In January of this year undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder successfully retained his title for the third time by scoring a devastating ninth round knockout over a “Game” Artur Szpilka. Following what was a difficult title defense over a determined opponent in Szpilka, Wilder was to have made a mandatory title defense against WBC number one rated contender Alexander Povetkin in May.
The Wilder-Povetkin fight, which was to take place in Moscow, Russia was cancelled the week of the bout due to it being revealed that Povetkin had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium as part of testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). While the World Boxing Council (WBC) has yet to decide as of this writing the status of Povetkin as its mandatory challenger for its version of the World Heavyweight championship, Wilder was granted permission to make a voluntary defense of his title while the situation with regard to Povetkin is resolved.
Wilder’s fourth title defense will come on Saturday night as he will face former two-time world title challenger Chris Arreola for the WBC Heavyweight world championship. The fight, which will take place at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL will headline a card presented by the Premier Boxing Champions series and will be televised by Fox in the United States.
Arreola, who has been a longtime contender in the Heavyweight division will be challenging for the WBC championship for the third time after previously coming up short against Vitali Klitschko in 2009 and in his rematch against Bermane Stiverne in 2014. Two fights where Arreola was stopped inside the distance. Since losing his second fight against Stiverne, Arreola has gone 1-0-1, with one no decision. In his last fight against Travis Kauffman in December of last year in a bout that Arreola was originally declared the victor by twelve round majority decision, the result was changed to a no decision following Arreola failing a post-fight drug test when he tested positive for marijuana and was subsequently suspended for ninety days by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Although some could say that the choice of Arreola as the challenger for Wilder is a curious one, Arreola has been a contender in the Heavyweight division for several years and stylistically this looks to be an intriguing fight as both fighters are offensive-minded and are both capable of getting an opponent out of there should the opportunity arise. Even though some may choose to criticize Arreola for getting this title shot, due in large part to the fact that he is coming off of a suspension, it is important to remember as this observer has said over the years that Boxing is a sport of opportunity and one could make an argument that Alexander Povetkin by testing positive for a banned substance prior to what would have been a mandatory challenge of Wilder’s title could well have blown that opportunity depending on what the WBC decides in the near future. This opportunity for Arreola is not only another chance to win a World Heavyweight championship, but also offers a chance for redemption.
A chance for redemption not only given that he is coming off of a suspension for a failed drug test, but more specifically a chance to redeem himself following two previous failed attempts at a world championship. Arreola is a fighter who comes forward and will likely be right in front of Wilder for as long as this fight lasts. The key to this fight in my eyes will be whether or not Arreola can get the respect of Wilder from the outset. Wilder has knocked out all, but one of his thirty-six opponents in his professional career registering a career knockout percentage of 97%.
It will be interesting to see both given the circumstances that led to the cancellation of his title defense against Alexander Povetkin, but also knowing that Arreola has been stopped in his two previous title shots, if Wilder will look to end this fight early. Although only Bermane Stiverne was able to take Wilder the full twelve round championship distance thus far in his career, both Artur Szpilka and Johann Duhaupas were able to have periods of success against the champion in their fights against Wilder.
Chris Arreola is certainly not a fighter to take lightly as he has knocked out thirty-one opponents in his thirty-six career victories registering a knockout percentage of 72%. The physics of the fight will favor the champion as the 6’7 Wilder will have a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage of 83” over the 6’3 Arreola, who has a 76” reach. In thinking of how this fight might be fought, I believe it is crucial that Arreola not only find a way to get the champion’s respect early in this fight, but also he needs to find a way to get on the inside of Wilder’s longer reach without sustaining much punishment as he comes forward. It will be interesting to see if Arreola can implement head movement into his strategy for this fight as lack of head movement has been a problem for him in the past. Arreola certainly has the punching power that should be taken seriously, but the key will be whether or not he can get close enough to the champion to land his offense more than occasionally.
A question that some may have as this fight approaches is whether or not what had to be a stressful situation regarding the fight with Alexander Povetkin being cancelled as well as wondering what the WBC will decide with regard to Povetkin’s standing as its mandatory challenger will have some effect on Wilder as he prepares for this fight. Although Wilder has been an active champion since winning his world championship in January of last year and has continued to win, it is important for him to remember that Alexander Povetkin is not the fighter who will be standing across the ring from him on fight night.
If the situation regarding Povetkin has had any effect on the champion in his preparation for this fight, it just might play into the hands of the man who will be standing across the ring from him. An opponent that will be challenging for the World Heavyweight championship for the third time, who has nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Any such fighter should be considered dangerous and not someone to take lightly.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
PBC: Wilder vs. Arreola takes place Saturday, July 16th at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL. The fight can be seen in the United States on Fox at 8PM ET/5PM PT. Check your local listings for time and channel in your area. The fight will also be streamed online via Fight Tyme. For more information please visit: www.fighttyme.com. Check your listings internationally.
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