Friday, May 9, 2014

Stiverne-Arreola II: Who Will Make History?

Following a workman like performance by unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in his fifth round knockout win over a “Game”, but over matched Alex Leapai on April 26th, the Boxing world once again prepares to focus it’s attention on a World Heavyweight championship fight.  For the first time since 2008 however, a contest for a version of the Heavyweight championship of the world will not involve a man named Klitschko.

Top Heavyweight contenders Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola will meet in a rematch. This time the prize is not an opportunity to fight for a world championship, but rather the winner of the rematch will become the WBC world champion. 

When Stiverne and Arreola first met in April of last year, it was to determine who would be the next challenger for long reigning WBC champion Vitali Klitschko. In that fight, Stiverne scored a knockdown of Arreola in round three and outworked him over twelve rounds to earn a convincing unanimous decision victory.

Stiverne however, would not get his opportunity to face Vitali Klitschko. Klitschko who last fought in September 2012, scoring a fourth round knockout over contender Manuel Charr has been focusing much of his attention on his political ambitions, which led to him giving up the WBC title leaving the title vacant. This along with a legal dispute that has since been resolved between Stiverne and his promoter Don King has kept him out of action for a little over a year.

Arreola meanwhile, rebounded from his loss to Stiverne last year by scoring a first round knockout over top contender Seth Mitchell in September of last year. With Vitali Klitschko now out of action leaving the WBC world title in the Heavyweight division vacant it has left the number one contender Stiverne and the number two contender Arreola to do battle for the vacant championship.

Some may question why Stiverne would not simply be named champion once the WBC title was vacated by Klitschko seeing as he had earned the shot at the title by beating Arreola last year. In this observer’s eyes, under circumstances where there is a vacant championship the top two contenders should face-off to determine a new champion. Although Stiverne won the first fight, Arreola was after all able to rebound in impressive fashion and based on his knocking the previous number two rated contender Seth Mitchell out last September, he does deserve an opportunity to not only avenge his loss to Stiverne, but also attempt to win his first world title for the second time after previously coming up short against Vitali Klitschko in 2009.

Arreola has been a top contender for several years and has always given everything he has every time he steps in the ring. It should not be overlooked that during the first encounter with Stiverne Arreola suffered a broken nose when he was knocked down in the third round and showed his mettle by gamely continuing to fight on through adversity. Even though Arreola has suffered some setbacks during his career, he has always been “Game” and capable of giving anyone in the division all they can handle.

Both Stiverne and Arreola have knockout power and crowd pleasing styles, each registering a career knockout percentages of nearly 80%. The key to this fight in my eyes just might be who can land something significant first. An old saying that this observer firmly believes in is in Boxing and in all combat sports in general sometimes all it takes is one punch especially when it comes to Heavyweights.

Although Stiverne who has not lost a fight in almost seven years was able to outwork Arreola in the first fight that does not necessarily mean that the second fight will be similar. Arreola was able to get off to a good early start in that fight, but after suffering the knockdown in round three, he seemed to lose momentum. Whether or not that can be attributed to the broken nose he suffered is a subject for debate, but it does not take anything away from Stiverne’s performance.

The storyline that Boxing fans should be intrigued about this fight in addition to two knockout punchers squaring off for a second time is this rematch also has historical significance. For the first time there will either be the first Haitian or, the first Mexican-American World Heavyweight champion in Boxing history.

Despite the historical significance of this fight, whomever should emerge victorious will likely have to fight a different battle. Many successors to dominant champions have had to prove themselves to the Boxing world after winning the crown to obtain recognition as a champion. Historically, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz, Chris Byrd, and numerous others all initially had to fight to obtain recognition as Heavyweight champion.

Although whomever wins this rematch between Stiverne and Arreola will succeed Vitali Klitschko as WBC champion, the fight for recognition will probably last until the winner or whomever is WBC champion faces the equally dominant Wladimir Klitschko to finally determine an undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world. The potential undisputed championship fight however, does not appear like it will take place in the near future.

Wladimir who holds the unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO championship will next defend his title against the IBF’s number one contender Kubrat Pulev at a date to be determined. Meanwhile, the winner of this fight is likely to face the undefeated Deontay Wilder who is the next mandatory challenger in the WBC rankings after a new champion is determined.

A rematch that brings not only the familiar storyline of repeat or revenge, but also a rematch that along with historical significance could continue what seems to be a reemergence of the Heavyweight as a main focal point of the sport, particularly in the United States is certainly intriguing. Stieverne and Arreola square off for the WBC Heavyweight world championship on Saturday night. It is logical to expect an entertaining shootout between two knockout artists.

Who will win? In this observer’s eyes it’s a toss up. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.” 

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