Cristobal Arreola is up first.
Fight 1: Israel Garcia (W-TKO-3 / September 25, 2008)
Weight: 258 1/2. The last five fights of Arreola's career are, coincidentally, where his conditioning has taken a massive slide backward. Arreola had come in in the mid-250s earlier in his career in junk fights where he was all but guaranteed a win simply by being better than the other schmuck out there. But let's not make any mistake: Cris Arreola has looked his best when he's fought in the 230s, even getting down to the high 220s for a couple fights. Before this laugher, he had weighed 239 against Chazz Witherspoon, where he looked pretty good. Three months later, he'd ballooned up 19.5 pounds at the scales. This was a Versus Network co-feature the night that Paul Williams moved up to middleweight to rip Andy Kolle. I remember remarking early how fat Arreola looked.
Listen, before we really get started, let's get this out of the way. Cristobal Arreola is fat. I am not trying to insult him, I'm just saying what it is. I am also fat. However I have no designs on being the world heavyweight champion. If I'm trying to analyze his career, it's pretty hard to do so without talking about his weight. He and his camp can chalk it up to "hating" if they want to, but I'm confident that if he doesn't change the course he's on, he's never going to be more than a fun TV heavyweight. I don't like insulting fighters -- it's just not something I take any pleasure in. I'm just saying, as countless others have, that the guy's weight is a clear issue, and it gives the impression that he doesn't really give a shit about dedicating himself to the sport, and in return, a lot of people wonder why they should give a shit about watching him fight. HBO has gotten on his bandwagon pretty hardcore -- they've televised his last four fights, three of which didn't really deserve to be televised on HBO. Because he's a fun TV heavyweight, Arreola gets breaks that other guys probably won't. That and he's a Mexican-American, so his instant fanbase is very good. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, or that there are even more than about three heavyweights I'd rather see fight. I'm not saying I don't enjoy watching him fight. It just is what it is. He's consistently out of shape. We'll discuss that more.
This fight was a mismatch with a 38-year-old fighter who fought on average twice a year for ten years coming in. Garcia had turned pro in '98 and never really made it, but his record was decent enough to put on a chyron (19-1). Arreola smashed him, but was clearly well out of shape.
Fight 2: Travis Walker (W-TKO-3 / November 29, 2008)
Weight: 254. Walker came out like a heavyweight tornado in round one, throwing a butt load (scientific term) of punches and giving Arreola some huge trouble. Arreola hit a knee in the second round, still under major pressure, but came up from it ready to fire heavy artillery of his own. As has been the case on several occasions, Walker hits like a truck (Arreola described him later as a guy who "hits like a donkey kicks"), but his chin tends to fail him. Walker hit the mat twice in the second round, and Arreola finished him off 13 seconds into the third frame. Referee Jack Reiss told a downed Walker that it was just like Hagler-Hearns. Jack Reiss was overstating it, but it was a hell of a big man brawl.
Fight 3: Jameel McCline (W-KO-4 / April 11, 2009)
Weight: 255. McCline, a month away from turning 39 entering this fight, clearly did not care about winning. He mostly just didn't want to get hurt, get some money, and go home. It happens. Jameel McCline made a lot of efforts over his 14-year career, and by this point it was pretty well apparent to all that the world title wasn't going to be coming his way. For a guy who started 2-2-1 in his first five fights, I'd say McCline didn't do too badly overall. He had that nice three-fight run with wins over Michael Grant, Lance Whitaker and Shannon Briggs back in 2001-02, but then he met Wladimir Klitschko and had the crap beaten out of him, and he never quite made it back. He was a longtime contender, a valuable veteran to have around, and he scored some nice wins. He was what he was. He wasn't much by way of pure talent, but he was a big man who had a run, short as it was.
As for this fight, Arreola wailed on McCline for a few rounds and then Jameel decided that was enough. McCline has not fought since, and as he turns 40 years old next month, likely won't again if he has himself in good standing.
Fight 4: Vitali Klitschko (L-RTD-10 / September 26, 2009)
Weight: 251. Arreola came in at his lightest weight since Witherspoon, but it wasn't even sort of moderately close to enough. Vitali Klitschko did some sort of awkward shuffle around the ring all night, as Arreola helplessly and cluelessly walked into jab upon jab, arm punch after arm punch, getting his face busted up despite never appearing to be in any serious trouble, until the fight was stopped after 10 incredibly one-sided rounds. A week before this, Floyd Mayweather Jr. had made Juan Manuel Marquez look like a 16-year old sparring partner who'd just started boxing four weeks before, and then Klitschko did much the same with Arreola, though it wasn't as fluid or pretty.
This, everyone assumed, was to be Cristobal Arreola's wake-up call. He'd gotten by for long enough, and now he'd tried his luck with one of the top dogs in the heavyweight division. I've said numerous times that it's no coincidence that the three best heavyweights in the world are the Klitschkos and David Haye. They all stay in shape and actually care about their fitness. Hell if anything, Haye probably packs on too much muscle at this point.
Cristobal Arreola seems like a good dude. He makes his tired jokes about burritos and Coronas (seriously, Cris, drink a better beer), and most laugh with him. But after this fight, he was incredibly emotional, and it was perfectly OK to think to yourself, "Wow, yeah, I think he gets it now."
Arreola returned to the ring just over two months later, another sign that he'd gotten some hunger (the good kind) beaten into him by Vitali Klitschko. Sure his opponent was no world-beater, but he wanted people to see the new Cris Arreola. This Arreola, we were promised, would be in shape, focused, and ready to kick some ass in the heavyweight division. It was so convincing that HBO produced a short video feature about how focused and in-shape Arreola was going to be. They aired it just before his fight with Brian Minto.
Fight 5: Brian Minto (W-TKO-4 / December 5, 2009)
Weight: 263. Then after the feature was finished, Jim Lampley had to take the microphone and explain that Cristobal Arreola had come in at a career-high 263 pounds for his fight with Brian Minto. Arreola was all cowboy on this night, and the gutsy but wildly overmatched Minto tried to meet him toe-for-toe. The end result was predictable -- for God's sake, Arreola outweighed him by 45 pounds on the scales. Minto's next fight is to be against cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck. I dare say that more people came away from this fight impressed by Minto's chutzpah than they did by anything Arreola did.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Fight 1: Steve Cunningham (W-SD-12 / December 11, 2008)
After losing at light heavyweight to Chad Dawson, Tomasz Adamek moved up to cruiserweight, where he stormed past a couple of also-rans and then a shot-looking former champion in O'Neil Bell. An ESPN2 win over Gary Gomez set up a fight with USS Cunningham, which Versus picked up on December 11.
Plenty of us thought this would be a good fight, but I don't think a Fight of the Year contender was what we had in mind. In this electrifying back-and-forth battle, Adamek was able to squeak out a split decision largely thanks to some huge rounds and some knockdowns. You could argue that Cunningham actually outboxed Adamek overall, and much of the fight was definitely in Cunningham's favor. Most tragic about this was that we never got the rematch everyone wanted badly -- this fight made Adamek the legitimate cruiserweight champion of the world, but his two defenses of the crown were somewhat lacking. Cunningham has fought just once since then, as his career has been screwed over in the aftermath of a great, great fight.
Fight 2: Johnathon Banks (W-TKO-8 / February 27, 2009)
Kronk product Banks was unbeaten but untested. He actually fared pretty well in the first part of the fight, giving Adamek some trouble. Banks had a heavyweight frame, and has moved up to the bigger division. Eventually, Adamek's ability and accuracy were too much for Banks, and he was able to get the stoppage, a solid victory.
Fight 3: Bobby Gunn (W-RTD-4 / July 11, 2009)
This is when it became apparent that the cruiserweight ranks, if Adamek wanted to fight in America, were thin. Bobby Gunn was beaten badly by Adamek, with the fight stopped after four rounds by the doctor and referee. Adamek was about three classes above Gunn, who hasn't fought since.
Fight 4: Andrew Golota (W-TKO-5 / October 24, 2009)
So Adamek moved up to heavyweight, and to capitalize on it all, fought big ol' Andrew "Foul Pole" Golota in Poland. This was a massive money fight in the two fighters' home country, but for all the nice you can say about it business-wise, Golota, like McCline earlier, really didn't appear to have much motivation in the ring. Adamek bopped him around and rang his bell, and the referee stopped it in five. Golota barely touched Adamek, who was too fast and too sharp, and also appeared to be there to win and knock somebody out. It was rather uninspired for Golota. He didn't even hit anyone in the penis.
Fight 5: Jason Estrada (W-UD-12 / February 6, 2010)
This one was far more interesting. Estrada, a feather-fisted former Olympian with skills but nowhere near the complete package to be an elite heavyweight contender, gave Adamek some trouble, particularly when the Pole gassed out late in the fight. The prevailing thought after this one was that Adamek could be in serious danger against a guy like Arreola, given that Estrada hit him plenty and had him in trouble late in the fight. Estrada complained afterward that he was robbed, but really nobody else went that far. Adamek dismissed the talk of Arreola being a tougher task, since Estrada is quicker than Arreola and a much better boxer.