Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs), of Los Angeles, participated in an international media conference call to discuss his eagerly anticipated WBC heavyweight title defense against unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Cristobal Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs), of Riverside by way of East L.A., on Saturday, Sept. 26, at Staples Center.
Tom Loeffler: “We’re really excited about this promotion. As was mentioned, this will be Vitali’s third time headlining at Staples Center. It’s the most of any fighter in Los Angeles. For Arreola, it would be the first time that a fighter of Mexican decent will have won the heavyweight championship if Arreola is successful.
"We’ve had a tremendous response so far in Los Angeles as far as ticket sales. Arreola has a lot of fans coming to support him and Vitali, because of his tremendous fight with Lennox Lewis and winning the WBC title from Corrie Sanders, has his own following here in Los Angeles.
His children were born here and he has a house here. He spends a lot of time in Los Angeles and has a strong connection with the L.A. boxing fans as well.”
Vitali Klitschko: “I am in Los Angeles now. I feel great. I’m in a great mood, not just because of the weather but because of the fight coming. I feel good and can’t wait for Saturday night when I can show my performance for all boxing fans and everyone who comes to Staples Center and everyone who sees the fight on TV.
I promise everybody will be surprised because my performance will be much better than before. Nobody has seen me in the shape I will be in on Sept. 26. Everything is good. I’m happy with my preparation and I’ve done all my homework.”
How difficult was it being forced into retirement at such a young age?
“I spent the time in retirement to fix all my problems. Before I made my comeback, I talked to many people. I talked to my coach, who supported me, I talked to my family. My mom and my wife didn’t want me to go into the ring anymore, but I feel good. I passed all tests and medical exams and we decided to make my comeback.
“To be honest, it was very difficult psychologically on me. Some people thought I didn’t want to fight Hasim Rahman. They didn’t think I had a real injury. There were so many stories out there. Physiologically, I think for every sportsman it’s very difficult to make the decision on retirement.”
What is your opinion of Arreola?
“Chris Arreola is a tough fighter. He’s the official contender, and to be No. 1 is not easy. You have to show your skills. I’ve studied him very well and I know he had a good amateur background and, as a professional, he’s undefeated. He moves very well. He has very good, explosive combinations. He has a big punch. He has everything you need to be a world champion, except one thing: He doesn’t have the experience as me. I want to show him my skills in the ring. I want to be world champion and keep my title for a long time.”
Can you talk about the techniques you are working on with (trainer) Fritz (Sdunek) that are a little bit different?
“We’ve been together almost 14 years. We’re one team and we know each other very well. We feel each other. We’re a good team. Every sportsman gets injured and it’s very important how a coach makes a preparation plan that gets you into great shape and in the right shape by fight time.
"I’ve had back problems, I’ve had knee problems and I’ve had shoulder problems before in my career. It’s very important that I am very careful with that. For example, if I have a back problem, I will run. Every morning before a fight, I run eight miles. Right now, we try to find exercises to fix the problems and be much stronger.’’
How rewarding is it for you to come back in fairly dominant fashion against two guys with very different styles?
“The main point in every profession is that you understand who the beginner is and who the professional is. The main point is experience and how you work with that. It’s very important that with experience, you get the best result.
“I have a lot of experience. For example, 10 years ago it was very difficult for me to prepare for a southpaw. Right now I’ve had so many fights against southpaws and many different styles, so I am ready to fight anyone with any style. I’ll only need a couple of weeks of preparation to be in great shape.
"That’s why when I study Chris Arreola I know how I will fight this guy and I know how I will beat him. I have a lot of experience against fighters with the same style, the same size and the same attitude. That’s why I’m prepared for this fight, 100 percent.’’
What’s your toughest opponent right now? Is it time, because of your age?
“I don’t want to break George Foreman’s age record. I am 38. I’m not the oldest one, but I’m not the youngest one either.
“For everyone, time can be your biggest enemy. But if you live a good life and I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, you will feel good. The best answer for your question will be the fight on Sept. 26. Chris Arreola is 10 years younger than me. Who will have a better performance? Who will have better conditioning? Let’s see. Who is better, 28-year-old Chris Arreola or 38-year-old Vitali Klitschko?’’
Chris has a lot of tattoos, and one tattoo says ‘the good die young.’ What do you think of statements like that? Is it because he’s brave and he boxes his heart out in the ring? What do you think of this type of attitude?
“I know he has a lot of tattoos. Everyone has their own lifestyle. For me, it’s just a tattoo and it doesn’t say what he is. I’ve studied his boxing skills. I’ve watched many fights of him and I’ve studied his style.’’
How difficult is living under the same roof as your trainer? Is it difficult or is it easy?
“We live in the same building, but not in the same room, so that’s not a problem. It’s very good. A team feeling is very important, so in that way it’s helped a lot. We are together when we’re training, we are together for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We discuss the fight and we feel much better.”
Do you think that Arreola taking the fight to you is the wrong strategy for him?
“I have to be prepared for many plans. I have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. If plan A doesn’t work, we have B. If B doesn’t work, we have C. I have a lot of experience and I’m ready to fight all 12 rounds. I’m in great condition. I’ll find the mistakes of Arreola and I’ll use his mistake and do my best to send him to the floor as soon as possible.
“I’m ready to fight long distance, short distance and whole distance. That’s why I’ll have a great performance and I’m ready for this fight. I don’t want to talk so much about strategy. I want to present my strategy in the ring on Sept. 26.”
Do you feel that the retirement has actually helped you out in the long run in terms of resting up?
“Nobody knows. Sometimes it’s very good to take a break so you have time to fix problems. I had time to be really hungry for boxing and to fight again. This time has helped me a lot, this break. Nobody knows if I’d still be boxing if I didn’t have this injury. What happens, happens. Everything else is just speculation. Nobody knows if I didn’t have the injuries if I’d still fight or not. I haven’t seen anyone during this time who could beat me, just my brother.”
One looks at Arreola’s record and has a hard time finding a big-name opponent who is remotely close to your experience. Do you view him as a vastly less experienced fighter compared to some of the top guys you’ve faced in your career?
“If I see his record, he’s a puncher. He doesn’t lose. I’ve studied him so well. He’s strong; I don’t want to underestimate him. But, if you’re asking about skills, I have all the skills to be the world champion, but not him.”
Can you understand why David Haye didn’t fight you?
“He’s a serious fighter, but not a serious person. Professional boxing is not just work, it’s also about negotiations, contracts. To make the fight happen, you have to put a lot of work into that.
“Against Valuev, he has a chance to be world champion. Against me, he has a chance to be knocked out.”
Did you leave a little bit of money on the table by coming to the U.S. to fight Chris?
“The United States is the Mecca of boxing. Max Schmeling told me, if you want to be a real world champion, you have to fight in the United States . Money is very important, but I don’t fight just for the money. I fight for the fans.
“I’m very happy to fight in the U.S. , especially against Chris Arreola in Los Angeles . It is going to be a very good fight and I’m happy to show my skills. It’s been a long time since I’ve fought in the U.S. and I want to refresh the memories of all boxing fans.”
What does it mean to you to be fighting in Los Angeles so close to your home against an L.A. fighter?
“I have a huge fan community in L.A. I have a lot of friends in L.A. If you ask me where I live, I live here. I have a special feeling here in Los Angeles and Staples Center. A lot of fans who support me like boxing. I’m very happy to bring a world championship between two of the hardest hitting fighters in the world to Staples Center.’’
Tickets, starting at $25, can be purchased at Staples Center , all TicketMaster outlets, by phone (800) 745-3000 and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
The 12-round world championship will be promoted by K2 Promotions in association with Goossen Tutor Promotions. It will air live on HBO at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.