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Is Chris Arreola About to Become a Contender Again?

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

There was a time when Chris Arreola was a rising contender. Not only was he an American, but a Mexican-American heavyweight who had shown knockout power, a fan-pleasing style, and a likeable personality. He was honest, charismatic, loved to drop his F-bombs in an almost forgetful fashion, and people were able to take to him. Having a built-in fanbase and fighting the way he did, it was easy to see Arreola becoming a top drawing fighter, even with his flaws in the ring.

Starting in 2008, Arreola began to make his way to the big fights. He also began to make his way to a bigger waistline, and over time, became more punchline than serious contender.

It was a two-fight swing in '08 that saw Arreola move from exciting contender to a guy who was the butt of a bunch of fat jokes. On June 21 that year, Arreola was 239 pounds on the scales and put a whooping on then-undefeated Chazz Witherspoon in a fight designed to push one of the young American heavyweights toward potential stardom. Witherspoon was disqualified after three rounds of a fight that was going Arreola's way, and Arreola kept on trucking.

But he took a soft fight in September against Israel Carlos Garcia, and showed up soft himself. In just three months, Arreola had gone from weighing in at 239 pounds to checking in at 258½. He was clearly incredibly out of shape, and though the fight lasted just three rounds, it was an omen for what was to come.

Over his next six fights, Arreola was able to outslug Travis Walker, Jameel McCline, Brian Minto and Manuel Quezada. But in a pair of legit fights, he was dominated by Vitali Klitschko and outboxed by Tomasz Adamek. The fight with Klitschko saw Arreola come in at 251 pounds, and after he was unable to keep pace or hunt down the big Ukrainian star, getting battered by jabs until finally the fight was stopped after 10 rounds, Arreola was more criticized than ever before for his poor physical conditioning. He still joked about it, but no one was laughing with him anymore.

Arreola promised to come back in better shape when he met Minto less than three months later, again on HBO. HBO even did a video feature on Arreola's comeback from his first loss, all about the supposed "new" Chris Arreola we would see. He was going to dedicate himself to staying in shape.

Instead, Arreola showed up at a career-high 263 pounds at the weigh-in, and after airing the feature, the HBO commentators had to all but apologize for wasting viewers' time on a lie.

In January of this year, Arreola was under 250 pounds for the first time since the Witherspoon fight. He was just barely under, at 249¾ pounds for a fight with Minnesota club regular Joey Abell. But that has led Arreola to today.

On May 14, Arreola will fight Nagy Aguilera on the Ward-Abraham undercard in Carson, California. It's not a big fight. Aguilera has long since been exposed as a one-hit wonder who happened to catch chinny, old Oleg Maskaev in the first round one time. And it's not going to be televised.

But Chris Arreola is taking himself seriously. If you've seen Arreola at any time in the last two years or so, a recent photo from his training camp might stun you. He's pointing at a scale that's tipping at 245 pounds.

Arreola is never going to be one of the "fit" heavyweights. But there's no denying that with his punching power, good chin, still fan-friendly style, and that same built-in fanbase, an Arreola that is at least in shape for Chris Arreola could once again be a danger to the current heavyweight division. At 30, it was getting close to "now or never" time for Arreola. He said for years that he was going to train harder, be in better shape.

Now he's actually doing it. It's too early to say that Arreola is headed back to contention. That will only happen in the ring. He's had some nagging hand injuries over the years that could set him back no matter how hard he works in training, but at least he's giving himself the legitimate chance to be all that he can be.

If you still want to believe in Chris Arreola, he appears to be trying to validate that feeling.

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