This Saturday, the vacant WBC heavyweight title will be up for grabs as Bermane Stiverne, 23-1-1, 20 KO’s, faces the division’s biggest underachiever, Chris Arreola, 36-3, 31 KO’s, for the title that former champ, Vitali Klitschko left behind. This is a rematch of a bout that Stiverne dominated and it really is an unnecessary fight. Both Ken Norton and Lennox Lewis were given the title without a fight when the champion found reasons not to fight them, but Stiverne is being forced to repeat what he’s already done and there is a reason why. He wasn’t supposed to win the first fight. The wrong guy won and now Arreola is getting another shot to do what he should have done the first time.
It’s been over a year since Stiverne has set foot into the boxing ring. He tried many times to get the distracted Vitali into the ring, but he opted out, eventually retiring and creating this situation. The year off will not help him in this fight, although he did have a year off before he fought Arreola the first time.
The record of Stiverne is not that impressive, with the exception of two notable victories. He knocked out the unorthodox and tough Ray Austin (TKO-10) and put down a serious beating on Arreola en route to a decision (UD-12). He was the rightful underdog going in against Arreola the first time, but he showed some boxing intelligence and patience. He jabbed and counter-punched. As the rounds went on and Arreola got tired, he stepped on the gas and gave him the worst beating of his career. That victory turned Stiverne into a real force in the division, but he has since fallen off the map.
Arreola’s toughest opponent is himself. He has lost fights that he shouldn’t have because of his inability to dedicate himself to the sport. He comes into the fights obese and that added weight slows his reflexes and turns him from a top contender to a gatekeeper. He came in overweight for his bout with Vitali Klitschko, joking prior to the bout about his conditioning. It wasn’t a laughing matter when he proved too slow to connect. In his most embarrassing moment, he allowed the smaller Tomasz Adamek to outpoint him. Adamek did not belong in the ring with him, but he allowed the loss to occur.
Against Stiverne, he once again came in heavy and that is now, once again, being pointed to as the culprit as to why he lost that fight. He looks in much better shape now as he heads into this and unlike Stiverne, he’s had a fight since their meeting.
In his last bout, Arreola sent Seth Mitchell out of the heavyweight rankings via first round knockout. An in shape Arreola pounced on the heavyweight hype-job and did what a conditioned and motivated Arreola should do to most big men. The problem concerns complacency. The B level heavyweights are easy for Arreola. He plows them down in a round or two, but when the level is increased, the little things that he gets away with at the lower levels, he does not get away with there.
This Saturday, there will be no excuses and the two possible best heavyweights, outside of Wlad Klitschko, step into the ring to settle the matter. Stiverne has stated that he is not leaving it in the judges’ hands and Arreola is insistent that he will show what he can do when he is in the right mind and right shape. I suspect that both will be right, but if Stiverne batters this version of Arreola, he must get a shot at Wlad to unify.
ESPN will be showing this encounter and you can bet that it will provide more fireworks than the disgrace that was Klitschko – Lepai.