SAN DIEGO, May 10, 2014 – Trivia time: who was the last American to hold a world heavyweight boxing title?
It’s not Roy Jones, Jr., though it’s not a bad guess. Jones is the last one most fans likely remember. At the time in 2003, he held both the WBA light heavyweight and heavyweight titles, but Jones Jr. relinquished the heavyweight belt in February 2004 to defend his lower weight division title. The correct answer to the question: Shannon Briggs, 2007.
Chris Arreola has the chance to be the first American heavyweight titleholder since Briggs, and the first Mexican-American heavyweight title holder ever. He will meet Haitian-born Canadian Bermane Stiverne in a rematch of their brawl one year ago at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday. The fight will air at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ESPN.
Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs) and Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs) will fight for the vacant WBC title. It became available when Vitaly Klitschko retired to pursue politics in his native Ukraine.
In honor of Klitschko, this fight is being promoted with the banner “The Fight For Peace.” Peace has been in short supply between the boxers and their camps. With the loquacious promoter Don King and the emotional Arreola involved, even soft-spoken Stiverne got hot. Thursday’s pre-fight news conference boiled over into a trash talking, ‘in yo face’ smackdown with f-bomb filled exchanges about who was gonna get messed up and whether King and promoter Dan Goossen would shave their heads if their fighter lost.
ESPN better have this broadcast on a seven-second delay.
Arreola, 33, has enjoyed some impressive moments including his first round knockout against former college linebacker Seth Mitchell last September. He wants to avenge his loss to Stiverne, who broke his nose early in their fight and lost in a decision.
Stiverne, 35, wants to prove he has what it takes to face the top names in the division, including Wladimir Klitschko. It won’t happen right away; the mandatory challenger is American Deontay Wilder who will be ringside on Saturday scouting the opposition.
Arreola admits he is his own worst enemy. He says losing to Stiverne was a wake-up call. Arreola has punching power and he is extremely tough (i.e., fighting nine rounds with a broken nose). He has struggled with focus, with his fitness, and with maintaining training discipline. Arreola is a colorful guy who likes to party and his demons have affected his preparation. He spent just under four months on house arrest as the result of a DUI conviction between November and March.
Arreola trained away from home in Phoenix, worked hard and came into his fight with Mitchell as lean and ready as he ever had, and the results showed. For this bout, Arreola relocated to San Diego to train just a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in National City at the House of Boxing with Henry Ramirez. He knows he hasn’t got too many more opportunities to impress the boxing world and the fans, and If he has put in the work he has every chance to do it.
Stiverne has also had issues with erractic traning and performances. His right hand is his most potent weapon. It’s what broke Arreola’s nose in their last fight. But it is unlikely he will have that kind of advantage in this fight, and Arreola will be in much better condition than before. Stiverne says it’s not about whether Arreola is in better shape this time, and that he is going to be the best possible version of himself. He knows the stakes are high and the opportunity isn’t one he can afford to miss.
Stiverne needs to back that big right hand up with good footwork, defense, and wear Arreola down while looking for opportunities to unleash the big punches. Stiverne is quicker and more nimble than Arreola, and these skills will help him.
Arreola hit the scale at 239 pounds and Stiverne at 239.5 pounds, both eight pounds lighter than their bout a year ago. The staredown during the faceoff between these two powerful men was intense after all the heated words over the past few weeks.
The crowd should be with Arreola in Southern California. He is an emotional person and he will be motivated by it. If Arreola worked as hard as he says he has and hears the words “new heavyweight champion Chris Arreola,” he says he will probably cry with his wife and daughter at his side.
Expect an exciting contest with plenty of action between two entertaining guys who both deserve. Even on a slow Saturday night for ESPN, the audience will be significant and nothing but good can come of it for boxing if the fans enjoy themselves, especially the casual fans who haven’t seen a fight since Mike Tyson was active.
ESPN will also carry the undercard fight between junior welterweights Amir Imam of Florida (11-0, 10 KOs) and Yordenis Ugas of Cuba (15-2, 7 KOs). Ugas won a bronze medal for Cuba in the 2008 Olympics.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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