.

“Nothing negative against Adam Kownacki, he can knock me out and I can knock him out, we both know how to fight,” said Arreola. “We both just need a little opportunity to knock somebody out. Were both exciting fighters that put everything on the line.”

In a battle that could be the end or the continuation of his career, Arreola (38-5-1, 33 KOs) battles Kownacki (19-0, 15 KOs) who now lives in Brooklyn but is originally from Poland. They meet on Saturday. FOX will televise.

During the turn of the 21st century the city of Riverside was quickly transitioning from a sleepy town more famous for citrus fruit, toward a refuge for Los Angeles residents seeking more affordable housing.

The family of Arreola was one of these families that moved 60 miles from East Los Angeles to the growing town of Riverside near the 60-Freeway and 91-Freeway. Before World War II, Riverside was more defined by its many railroad crossings than freeways.

Arreola was one of the dozen or so talented youngsters that saw boxing as a way to pass the time. Riverside’s closest mall on Central Avenue and Riverside Avenue was mostly avoided until it was rebuilt into the now bustling Riverside Plaza. Back in the 1990s kids like Arreola, Josesito Lopez and Henry Ramirez visited the Lincoln Gym. That was their refuge despite soaring temperatures in the summer.

Those same kids and a few others helped spark a boxing revolution in the Inland Empire. It’s now an area that is home to several powerhouse boxing camps in Riverside, Indio, Big Bear and San Bernardino. That doesn’t include the many more boxing gyms that are scattered from Pomona to Coachella.

As an amateur, Arreola was a tall skinny light heavyweight who caught the rest of America by surprise during a National Golden Gloves tournament in the early 2000s. He grabbed the championship by knocking everyone out.

Arreola quickly grew into a heavyweight but Mexican heavyweights had never been a commodity. Though he packed a punch and was always entertaining, the promoters were wary about spending time and money on him.

Even Thompson Boxing Promotions, a company famous for discovering hidden talent in the Inland Empire, passed on Arreola. They signed Josesito Lopez and took a flyer on Arreola.

It was boxing scout Wes Crockett who urged Al Haymon to take a look at the Mexican heavyweight. He was subsequently signed by Goossen-Tutor Promotions and his career began to take off.

Championship Potential

Dan Goossen, the president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions, was always in pursuit of a heavyweight world champion. He stockpiled heavyweights hoping one would win a world title and help carry the company to the next level.

Goossen also saw something in Arreola.

Years ago during an informal press conference inside the Casa Vega Restaurant in the San Fernando Valley, the Southern California promoter Goossen whispered aside that Arreola was a promoter’s dream who possessed the gift of gab like Muhammad Ali.

It was a quality you can’t teach.

Early in Arreola’s pro career, mentor Andy Suarez, who trained fighters at the Lincoln Gym, worked the corner of Arreola and would point out the other Riverside fighters who had potential. He always saw championship quality in Arreola.

Another who worked Arreola’s corner was Willie Schunke who served as the cut man and hand wrapper for years. He was a Native American so everyone called him “Indian Willie” to differentiate him from the other Willie in Riverside, a trainer named Willie Silva.

Indian Willie built a gym on his hillside manor so that Arreola and Josesito Lopez could train there exclusively. It had the most spectacular views in the entire area. No boxing gym ever had a comparable panoramic view.

Fighters like Mikey Garcia, Ronny Rios, Damian “Bolo” Wills, and even new WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz visited the hillside gym to spar in the gym with a breathtaking setting.

On many occasions an old veteran boxing journalist named Bill O’Neill would trudge up and down the steep driveway to the gym to watch Arreola prepare for world title combat.

O’Neill had covered boxing from the 1960s and was the foremost expert on the career of the great Jerry Quarry. He owned orange tree orchards and would often bring several bags of the largest and juiciest oranges you ever saw or tasted. He had seen many Mexican heavyweights pursue the world championship and always felt Arreola would one day grab the belt.

First Title Shot

Arreola first fought for the world title against Vitali Klitschko in 2009, but few believed he could defeat the Ukrainian giant at the time. He was 28 years old but still in a learning process. Yet, the fans flocked to the Staples Center in hopes of watching the crazy Mexican-American heavyweight capture lightning with a Mexican left hook.

It didn’t happen but Arreola was still young.

Perhaps the closest the Riverside heavyweight came to achieving his heavyweight title dreams was in May 2014 at the Galen Center at USC when he fought Bermane Stiverne for the second time on a Goossen Promotions card.

“With Stiverne I was ready for that fight and ready to take that title,” said Arreola who was ahead on two score cards when Stiverne caught him with a knockout blow. “I was winning the fight.”

It would be Goossen’s last heavyweight title fight card and also the last time anyone would see the beloved Southern California promoter. At the time very few were aware the gregarious promoter was suffering from cancer. Months later, Goossen would pass away.

Other supporters of Arreola would pass away too.

Back when Arreola first started his heavyweight journey his original trainer Andy Suarez died in 2006. Goossen passed away in September 2014, cut man Willie Schunke died in 2015 and journalist Bill O’Neil in 2018.

All believed Arreola could be a heavyweight world champion when he started boxing professionally in 2003.

Hilltop Gym

Those memories of Arreola training in that hilltop gym as Schunke and O’Neill discussed boxing history and the old days remain permanently etched in the minds of everyone who was there. Or the lunches held at Sisley’s Italian Kitchen in Sherman Oaks at the foot of the office building that Goossen called headquarters.

Maybe that’s why Arreola chose to train with Joe Goossen the brother of the late great promoter Dan Goossen.

“The reason I went with Joe Goossen, I’ve known Joe for many years ever since the Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales fight,” said Arreola on Goossen who trained Corrales for that epic fight in 2005. “I’ve always wanted to keep it in the family. He’s old school, very old school. He is very methodical every minute of training camp. It was a great experience.”

Or maybe it was an attempt to rekindle moments from the past, those unbreakable ties and memories like Indian Willie’s two bull dogs “Sherman” and “Tank” who passed away during a scorching Riverside heat wave. The two canines would often scurry around the gym licking the small children who entered the boxing facility including Arreola’s then young daughter. Or perhaps it was listening to O’Neill describe some of the battles Jerry Quarry had with little known heavyweights like George “Scrap Iron” Johnson who was small but fearsome.

Some moments are more valuable than championship belts.

“If I lose there’s no reason to be in the sport of boxing, I’m too old to be doing that. It’s a win or go home thing,” said Arreola. “I know Adam worked his head off to get me out of this sport of boxing but I’m not ready to go home.”

On Saturday, the Riverside heavyweight looks to continue the journey of a thousand memories.

Boxing Notes

Roy Englebrecht Events presents a boxing card at the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. on Saturday. Aug. 3.

A number of gifted prospects including Michael Norato and Triantafyllos Mavidis are ready to perform in separate bouts at the casino located off the 605-Freeway.

Englebrecht has been providing boxing shows for decades and also teaches a class on the art of promoting.

Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information call (949) 760-3131 or go to this link: www.battleintheballroom.com

Ramirez-Hooker Another FOY Candidate

Several recent fights have propelled boxing to another level including last week’s super lightweight unification world title fight between Jose Carlos Ramirez and Maurice Hooker. It’s definitely a candidate for Fight of the Year.

It was also one of those rare instances when two world champions crossed over to other media realms to challenge each other.

Top Rank’s Ramirez who holds the WBC super lightweight title was allowed to crossover from ESPN to DAZN to challenge WBO titlist Hooker in Arlington, Texas. What transpired was an incredible battle between two equally talented fighters in a fight that lasted six incredible rounds.

It was breathtaking while it lasted.

Ramirez won by knockout but until that final moment no one knew who would ultimately win.

“It just wasn’t my night,” said Hooker. “Ramirez is a great fighter, but it was his time. I’ll be back and better than ever in my next fight – I can tell you that.”

Cheers to both media outlets for allowing the fight to happen and for the rival promotion company’s willingness to work with each other.

Fights to Watch

Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 5:30 p.m. PT – Erik Walker (18-2) vs Jose Abreu (14-5).

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. PT – Eva Wahlstrom (22-1-1) vs Ronica Jeffrey (17-1).

Fri. Telemundo 11:35 p.m. PT – Yomar Alamo (16-0) vs Salvador Briceno (16-4).

Sat. ESPN+  2 p.m. PT – Michael Conlan (11-0) vs Diego Alberto Ruiz (21-2).

Sat. FOX 6 p.m. PT – Chris Arreola (38-5-1) vs Adam Kownacki (19-0).

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Haney-Garcia Redux with the Focus on Harvey Dock

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Saturday’s skirmish between Ryan Garcia and WBC super lightweight champion Devin Haney was a messy affair, and yet a hugely entertaining fight fused with great drama. In the aftermath, Garcia and Haney were celebrated – the former for fooling all the experts and the latter for his gallant performance in a losing effort – but there were only brickbats for the third man in the ring, referee Harvey Dock.

Devin Haney was plainly ahead heading into the seventh frame when there was a sudden turnabout when Garcia put him on the canvas with his vaunted left hook. Moments later, Dock deducted a point from Garcia for a late punch coming out of a break. The deduction forced a temporary cease-fire that gave Haney a few precious seconds to regain his faculties. Before the round was over, Haney was on the deck twice more but these were ruled slips.

The deduction, which effectively negated the knockdown, struck many as too heavy-handed as Dock hadn’t previously issued a warning for this infraction. Moreover, many thought he could have taken a point away from Haney for excessive clinching. As for Haney’s second and third trips to the canvas in round seven, they struck this reporter – watching at home – as borderline, sufficient to give referee Dock the benefit of the doubt.

In a post-fight interview, Ryan Garcia faulted the referee for denying him the satisfaction of a TKO. “At the end of the day, Harvey Dock, I think he was tripping,” said Garcia. “He could have stopped that fight.”

Those that played the rounds proposition, placing their coin on the “under,” undoubtedly felt the same way.

The internet lit up with comments assailing Dock’s competence and/or his character. Some of the ponderings were whimsical, but they were swamped by the scurrilous screeching of dolts who find a conspiracy under every rock.

Stephen A. Smith, reputedly America’s highest-paid TV sports personality, was among those that felt a need to weigh-in: “This referee is absolutely terrible….Unreal! Horrible officiating,” tweeted Stephen A whose primary area of expertise is basketball.

Harvey Dock

Dock fought as an amateur and had one professional fight, winning a four-round decision over a fellow novice on a show at a non-gaming resort in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He says that as an amateur he was merely average, but he was better than that, a New Jersey and regional amateur champion in 1993 and 1994 while a student New Jersey’s Essex County Community College where he majored in journalism.

A passionate fan of Sugar Ray Leonard, he started officiating amateur fights in 1998 and six years later, at age 32, had his first documented action at the professional level, working low-level cards in New Jersey. The top boxing referees, to a far greater extent than the top judges, had long apprenticeships, having worked their way up from the boonies and Dock is no exception.

Per boxrec, Haney vs Garcia was Harvey Dock’s 364th assignment in the pros and his forty-second world title fight. Some of those title fights were title in name only, they weren’t even main events, but, bit by bit, more lucrative offerings started coming his way.

On May 13, 2023, Dock worked his first fights in Nevada, a 4-rounder and then a 12-rounder on a card at the Cosmopolitan topped by the 140-pound title fight between Rolly Romero and Ismael Barroso. It was the first time that this reporter got to watch Dock in the flesh.

Ironically (in hindsight), the card would be remembered for the actions of a referee, in this case Tony Weeks who handled the main event. Barroso was winning the fight on all three cards when Weeks stepped in and waived it off in the ninth round after Romero cornered Barroso against the ropes and let loose a barrage of punches, none of which landed cleanly. Few “premature stoppages” were ever as garishly, nay ghoulishly, premature.

With all the brickbats raining down on Weeks, I felt a need to tamp down the noise by diverting attention away from Tony Weeks and toward Harvey Dock and took to the TSS Forum to share my thoughts. Referencing the 12-rounder, a robust junior welterweight affair between Batyr Akhmedov and Kenneth Sims Jr, I noted that Dock’s Las Vegas debut went smoothly. He glided effortlessly around the ring, making him inconspicuous, the mark of a good referee. (This post ran on May 15, two days after the fight.)

Folks at the Nevada State Athletic Commission were also paying attention. Dock was back in Las Vegas the following week to referee the lightweight title fight between Devin Haney and Vasyl Lomachenko and before the year was out, he would be tabbed to referee the biggest non-heavyweight fight of the year, the July 29 match in Las Vegas between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

The Haney-Garcia fight wasn’t Harvey Dock’s best hour, I’ll concede that, but a closer look at his full body of work informs us that he is an outstanding referee.

While the Haney-Garcia bout was in progress, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman threw everyone a curve ball, tweeting on “X” that Devin Haney would keep his title if he lost the fight. Everyone, including the TV commentators, was under the impression that the title would become vacant in the event that Haney lost.

Sulaiman cited the precedent of Corrales-Castillo II.

FYI: The Corrales-Castillo rematch, originally scheduled for June 3, 2005 and aborted on the day prior when Castillo failed to make weight, finally came off on Oct. 8 of that year, notwithstanding the fact that Castillo failed to make weight once again, scaling three-and-a-half pounds above the lightweight limit. He knocked out Corrales in the fourth round with a left hook that Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole, alluding to the movie “Blazing Saddles,” described as Mongo-esque (translation: the punch would have knocked out a horse). After initially insisting on a rubber match, which had scant chance of happening, WBC president Jose Sulaiman, Mauricio’s late father, ruled that Corrales could keep his title.

Whether or not you agree with Mauricio Sulaiman’s rationale, the timing of his announcement was certainly awkward.

Haney’s mandatory is Spanish southpaw Sandor Martin (42-3, 15 KOs), a cutie best known for his 2021 upset of Mikey Garcia. A bout between Haney and Martin has the earmarks of a dull fight.

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In a Shocker, Ryan Garcia Confounds the Experts and Upsets Devin Haney

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Its good to be crazy. Like a fox.

Ryan “KingRy” Garcia knocked down WBC super lightweight titlist Devin Haney three times to remind everyone of his fighting abilities in winning by majority decision on Saturday.

“I just knew what I could do,” Garcia said.

Fans will not forget the lanky kid from Victorville, California now.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) fooled everyone in playing crazy weeks before the fight, then showed shocking power to hand Haney (30-1, 15 KOs) his first loss as a professional at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Haney’s WBC super lightweight title was not at stake for Garcia because he weighed three pounds over the limit.

After Garcia seemingly acting out of control on social media, Haney’s guard must have slipped in the first round during the first few seconds as Garcia connected with that hellish left hook and Haney, with a look of shock in his eyes, almost went down. He barely survived the first round.

“He caught me with it,” said Haney.

During the next few rounds, Haney proceeded to advance toward Garcia seemingly fully aware of the lethal left hook. He used feints and rights to score with a busier approach as Garcia seemed cocked and ready to counter with a left hook.

In the fourth round it seemed Haney was confident he had regained control of the fight, but every time he opened up with more than a two-punch combination Garcia reminded him whose hands were faster and more dangerous.

Though Garcia seldom jabbed he seemed bent on looking for the right moment to unleash his deadly left hook. And every time the Southern California fighter opened up with a combination he scored and Haney dare not exchange.

A few times Haney smiled as if signifying he escaped.

In the seventh round Haney looked to punish Garcia’s body and instead was met with a three-punch combination included a left hook to the chin and down went Haney slumped on the ground. He managed to beat the count and as soon as Garcia came within reach Haney wrapped his arms around him with a python grip. Despite the warnings by referee Harvey Dock, the fallen fighter would not release and Garcia impatiently fired a weak punch during the break. The referee deducted a point from Garcia though he could have deducted a point from Haney for not obeying his instructions to release his hold. Haney actually went down three times in the round but only one was counted by the referee.

From that point on Haney was very cautious but still looking to win by decision.

Though Garcia kept using a shoulder-roll defense that left his body exposed, he would retaliate with three and four punch combinations that usually Haney could defend against other fighters.. But Garcia’s blazing combinations were too fast to defend.

In the 10th round Haney looked to attack and was countered by Garcia’s right and a blinding left hook to the chin and another two blows that sent the former undisputed lightweight champion to the floor again.

It didn’t look good for Haney to survive.

Garcia walked into the 11th round still composed and never out-of-control He dared Haney to exchange and when within striking distance Garcia unleashed another lightning combination and down went Haney again with a defeated look.

Both fighters had fought each other as amateurs six times so there were no surprises between them. But Garcia’s power and speed were superior and that was the difference in a professional fight.

In the final round both were cautious with Garcia’s combination punching proving too dangerous for Haney to open up. Garcia celebrated early as the round ended confident of victory.

After 12 rounds Garcia was seen the victor by majority decision 112-112, 114-110, 115-109.

“You really thought I was crazy,” Garcia told the interviewer and the crowd. “You guys hated on me.”

Other Bouts

Arnold Barboza (30-0) won a curious split decision victory over United Kingdom’s Sean McComb (18-2) in a 10-round super lightweight fight. McComb’s long reach and busy southpaw style gave Barboza trouble. But he managed to win the fight though the crowd was not pleased.

Bektemir Melikuziev (14-1, 10 KOs) defeated France’s Pierre Dibombe (22-1-1) by technical decision after eight rounds due to a cut on his eye from an accidental head butt. It was a very competitive super middleweight fight.

Costa Rica’s David Jimenez (16-1, 11 KOs) outworked John “Scrappy Ramirez (13-1, 9 KOs) in a 12-round scrap to upset the Los Angeles based fighter. After a few close rounds Jimenez simply bullied his way inside and forced Ramirez against the ropes and unloaded his guns.

After 12 rounds two judges saw it 117-111 and 116-114 all for Jimenez.

“I’m a hard-working man from Cartago I come from nothing,” said Jimenez. “My corner told me I had to work inside.”

Charles Conwell (19-0, 14 KOs) stepped on the gas early with vicious body shots and uppercuts and blasted through the resilient Nathaniel Gallimore (22-8-1, 17 KOs) for several rounds. After a brutal fifth and sixth round the referee halted the one-side beating in favor of Conwell who was fighting for the first time under the Golden Boy banner.

Another winner was Sergiy Derevyanchenko (15-5) by decision over Vaughn Alexander (18-11-1) in a super middleweight match.

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

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Haney and Garcia: Bipolar Opposites

One young man flew halfway around the world to take on a world champion in his own living room; not once, but twice. The other young man quit prior to one fight, and then again during another one.

The first guy mentioned is an obedient son of an ultra-streetwise father.  The type of parent where, if he doesn’t know the answer (and more times than not he most likely does), he will know where to find it. The second guy doesn’t appear to have that quality guidance scenario going on for him, which is probably for the best, because he believes he has all the answers.

The first guy is on record as saying he wants to go down in boxing history as an all-time great.  The other guy?  He decided not to continue in a fight while he was still sporting an undefeated record.  You may think to yourself if there was ever a time to soldier through, right?

Then yesterday, that same guy missed making weight by 3.2 pounds, and seemed to be more than fine with it, to the point where he actually appeared to be quite pleased with himself.

If you haven’t heard, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia are going to share a boxing ring in a twelve round go for God knows what will be at stake by the time they actually punch off.  The fact that no one from Garcia’s team has stepped in and rescued him from these unfolding events, his own personal well-being, and/or not to mention Devin Haney is, well, troubling in and of itself.

Back in the amateur days, the record shows they split six fights.  They were boys back then, so it means zero.  If anything, you’d want to be the older of the two, and Ryan had over a three-month age advantage.  If you’ve only been on the planet for a total of 120 months or so, every extra month could be a big enough difference in strength and development. Now as world class professionals in their prime?  That’s different.  Younger is always better.  Devin is that guy.

Haney and Garcia fought six times for free but will fight only once as professionals.  Then one of them will continue with their march for historic greatness, while the other will head back to Kamp Krazy, where he’s the current Mayor.

It’s never smart to lay 8-1, 9-1 in boxing.  And if you see taking Garcia as a value bet with +500 to +600 and beyond, you don’t understand value and you evidently don’t like money.

There is, however, a wagering opportunity here.

Total Rounds:  Fight doesn’t go 10.5 rounds.

Take anything over +125.  It’s worth a unit on a scale of 5.  Logically, there are a lot of ways to cash this ticket: legitimate victory, meltdown, catching lightning in a bottle, etc.  Or simply the exiting stage left of a guy who may be already plotting his next career move.

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