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Arreola Wins Festival Boxing Title With Help From East L.A. Neighbor

July 22, 1987|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. — Jose Arreola does not have to look far for inspiration. His neighbor in East Los Angeles is Paul Gonzales.

"I watched Paul at the '84 Olympics," said Arreola of the gold medalist in the 106-pound weight class. "He made it. I think I can make it."

Arreola, 18, took a step in that direction Tuesday night at the Raleigh Civic Center, winning a decision, 4-1, over U.S. champion Arthur Johnson of Minneapolis for the championship in the 112-pound weight class at the U.S. Olympic Festival.

The decision was popular with the capacity crowd of more than 4,700, which included retired middleweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard.

But Arreola's victory stunned Johnson, who, even though it was obvious he had lost, glared at the judges, as if he could not believe their decision, and U.S. boxing officials, who have considered Johnson one of their hopes for a gold medal at the Pan American Games, Aug. 8-23, in Indianapolis. Johnson, 21, was named the outstanding boxer at last summer's Goodwill Games in Moscow.

Referring to the U.S. Pan American coach, Arreola said: "I could hear Roosevelt Sanders saying, 'Let's go, Johnson.' I know they've all got their favorites. I knew I had to win big, and I did. I'm pretty sure I've proved to them now that I'm a good fighter."

Arreola will have to prove it again 10 days from now, when he fights Johnson in Colorado Springs for a berth on the U.S. team at the Pan American Games. If Arreola wins, he is on the team. If Johnson wins, they have to fight again the next day for the berth.

"He was too overconfident," Arreola said. "He thought he could beat me easy because he was No. 1. He was No. 1. He won't be overconfident next time, but I'll still beat him."

Most of the other favorites won, including both world champions remaining in the competition. Kelcie Banks of Chicago won a decision, 4-1, over Tony Braxton of Camp Lejeune, N.C., in the 125-pound weight class, and Kenneth Gould of Rockford, Ill. also won, 4-1, over Derrick Rolon of Elizabeth, N.J., at 147 pounds.

The United States' other world champion, Darin Allen of Columbus, Ohio, lost in the 165-pound semifinals.

Arreola said Gonzales, who turned professional after the Olympics, helped him train before the amateurs had to report last month to Camp Lejeune, giving him tips in particular on Johnson.

"He had sparred with Johnson before," Arreola said. "He told me everything about Arthur Johnson."

Arreola said it also helped that Gonzales is about the same height as Johnson, who is 5-7. Arreola is 5-2.

"I like to fight guys who are taller than me," Arreola said. "I can move in under them."

Like Gonzales, Arreola trains at the Hollenbeck Youth Center. Arreola had the same coach, Al Stankie, before switching to his brother, Memo Arreola, and then John Lopez.

"Paul and I are very close," said Arreola, who graduated in 1986 from Roosevelt High School. "We've been living almost next door to each other for 15 years. We're kinda like cousins."

Arreola is the youngest of nine brothers. Five of them became professional boxers, although only one, Adrian, a featherweight, is still making a living in the ring. Their father, Cipriano, was a club fighter in Guadalajara, Mexico, before moving to East Los Angeles 18 years ago, a short time before Jose was born.

"My dad says one of us has got to make it," Arreola said. "So far, all of my brothers went down. I promised Mom and Dad I'll be the one."

But Arreola almost quit boxing after going with the U.S. team last year to Moscow, Leningrad and Yerevan in the Soviet Union. He won one of three bouts there and then did not fight again until this year, when he finished second in the National Golden Gloves.

"There was a lot of trouble in the family, a lot of arguments," he said. "We all live in the same house. My mother was in the hospital, and I just couldn't take fighting any more.

"But my family talked me into coming back. Without them, I wouldn't be here.

"I'm going to buy my Mom a house and get them out of East L.A. That's my main goal, to get my family out of East L.A."

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