-- As the years have ticked by, so has Chris Arreola's relevance in the heavyweight division. But an unusual situation has unexpectedly led him back to the forefront as he prepares for yet another world title fight.
Arreola, getting his third shot at the big prize and always with a puncher's chance, will challenge Deontay Wilder in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card Saturday (Fox, 8 p.m. ET) at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
While Arreola typically heads to the ring ready to empty his tank in a fan-friendly scrap, there are few who believe he belongs anywhere near a world title fight with anything other than a ticket.
Arreola, always refreshingly honest, is one of them.
"Do I deserve this title shot? No, I don't think I do," Arreola said. "But since I don't deserve it, I'm doing everything to win. Everything that I didn't do in the past, I'm doing. Everything that I wasn't supposed to do, I'm not doing. So I'm doing everything I possibly can to win this fight. Everything. Everything.
"I got to leave everything in the ring. I got to leave everything out there, man. Yes, my back is against the wall. This is my last title shot. And I have to bring it. I have to make this a dog fight, plain and simple."
In the 10-round welterweight co-feature, Sammy Vasquez (21-0, 15 KOs), 30, of Monessen, Pennsylvania, will face 32-year-old fellow southpaw Felix Diaz (17-1, 8 KOs), a 2008 Dominican Olympic gold medalist. Also, blue chip junior middleweight prospect Erickson Lubin (15-0, 11 KOs), 20, of Orlando, Florida, will face Mexico's Ivan Montero (20-1, 8 KOs).
Arreola's recent history clearly shows why a world title opportunity came as a big surprise to him. The 35-year-old from Riverside, California, is just 2-2-1 with a no decision in his past six fights and he has looked like an out-of-shape shell of the explosive top contender he once was.
In his last fight, on Dec. 12, he got knocked down and struggled to a controversial 12-round decision win against Travis Kauffman. Then the result was changed to a no decision after Arreola tested positive for a banned substance, marijuana. Arreola was suspended for 90 days. It was the second time in five years that he cost himself a win and was suspended for a positive marijuana test.
Arreola's history in world title fights is also poor. In 2009, he got his first shot but was outclassed in a 10th-round knockout loss to Vitali Klitschko, who turned him into a human bobblehead. In 2014, when he faced Bermane Stiverne for the belt, Klitschko vacated upon his retirement, he got knocked out again in the sixth round. Then Stiverne lost the title to Wilder by one-sided decision in his first defense.
Wilder, 30, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was scheduled to make a long-awaited mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin on May 21 in Moscow. However, Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association urine test conducted on April 27. The results came to light nine days before the fight, and although Povetkin's level was extremely low, the fight was called off.
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs), who will be making his fourth title defense, had been through nearly two months of training and was granted permission by the WBC to organize an optional defense while the sanctioning body investigated the matter.
Enter Arreola, who got the somewhat short-notice assignment simply because he has the right connections -- namely adviser and PBC creator Al Haymon, who also has Wilder in his vast stable.
Arreola is no fool. He knows the score.
"I understand the situation. I understand everything," he said. "Let's be honest, man. Do I deserve it? Come on. No. But that being said, that means that I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. That's my mentality. I'm coming in there to win this fight. I'm coming in here to upset Mr. Wilder. That's my mentality. My mentality is to win, period.
"There are those kind of fighters that just go in to get paid. That's not me, man. I have never been that guy. If people have seen me fight, I don't come in to get paid. I come in there to win. I've been preparing to win this fight. I'm preparing to take this title. I'm preparing for everything."
Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs), still holding onto his dream of becoming the first heavyweight titleholder of Mexican descent, is the first to admit that the offer for the title shot came as a surprise.
"Let's go. That's all I said. Let's do it," Arreola said of his reaction to the offer. "You know what, man, when a title shot comes, you don't turn it down, period. What kind of shape was I in? In decent shape.
"So I got this shot. Let's go. Let's do it. Let's get in training. Let's make this happen. I respect Deontay and thank you for giving me this opportunity. The main thing is I'm coming for the win. I'm not just coming to show up. I'm not coming just to get paid. That's not me. I'm not that guy that comes to get paid. I'm coming for that title. I'm coming for that win."
Arreola said he wanted the fight so badly when it came up he didn't even take his compensation into account.
"I don't even know what I'm getting paid for this. I don't even know," said Arreola in a very surprising revelation. "It wasn't even told to me. I don't care. Money is not the part. My part is I want to win this fight. That's the God honest truth."
There is a sense of desperation around Arreola, who figures this is his last title shot. Wilder said that makes him wary.
"It's just like a rabbit. The rabbit can be soft and sweet all you want, but you push him in a corner, he's going to fight," Wilder said. "So I think this is the corner for Chris Arreola. This is like the corner of his career.
"Of course, people say who deserves this or who's supposed to deserve that. But who are people to say who deserved anything? Sometimes chances come around more than twice, and this is his third time. I don't believe in luck. But he's been blessed with a third opportunity. If I was him, I would take it very seriously."
Like Klitschko, Wilder is 6-foot-7 with a four-inch height advantage over Arreola, who said he learned a good lesson against the taller Klitschko he hopes to employ Saturday.
"The main thing is I got to move my head, man," Arreola said. "Vitali Klitschko clobbered me with jabs left and right. I believe he threw the most punches he had thrown in his career against me, and that's because I just kept coming with the pressure. And the thing about it, I just got to be a lot smarter and I got to be more athletic about it because Deontay is a more athletic fighter than Klitschko is, a lot more athletic. And he moves a whole lot better around the ring.
"I just got to try to keep Deontay on his heels, and that's going to be a big task in itself. And just come hard behind the jab and not get caught with that dangerous right hand he has."
Arreola has disappointed many on his team over the years by coming into his biggest fights in less than top condition. Longtime trainer Henry Ramirez has ripped him publicly at times for his lack of dedication. But Ramirez said Arreola took his abbreviated training camp in San Diego seriously.
"Chris fractured his ankle in early March, and he'd been cleared for a few weeks already," Ramirez said. "He had done some light training. We got the call right around May 16 or 17. Was nothing guaranteed. We were just kind of told you might get this fight. You might want to start getting ready.
"When we actually got the call that it was officially happening, it was pretty much Memorial Day weekend. But we had already started training, just having the heads up that we may get the fight."
Arreola got it. He knows he didn't deserve it. Now it's up to him to make the most of it.
"Well, this is my third opportunity and it has been just a long road, man," he said. "I've been working very hard to win this title. I can't let this opportunity slip away. Once the bell rings, it's time to go fight and it's time to get that title, man. I want that title.
"I want it more than anything. I've been working my ass off. I've got to make the best out of this opportunity."