Props to the Nightmare

They say that styles make fights, and that explains why Frazier and Ali were so bad for each other, and why Foreman was KO’d by Ali and beat Frazier like drum. It’s not a linear equation. You can’t just look at the records and the tale of the tape and predict the outcome with any authority.

As my Dad would say, “That’s why they fight.”

If it were that logical and predictable I guess we wouldn’t watch it. And I’m glad I was watching last night.

I predicted a Kownacki victory (got that part right). But I also said he would win by knockout and within five rounds.


I’ve seen Arreola fight before – several times, including all three of his title fights. I knew what he looked like, and how he fights and I thought Kownacki would get inside of his looping punches and pummel him with uppercuts and straight shots and take him out.

Surpise number one: Arreola didn’t look like Arreola. He weighed in at 244. That’s about as trim as I can ever remember seeing him.

Surprise number two: While he normally throws about 40 punches a round – right near the heavyweight average, last night he threw twice that many – like Kownacki. Kownacki is known for his high-volume assault, relentlessly punching, punching, punching, throwing at twice the rate of the typical heavyweight. In this way, he overwhelms his opponents, chipping away at their defense till he finds his way to their chin. But instead of just covering up and hoping Kownacki would slow down, Arreola decided to fight fire with fire. He amped up his own offense, matching him punch for punch. (He actually set a record for number of punches thrown.) (!)

Surprise number three: While he did get pummeled, he never went down. They say you can’t buy a chin, or get one in the gym, so he must have worked a deal with the Devil to put that steel in his chin. It was never weak before, but last night it looked ready to take a sledge hammer. Remarkable.

Surprise number four: He wasn’t an ass. In the past I always thought of him as a bully. A cantakerous biker-looking beer-drinking bully. I’ll never forget him beating the slobber out of one Joey Abell. When it was clear that Abell was unconscious yet still standing, Arreola stopped throwing and went in for a smirking kiss instead. The Chris Arreola that we saw this week was a gentleman. For the first time I thought I could enjoy having a beer with him.

Surprise number five: The old boy ain’t done yet. I thought he was done three years ago, when he fought Wilder. He looked tired. I never saw anything like the confidence he would need to win. It even looked to me that Wilder carried him for few rounds. If I remember right, Wilder said something about giving the old man one last big payday as a send-off, a farewell. I believed it, thought that was his swan-song. When I read that he was going to fight Kownacki I bitched about it being a mis-match along the lines of Fury / Schwartz. Indeed the betting odds were severe, with Kownacki a -3,500 and Arreola +1,100. But the old guy made it a real fight, with smarts and guts and the hell with the odds.

But right the oddsmakers ultimately were, Kownacki won convincingly. After the fight that lady interviewer gushed “You said you would retire if you lost tonight, but surely after that performance you can’t be thinking of retirement now?” It was a vacuous question, but I think that she was just expressing the admiration and appreciation we all felt. He gave us a hell of a show, and we would like to see more.

But his point is well taken, and better it would be if more boxers were to adopt his point of view: He said “I’m too old to start over, and that’s where I’ll be if I lose, back to square one.” Too many, addicted to the adrenaline, can’t seem to find the brakes.

And by the way, what the hell was up with Kownacki playing the Polish national anthem? The man’s been living in Brooklyn since he was seven years old. I mean Arreola makes a big deal about his Mexican heritage, but he at least he knew what country he’s from. Props for that too.

So, I hope he does retire. And I hope he makes it stick, that he doesn’t attempt a ‘comeback’ in a couple years, saying “age is just a number” (I think George Foreman may someday regret saying that inasmuch as it has added fuel to the fire that still burns in old fighter’s bellies) and doing harm to himself. This was so much better a farewell than the Wilder fight.

Adios valiente guerrero. Via con Dios, Pesadilla.

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