By Keith Idec
Vitali Klitschko gave Chris Arreola his first world title shot nearly five years ago.
The former WBC heavyweight champion inadvertently granted Arreola his second title shot when he retired, too. Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs) would’ve preferred an eventual rematch with Klitschko, but the colorful contender from Riverside, Calif., appreciates another chance to win the WBC heavyweight crown in a rematch against Bermane Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday night at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles (ESPN; 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). He also admires Klitschko’s choice to walk away from boxing to pursue political aspirations in his native Ukraine.
“If he has the opportunity to do something like that, to help his community and help his family, the people that need the help the most, my hat goes off to him,” said Arreola, who lost a unanimous decision to Stiverne in a WBC elimination match a year ago in Ontario, Calif. “I respect him for that, especially in a country that’s war-torn like that, with all those riots and everything that goes on there. He’s doing the right thing. He’s trying to help his country.”
Arreola isn’t completely convinced that the 42-year-old Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) will remain retired, but if his technical knockout loss to the 6-foot-7, 245-pound power puncher marks their only meeting, Arreola has come to terms with what occurred during 10 one-sided rounds at Staples Center in September 2009.
“I lost to the best,” Arreola, 33, said. “I have no excuses for it. I lost to the best. He was the best at that time and probably one of the best of this era. I’ll have no shame winning the title against Stiverne. Everyone’s reign has to end and someone else’s begins. That’s how I take it. My respect goes out to Vitali Klitschko and if he ever thinks about coming back, and I have the title, I’ll be waiting for him.”
Regardless, if Arreola overcomes Stiverne in their 12-round rematch a unification fight against Wladimir Klitschko might materialize. Wladimir Klitschko (62-3, 52 KOs) owns the IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
“I’ve got to beat Stiverne,” Arreola said. “But after I defeat Stiverne, I want to unify the belts. I want to be the undisputed heavyweight champion. It hasn’t been done in a long time and I want to be that guy to do it. … But my job is Stiverne. After that, we’ll worry about Wladimir.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.