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Arreola faces must-win fight against Kauffman

Heavyweight Chris Arreola has had plenty of opportunities in his career. Twice he has fought for a world title, but came up terribly short each time, getting knocked out by Vitali Klitschko in a one-sided thrashing in 2009 and by Bermane Stiverne in a 2014 rematch.

There have been other letdowns too for Arreola, such as upset decision losses to Tomasz Adamek and to Stiverne in their first fight, not to mention constant questions about his lack of conditioning.

In his last three bouts, Arreola perhaps has shown the wear and tear of a tough 12-year career. He is 1-1-1 and has looked particularly bad in his last two fights, both against middling opposition.

Arreola got knocked out by Stiverne in the sixth round fighting for a vacant world title in May 2014, survived to win an eight-round decision in a life-and-death battle with journeyman Curtis Harper in March and was lucky to get a draw with journeyman Fred Kassi in July.

Now Arreola faces what has to be considered a must-win fight to remain remotely relevant when he takes on Travis Kauffman, whom he has been friends with and sparred with for around 10 years, in a scheduled 12-round bout that will open the Premier Boxing Champions card on NBC on Saturday night (NBC, 8:30 ET) at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.

In the main event former lightweight titleholders Omar Figueroa (25-0-1, 18 KOs) and Antonio DeMarco (31-5-1, 23 KOs) meet in a scheduled 12-round junior welterweight bout.

“I know I have a tough test in front of me. My opponent has a lot of amateur experience and he has been a good pro,” Arreola said. “I have to make this one count. You never know when it’s going to be your last chance.

“I looked bad in my last two fights and you’re only as good as your last fight. I think my opponent sees me as a fighter on his way down and that fires me up. He’s going to wish he never fought me. I’ve always thought of myself as an elite fighter.”

Kauffman (30-1, 22 KOs), 30, of Reading, Pennsylvania, has never faced anyone even close to Arreola’s level, as he has built his record against very poor opposition. However, he has won 12 fights in a row since suffering a fourth-round knockout to Tony Grano in 2009 and has not taken nearly as much punishment as Arreola has. This fight is a huge opportunity for him.

“Chris and I go way back. At least 10 years,” Kauffman said. “We were in camp with [former heavyweight champion] Hasim Rahman and we are personal friends, but come Saturday night it’s business. There are no friends.

“Chris has had many opportunities and knocked at the door. But he hasn’t taken advantage of it. This is a huge opportunity and I’m going to take advantage.”

Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs), 34, of Riverside, California, said he realizes that he has to go through Kauffman — whom he has sparred around 200 rounds with over the years — to have a prayer of getting another major fight.

“Kauffman and I have sparred many times,” Arreola said. “For him it has been a paid vacation. I’ve been lazy sometimes and Kauffman knows that. He didn’t have to really work against me.”

Still, Arreola said he is taking the fight with him seriously.

“My main concern is Travis Kauffman. I have to beat him convincingly,” Arreola said. “I need to beat him to the point where everyone wants me to fight for a title. I want to earn my title shot.

“This is the beginning to a title run. I want to cement myself as a top heavyweight in the world. I’m a heavyweight to be reckoned with and I’m going to prove that to everyone. I need this fight for my career.

“The fact that Kauffman wanted to fight me makes sense. He thinks I’m done and that I party too much. After this Saturday, I’m going to party after I beat him down.”

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