by Cliff Rold
Grudge matches never get old. We’ve got two pretty good ones this weekend on US TV, though everyone may not be aware of one of them.
As May heats up, with big nights ahead on the 17th and 31st, this is a weekend that keeps the pump primed after Mayweather-Maidana exceeded expectations last weekend. After a sometimes-paltry start to 2014, boxing is waking up. It won’t top the year that was 2013, but it is getting better as time goes by.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick It: #8 Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola (Saturday, ESPN, 8 PM EST/5 PM PST)
A year ago, Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KO) dropped and beat up Arreola (36-3, 31 KO) to earn a WBC mandated shot at Vitali Klitschko. That shot never came. The real world intervened and Klitschko pursued more important matters at home in Ukraine. Stiverne sat on the shelf while Arreola seemingly found a new devotion to the sport, appearing to be in his best shape maybe ever. At the least we can say Arreola looks as focused as he has since Chazz Witherspoon in 2008 though we’ll see how it all shakes out on the scales. Will Stiverne be rusty? Is it too little, too late for Arreola after years of abusing his body? Those answers are coming. For now, this is a Heavyweight fight between two guys who throw bombs and don’t like each other. The winner is well positioned for a unification showdown (if they want it) with the real champion of the class, Wladimir Klitschko. Given the network investment from ESPN, the ratings for this one need to pop. If boxing fans want to see boxing grow in the US, getting it out of the strictly premium cable cycle is a must.
Pick Another Rematch: #1 Donnie Nietes vs. #4 Moises Fuentes (Saturday, BeIn Espanol, 11 PM EST/PST)
In 2013, Nietes (32-1-4, 18 KO) and Fuentes (19-1-1, 10 KO) got together for a fun scrap that ended with kissing sisters. A draw being no way to leave things, they meet again for Nietes’ WBO belt at 108 lbs., both with something to prove. Nietes is, quietly, one of the better fighters in the Philippines, now reigning in his second weight division. 8-0-1 in title fights, he has solid wins over titlist types Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Mario Rodriguez, and Ramon Garcia. Fuentes, a former 105 lb. titlist, had a nice victory over Raul Garcia for his first title and ended the career of Ivan Calderon with a fifth round stoppage. There were many who thought Fuentes may have edged it the first time. He’ll have his chance to right that this weekend. Mexican-Filipino matches have provided their thrills in recent years and this should be another example. If the Heavyweights fizzle, this should make up the slack.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]