Friday, August 2, 2019

The Heavyweight Picture As August 2019 Begins, Plus Mini-Preview Of Kownacki-Arreola

Boxing’s Heavyweight division continues to be a hot topic of discussion throughout the entire sport amongst both fans and experts. One of the contributing factors to that, of course, was Andy Ruiz’ recent upset of previously undefeated unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua in June. While what goes on atop the division will always generate significant interest among any Boxing enthusiast, one of the perks of being a fan of the sport is to see how the landscape of a division changes over time as fighters look to improve their position in their respective weight class with the goal of hoping to challenge for a world championship down the line.

In recent weeks this process has been taking place in the Heavyweight division. Some may recall a recent tripleheader of Heavyweight bouts that was featured on digital sports streaming network DAZN on July 20th in London, England. As readers might remember in this observer’s preview of that card, I stated that it was one that featured a mix of top contenders, former world title challengers, and veterans who were looking to get into world title contention.

Due to both the length of time between when that preview was released and the release of this column, yours truly will summarize each of these three bouts in a condensed manner in an effort to both inform the reader and cover as much ground as possible. The first of these fights featured a battle between former world title challengers Dereck Chisora and Artur Szpika. What interested me about this fight was the fact that it was a well-matched bout as was the other two Heavyweight fights on this card.

This was an encounter between one fighter in Chisora who was looking to continue his rebuilding process after suffering a knockout loss against Dillian Whyte last December. Coincidentally, Artur Szpilka was also looking to continue to rebuild after suffering a knockout loss at the hands of Adam Kownacki in July 2017. Thus, this pitted two fighters who were at a similar stage in their respective careers against each other.

As can happen in Boxing, the fight concluded before it really began. A right hand from Chisora badly staggered Szpilka in the second round and a follow-up barrage put him down and out on the canvas as the fight was quickly stopped. Sometimes there is not much one can say about the outcome of a fight other than to summarize it as one fighter taking full advantage of an opening that was available and finishing their opponent as a result. For Dereck Chisora this knockout should be viewed as one of the best performances of his career and will likely earn him an opportunity to face former world champion Joseph Parker at some point in the near future. If Chisora continues to win it is not difficult to envision him once again being in line to once again challenge for a world title at some point in the future.

One Heavyweight that many thought of the idea of him being able to work his way back into the world rankings as being perhaps a “Long Shot” was former British Heavyweight champion David Price. Price as some recall was once touted as a potential future world champion by several experts including Yours truly as he established himself as a rising prospect in the division several years ago. As most Boxing fans know however, Price was pushed into fights against world-class opposition too quickly and it resulted in a promising career becoming a roller coaster.

Despite the setbacks Price has suffered throughout his career, he has fought on. On this particular card, Price was looking to continue building momentum against veteran David Allen. In what was at times not the prettiest fight to watch, Price outlasted Allen over ten rounds before Allen retired from the fight prior to the beginning of the eleventh round. Although there wasn’t much in the way of excitement in this fight, for Price his third straight win since his last loss to Sergey Kuzmin last September did result in him being able to work his way back into the world rankings as he earned a rating in the World Boxing Association (WBA) Heavyweight ratings with his victory over Allen.

This brings us to what was the main event of this card between top Heavyweight contenders Dillian Whyte and Oscar Rivas. In what was billed as a fight to determine interim championship status in the WBC’s Heavyweight ratings, Whyte overcame a knockdown in the ninth round to score a twelve round unanimous decision over Rivas. Despite the knockdown, Whyte produced w workmanlike performance, which was highlighted by the success he was able to have working behind his jab throughout.

A victory for Whyte however, now has controversy surrounding it as it was revealed that Whyte had tested positive in a pre-fight test conducted by the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency (UKAD). Despite this, the fight was allowed to go on as scheduled even though it was also revealed that Rivas and his camp were not informed of the positive test until after the fight. As a result of this, the World Boxing Council (WBC) has withheld their interim designation of Whyte as its mandatory challenger for current WBC world champion Deontay Wilder and has suspended him pending the outcome of an investigation. What is also unclear as of this writing is whether or not there will be any action taken by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) in regard to suspending Whyte and/or possibly changing the result of the fight from a unanimous decision win for Whyte to a no contest.

While the circumstances surrounding Dillian Whyte’s situation is something that will likely play out over a period of time, it does leave some potential room to maneuver in the division. The month of August will feature two Heavyweight bouts that one could argue falls right in a similar category as the three bouts that took place in the division on July 20th. The first of these bouts will take place on August 3rd in Brooklyn, NY as undefeated contender Adam Kownacki will square off against former world title challenger Chris Arreola in a fight scheduled for ten rounds.

Kownacki has established himself as one of the division’s rising contenders and will enter the fight unbeaten in nineteen professional fights having scored knockouts in fifteen of those bouts registering a career knockout percentage of nearly 80%. In his last fight in January of this year, Kownacki stopped former world title challenger Gerald Washington in three rounds. Kownacki now prepares to face another former world title challenger Chris Arreola.

A longtime contender, Arreola has fought for the WBC world championship on three occasions coming up short against Vitali Klitschko, Bermane Stiverne, and Deontay Wilder. Despite those setbacks, Arreola has fought on and will come into the fight having won his last two fights since losing in his last title shot to Deontay Wilder in July 2016.

This fight in my eyes will come down to which Chris Arreola shows up. There have been times throughout Arreola’s career that he might have been the best Heavyweight in the division and others where he has looked sluggish and underprepared. One might argue that at thirty-eight years old Arreola could be running out of chances at the upper level of the division. The beauty about combat sports however, is that sometimes all a fighter needs is an impressive performance to revitalize their career. At his best, Arreola does have the type of punching power to be a threat to anyone in the division.

As fighters like Dereck Chisora and David Price have shown a fighter can bounce back and if Arreola can win this fight it is not hard to envision him being back in the discussion of potential challengers for the current champions of the division. If Arreola is at his best in this fight, it will be the first significant test for Kownacki who has only had to go as far as ten rounds once in his career thus far. In terms of overall experience, Arreola does have an advantage over his unbeaten opponent.

A further development that has been announced was the announcement earlier this week that former world title challengers Alexander Povetkin and Hughie Fury will meet on August 31st in London, England. Much like the three bouts that took place on July 20th, the Kownacki-Arreola and the announced Povetkin-Fury bouts are each about the respective fighters looking to improve their position among the various contenders and prospects all looking for an opportunity to fight for a world championship. With the world champions of the division Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz each potentially defending their portions of the World Heavyweight championship in separate bouts later this year, there remains plenty of room for potential challengers down the line to maneuver.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

PBC: Kownacki vs. Arreola takes place on Saturday, August 3rd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The fight can be seen in the United States on Fox beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT. For more information about the card and Premier Boxing Champions please visit: Check your local listings internationally.

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