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BILL DWYRE

Cris Arreola's trainer can take a charge

Henry Ramirez has guided Arreola to an unbeaten record and a shot at the heavyweight title. He also has a new nickname.

September 24, 2009|BILL DWYRE

It was just hours after his boxer's toughest fight, Cris Arreola's winning brawl over Travis Walker last Thanksgiving weekend, when Henry Ramirez stopped being Just Plain Henry.

Boxing loves nicknames. So do trainers. Example: Ignacio Beristain is "Nacho."

So, in the wee hours of that Nov. 29 night, there was Just Plain Henry, about to acquire a new label.

Ramirez is Arreola's longtime trainer. His strategy and decision-making in the corner Saturday night at Staples Center will have a big bearing on whether Arreola can pull off a huge upset against World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko.

People doubt Ramirez's credentials. As much as training Arreola to his 27 wins without a loss and into sudden international prominence in the boxing world, Ramirez has grown up with him. Arreola is 28, Ramirez 33.

"I met Cris in Riverside, probably 10 years ago," Ramirez says. "We knew a lot of the same people."

Some fear that a trainer who hangs out with his boxer after hours, who is as much friend as disciplinarian, cannot be effective. Arreola and Ramirez, often appearing to be as close as brothers, debunk all that.

Arreola talks about the two-a-day workouts Ramirez put him through.

"He kicked my butt," Arreola says.

Ramirez nods and says, "We put him through hell."

Ramirez is quick with a quip, while still being a no-nonsense guy with a real sense of how big the opportunity is for this pair from Riverside.

At a news conference Tuesday, he had just enough of an edge to be a promoter's dream.

"Vitali has been a good champion," Ramirez says, "but good things come to an end."

Afterward, he remained sharp with the quotes to reporters, telling them that Arreola's oft-discussed weight issue isn't one, that the only people concerned about his weight are "the people who don't matter." He says Arreola would come in at about 250 pounds, and "that spooks you guys, not us."

Ramirez's honesty is refreshing, especially in boxing, where many pre-fight news conferences and promotional events are best attended wearing rubber boots. Ramirez elaborates on the already overdone hype of Arreola's chance to become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent:

"If Cris wins, this will be huge in the Mexican community," Ramirez says. "Look how they treated Julio Cesar Chavez when he was champion, and heavyweights are bigger in boxing. . . . Look how they treat Cesar Chavez's kid, and he doesn't even have any talent.

"Mexicans won't know what to do if this happens."

Between fights, Arreola is known to visit an occasional nightclub.

"He parties," says Ramirez, who apparently goes along enough to know.

The night of Nov. 29 at the Ontario Citizen's Business Bank Arena was the night Arreola got knocked down once before knocking out Walker and delivering this famous post-match assessment of his opponent: "He hits like a donkey kicks."

It was also the night that Just Plain Henry got his nickname.

The fight being over, some nightclubs were visited. Upon exiting one, Ramirez, probably about a welterweight, noticed a fight in the parking lot, saw that one of his friends was getting the worst of it, and quickly weighed in.

Arreola, who witnessed it all with delight, first told the story several months ago over lunch.

"Henry got in some good licks before the cops arrived," he says, grinning ear-to-ear as Ramirez squirms. "And then they hit him with the Taser. He went down in sections."

One description of what a Taser does is cause "neuromuscular incapacitation." That would be consistent with "going down in sections."

When the story was revived Tuesday, Ramirez was asked what it felt like to be hit with a Taser.

"I don't remember," he says.

He remembers the fine -- "a big one" -- and remembers the immediate aftermath.

"They started to call me Electric Henry," he says. "A girl I know made me a T-shirt. It has a bolt on the front and says 'Electric' on the back."

And so it has come to pass. Boxing now has an on-the-verge-of-stardom trainer with a great nickname.

It hasn't gone to his head. His best friends just call him Electric.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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