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Can Andrei Arlovski Get His ‘Bite’ Back?

freecompress NFL 026One of the stranger sports stories of the past is that of Rick Ankiel. Ankiel became a vital cog in the starting rotation of the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals and as a lefthanded pitcher possessing both velocity (his fastball was in the 95-97 MPH range) and wicked breaking stuff his upside was unlimited. During the Cards run to the 2000 division title Ankiel allowed only 7.05 hits and struck out 9.98 strikeouts per nine innings. As the playoffs began, it all fell apart for Rick Ankiel’s career as a starting pitcher. In the third inning of game one, working with a 6-0 lead, Ankiel allowed 2 hits, 4 walks and 5 wild pitches before being pulled with two outs. Initially, he wrote it off as a bad outing until history quickly repeated itself in game 2 of the NLCS against the NY Mets. He threw only 20 pitches in that game, 5 of which went past catcher Eli Marrero. For the next several years he tried to fix the control problems that suddenly manifest themselves on baseballs biggest stage but was unable to do so.

Andrei Arlovski has experienced the opposite problem”after starting his career as the Belarusian wildman who devastated opponents with his aggressive, free swinging style and KO power he suddenly gained too *much* control. After trading victories with Tim Sylvia and two short, explosive and exciting bouts, a rubber match was scheduled for UFC 61 and during the fight disaster struck: Arlovski all of a sudden became a tentative and boring fighter. The real losers were the fans, and Sylvia/Arlovski 3 is quick to be mentioned when talk turns toward the worst championship bouts in the history of MMA.

Initially, Arlovskis listless performance was blamed on a leg injury suffered during the 2nd round which left him unable to kick or shoot for takedowns. After a layoff of nearly 6th months, Arlovski returned to the octagon and scored a first round KO of overmatched Marcio Cruz. Even with this early stoppage, Arlovski continued to look extremely tentative and nothing like the vampire fang wearing beast that burst onto the MMA scene in the early part of the decade.

During the past few years many questions have been raised about Arlovskis desire to continue his fighting career and several retirement rumors have made the rounds. While it would be difficult to blame Arlovski for enjoying the life hes made for himself, this lack of hunger isnt a good mindset for a professional prizefighter.

Arlovski insists that hes anxious to continue his career and has enlisted the services of one of boxings best trainers, Freddy Roach. Roach has been charged with trying to find a middle ground with Arlovski, somewhere between the wildly reckless style of his early career and the tentative, plodding style of his recent fights. Theres even been talk of Arlovski pursuing a career as a heavyweight boxer which makes a good deal of sense. Arlovskis more tactical striking game would serve him well in the sweet science and the wide open heavyweight division means that he could quickly put himself in a position of a contender.

Baseball fans know that the Rick Ankiel saga has taken a positive turn of late. After giving up his pitching career in 2005, Ankiel transitioned to the outfield and has reached the major leagues *again* at his new position. Maybe this is the type of change that Arlovski needs and one that boxing would afford him. Unlike some of the other fighters that the rapidly changing sport has left behind, Arlovski has the youth and the skill set to transition into boxing where his standup skills would serve him well. It could be that Arlovski still has the heart and desire to fight, but needs to change sports to get back to a championship level of competition.

Ross Everett is a freelance writer and respected authority on baseball betting. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sports news and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and an emu. He is currently working on an autobiography of former interior secretary James Watt.