Cloquet man aims to box his way to a better life
Growing up, Oscar Arreola was a young man in search of direction. He was born in Mexico, emigrated to the United States and Carlton County without being able to speak a word of English -- and fought on the streets once he got here. But like many ...
Growing up, Oscar Arreola was a young man in search of direction.
He was born in Mexico, emigrated to the United States and Carlton County without being able to speak a word of English - and fought on the streets once he got here.
But like many young men in his situation, Arreola found a way to turn his life around. It came through boxing.
And now Arreola, who has spent seven years in the United States, is a Golden Gloves boxing champion.
Arreola won the 152-pound division of the Minnesota Golden Gloves in Wadena last month and was named the tournament’s most outstanding fighter. With a record of 9-0, he is a promising fighter indeed. However, he can’t continue on his dream road because he isn’t yet a United States citizen.
“They gave the title to someone who was, because you have to be a citizen to compete in regionals,” Arreola said. “I’m taking care of that now.”
Arreola was born in Juarez City, Mexico, and came to the United States at age 13. His mother remarried, moved to Cloquet and, once the paperwork was completed, eventually brought Oscar along.
But once he arrived in America, young Oscar found the going tough.
“I was always getting in trouble and getting in fights after I came here,” Arreola said. “There was a lot of racist stuff that got to me. But my uncle was always interested in boxing and Oscar de la Hoya was one of my idols because we had the same first name and I liked boxing too. Then someone said I should come to the gym. It gave me an outlet.”
But win or lose, Arreola has already done something more important - transformed his life.
At age 19, Arreola found coach Phil Angell at Warriors of the North Boxing Club in Cloquet and immediately found a home.
“I found my coach then and started getting ready for the fights,” Arreola said. “He’s like a dad to me and the whole gym is like a family.”
“That is my identity now,” he said. “Without boxing, I don’t know what I would do. I was pretty angry as a younger person, and it is an outlet for me for instead of drugs or hanging out with the wrong people. My coach encourages me. He’s my friend and a friend to all of us.”
The team spirit extends to Arreola helping the younger boxers out with training. Between 30 and 40 young fighters gather at Warriors of the North to learn the “sweet science.” As an older fighter, Oscar is there to help.
“[The kids] call me ‘champ’ and want to work with me,” he said. “I love those kids and help however I can. I’m in there busting my [tail] and the last thing I want is for them to see me not working.”
“I see myself in some of them,” Arreola added. “I saw a kid trying to do one-handed pushups on a break, working hard, and the coach said, ‘Look, Oscar, who does that remind you of?’ I want to be a good example to him.”
The rest is history. Arreola is believed to be the first Cloquet boxer in over 30 years to have won a Golden Gloves regional and the fighter has big dreams.
“I would like to win a national championship and then maybe see if I can box in the Olympics,” Arreola said. “That’s the main goal.”
Right behind citizenship. Arreola has strong feelings about taking the oath.
“I want to be a citizen,” he said. “I consider myself a U.S. citizen and I’d fight for this country. If I had to protect my people right now, if anything came up I’m like ‘I got this.’ I would die on this ground. My brother is in the military and I feel the same way.”
But while the military may not be in Oscar’s future, fighting for his adopted country certainly might be.
“I’m going to take care of that (citizenship),” he promised. “Mexico has nothing for me now. That’s not the place I should be.”