Stiverne promises early ending in Arreola rematch
Haitian-born heavyweight won wide decision in first bout last year, expects to win WBC championship after a Saturday encore in Los Angeles
In a 15-minute conversation, Bermane Stiverne doesn’t offer a lot of certainty.
He won’t claim that he’s the best heavyweight in the world. Even at age 35, he doesn’t attach a firm date to when he’ll declare himself officially through with the sport. And he refuses to pigeon-hole himself into a specific in-ring style as a “boxer,” “puncher” or their otherwise-clichéd like.
What he will do, however, is promise that his work shift on Saturday will be a short one.
“It’s gonna be a knockout,” he said. “Which round, I don’t know. But it will be a knockout.”
Stiverne's on-the-job task for the weekend involves a return trip to Southern California, where he’ll again meet Los Angeles native Chris Arreola in a scheduled 12-rounder -- this time to succeed Vitali Klitschko as the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) heavyweight champion.
ESPN will air the fight from the University of Southern California's Galen Center at 8 p.m. ET.
The Haitian-born Stiverne faced Arreola just more than a year ago in the L.A. suburb of Ontario and won an unanimous decision -- taking nine, nine and 10 of 12 rounds on three official scorecards -- in a bout that labeled him as the No. 1 contender to Klitschko’s nine-defense title reign.
A match with Klitschko never materialized, however, and when the Ukrainian announced his retirement in December, the WBC mandated the return match between Stiverne and Arreola, who’s listed as the organization’s No. 2 contender and has fought once since the 2013 in the pair’s initial meeting.
Arreola weighed 247 pounds for the first fight, and the majority of stories leading into the rematch have focused on the outspoken Californian’s claim that he’ll fare better in the encore because of a renewed dedication to conditioning that’ll bring him to the ring 10 pounds lighter.
Arreola has not weighed in at less than 240 since 2011, and whether he gets to the target or not this time, Stiverne insists it won’t make a whole lot of difference after the opening bell.
Stiverne weighed 248 for the first fight and mentioned that he hasn’t stepped on a scale in a month getting ready for this one. He’s been doing conditioning work in preparation since December and started boxing-centric training at his Las Vegas camp in January. His normal walk-around weight is between 250 and 255, but he said he was less than 248 on that last scale visit in April.
“If he wants to make an excuse that he lost the first one because he wasn’t in shape, he can run with that, but it’s not gonna help him,” he said. “You don’t have to find Chris. Chris is going to be there all night. He doesn’t really use his head to create. I don’t have to look for him. I like the fact that I’m able to change my style. I can box or I can brawl. It’s a plus for me and I’ve got the skills to do it. Arreola has one way to fight and he’s been fighting that way since he was an amateur.
“I expect the same Chris, but I’m ready for a different Chris.”
Saturday’s winner will indeed emerge as the WBC champion, but will also still be considered by most as no better than a second banana to Vitali’s younger brother, Wladimir Klitschko, who is recognized as the division’s top man by the International Boxing Federation (IBF), International Boxing Organization (IBO), World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO).
The Independent World Boxing Rankings slot Wladimir at No. 1, Stiverne at No. 10 and Arreola a slot behind at No. 11.
Wladimir Klitschko began his reign as IBF and IBO champion in 2006 and has since defended those belts 16 times while collecting the others along the way. A full unification with the WBC title, which Vitali won in 2008, wasn’t possible because the brothers insisted they would never face each other.
No fighter has been recognized as undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999.
As a result, a predictable sidebar to Saturday’s fight has been a renewed potential for a unified champion if the winner were to call for a fight with Wladimir Klitschko. But rather than jump the gun and immediately declare himself the man to beat among the big men, Stiverne preached patience.
“When I win the fight I wouldn’t say I’m the best heavyweight in the world, but that is my goal and all I can do is give my 110 percent to achieve it,” he said. “I’m very grateful to have the chance to fight for the title and be the king of the jungle. But right now (unifying the titles) to me is not important. Right now all that’s important to me is giving my best and winning the WBC title.”
Weekend Watch List
ESPN -- Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola -- Vacant WBC heavyweight title
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