Monday, May 12, 2014

Stiverne’s World Title Win Changes The Heavyweight Landscape

When Heavyweight contenders Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola entered the ring for their rematch on Saturday night in Los Angeles, the Boxing world focused its attention on a fight between two knockout punchers where anything could happen. A small 17 by 17 foot ring would present an ideal setting for a shootout.

Along with the historical significance that this fight brought with it in either the first Haitian or Mexican-American World Heavyweight champion to be crowned by winning a vacant world title, the question of who would succeed Vitali Klitschko as WBC champion would also be answered. As is often the case when two fighters meet for a vacant world championship following a dominant champion relinquishing his title, some are likely to question and or discredit the validity of the contest being a “Real” championship fight.

What made this championship fight somewhat different is the fact that although Vitali Klitschko has been a dominant champion, he was one half of a dominant duo. The duo that over the years this observer has referred to as “The Two-Headed Heavyweight Championship Monster” known as the Klitschko brothers. Now with Vitali having put his career on hold and vacating his title it has left his younger brother and unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko as the division’s central figure.

In the lead up to this rematch I stated that whomever should win would likely have to fight a different battle that many past champions have had to take on after winning a world title for recognition as world champion. Despite the battle that awaited the winner of this fight, what Boxing fans are likely to remember of May 10, 2014 is that it was a night that an exciting battle took place where a new champion was crowned.

The rematch would pick up where the first fight had left off with both fighters willing to stand and engage each other in close in a fight that saw plenty of back and forth action. The difference however, in the rematch was that Arreola seemed to outwork Stiverne as he consistently backed him up against the ropes, in contrast to the first fight where Stiverne was able to outwork a pressuring Arreola. Although Stiverne was able to have his moments, I feel that Arreola’s activity and consistent pressure was able to win him three out of the first five rounds.

Even though Arreola was clearly more active than Stiverne, Stiverne was effective in spots counter punching and during periods where he was able to keep the fight in the middle of the ring. There could easily be a difference of opinion as to how the first five rounds were scored. Discussion of how rounds were scored however, would become academic in round six.

A right hand by Stiverne landed on the temple of Arreola sending him down to the canvas. Although Arreola was able to make it to his feet and continue, when a fighter gets hit on the temple it can obviously affect a fighter’s equilibrium. Arreola would be dropped for a second time by a follow-up barrage of punches from Stiverne. I was somewhat surprised that the fight was allowed to continue at this point due to the condition of Arreola’s legs, which were wobbly.

The fight would be stopped seconds later by Referee Jack Reiss. Although I was surprised somewhat that the fight was allowed to continue Referee Jack Reiss deserves a lot of credit for giving Arreola every chance to recover, but at the same time did not allow him to suffer any unnecessary punishment.

Bermane Stiverne has etched his name into Boxing history as the first Haitian to win a World Heavyweight championship. It was an exciting battle between two “Game” fighters who were looking to make the step from contender to world champion.

What does this do to the landscape of the Heavyweight division beyond merely filling a vacancy of a world title? There are likely to be varying opinions on that question, but in terms of the immediate future as a relates to the World Boxing Council (WBC) Stiverne is likely to make his first title defense against the undefeated number one contender Deontay Wilder perhaps later this year. Meanwhile a scheduled fight to determine the number two ranking in the WBC ratings between top contenders Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez that was scheduled to take place on May 24th was canceled last Friday due to a shoulder injury suffered by Perez.

As of this writing there is no word on when that fight might be rescheduled. It will also be interesting to see where the rest of the WBC top ten contenders will factor in, in the coming months. Current WBC number seven rated contender and former world title challenger Manuel Charr will face  current WBA number three rated contender and former world title challenger Alexander Povetkin on May 30th in Moscow, in a WBC International title fight.

Another upcoming fight that will likely have an impact on the WBC Heavyweight ratings is the upcoming rematch between undefeated contender Tyson Fury and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora, on July 26th with both the European and British Heavyweight titles at stake. Even though the rematch between Fury and Chisora is also to determine a new number one contender in the World Boxing Organization’s (WBO) rankings, Fury is currently rated number ten by the WBC and Chisora is currently rated number eight.

Depending not only on what may happen when Wladimir Klitschko defends his unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO crown against IBF top contender Kubrat Pulev at some point in the future, and the status of the WBC’s number two ranking, the outcome of that rematch could definitely shake things up as far as the WBC rankings are concerned. What also should be taken into consideration is, despite being stopped by Bermane Stiverne, Chris Arreola is likely not done as a contender and depending on when he fights again and against whom could also have ratings implications.

Although many are likely to assume that Stiverne will seek a fight for the undisputed championship with Wladimir Klitschko next, I remain firm in my stance as I have said in previous columns covering the Heavyweight division that this might be the year that lays the groundwork towards an undisputed championship fight.  It is more likely that an undisputed championship fight will not take place until mandatory obligations are met on both sides.

It has been an interesting first half of 2014 for the Heavyweight division so far. Boxing fans and experts alike eagerly await what is in store for the division for the rest of the year.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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