By Cliff Rold
When the stars align with the right fighters, there can be few spectacles in boxing as exciting as a good rematch. It’s especially true when the first go round gave fans a show. That is the case with both marquee main events this weekend, one in the States and the other overseas.
Stateside (ESPN, 8 PM EST/5 PM PST), we have a clash for the lone alphabet Heavyweight title not worn (and to date never worn) by World Champion Wladimir Klitschko. Last year, it was Bermane Stiverne that many had questions about coming in. He was the lesser known commodity. Now, both he and Arreola enter known and knowing each other. In their first, Stiverne broke Arreola’s nose, dropped him, and won a wide decision. Can he do it again?
Overseas, an excellent 2013 scrap at 108 lbs. ended in a draw. Let’s hope someone can win at least seven frames this time around in the latest chapter of Mexico vs. the Philippines. Donnie Nietes and Moises Fuentes, combined, weight less than one of this weekend’s Heavyweight scrappers. They should provide Heavyweight fireworks nonetheless (BeIn Espanol, 11 PM EST/PST).
Let’s go to the report cards.
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 239.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 240.7 lbs.
Hails from: Las Vegas, Nevada (Born in Haiti)
Record: 23-1, 20 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #2 (ESPN), #3 (Ring), #5 (TBRB), #8 (BoxingScene)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Major Title Fight
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 0
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 239 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 242.1 lbs.
Hails from: Los Angeles, California
Record: 36-3, 31 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #5 (ESPN), #6 (BoxRec, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Vitali Klitschko TKO by 10; Tomasz Adamek L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Stiverne B+; Arreola C+
Pre-Fight: Power – Stiverne A-; Arreola A-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Stiverne B; Arreola C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Stiverne B; Arreola B
Because his conditioning has been so much of his story over the years, much is being made of Arreola coming into this bout at his lightest weight since 2011 (he was in the mid-230s for a string of wins that year). What can be overlooked is Stiverne has also come in much lighter than the first time around, almost ten pounds. He’s actually lost a half-pound more than Arreola.
What does that mean?
It means both guys know they have to bring it. Arreola knows that he’ll need a strong effort to turn back what last time were at least nine losing rounds. Stiverne knows he’s getting a better Arreola and is asking even more of himself. What worked last time?
Stiverne is faster than Arreola and one of the faster Heavyweights in the division right now. Combined with raw power, it makes him an explosive threat. Stiverne did a good job using his feet and jab to keep Arreola from getting into any sort of consistent pressure rhythm and blasted him with power shots to stay ahead. Stiverne’s weakness is he doesn’t put out a ton. He’s precise but sometimes methodical. A more conditioned Arreola can force a harder pace.
Of course, a lighter Stiverne may be a quicker one so is this a case where we see a similar fight at just a different speed? We know this much: Arreola has to win here. A pro since 2003, Arreola has yet to beat a Heavyweight who one would consider a serious contender even in a so-so era. He’s been well managed between losses to Klitschko and Adamek (the latter competitive if clear). Stiverne’s best win is Arreola so he hasn’t faced murderer’s row either, but at least he won going away.
Arreola has been perceived as better than anything on his record would indicate. Seriously, look who he’s defeated since the Klitschko loss in 2009. The best of the lot may have been Seth Mitchell. He hasn’t had to face the same sort of foes guys like Eddie Chambers did to move up the ranks, but that is part and parcel with good management and a fan base. Is this the night where being entertaining and having a fun style finally equates with a quality result in the ring?
Or does Stiverne pick up where he left off and head towards a likely choice between Klitschko and Deontay Wilder?
Before that question is answered, the Jr. Flyweights will ply their trade on the other side of the world.
Titles: WBO Light Flyweight (2011-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Minimumweight (2007-10, 4 Defenses)
Weight: 108 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 108.45 lbs.
Hails from: Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines
Record: 31-1-4, 18 KO
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, Ring), #4 (TBRB), #6 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 8-0-1, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 4 (Pornsawan Porpramook UD12; Mario Rodriguez UD12; Ramon Garcia UD12; Moises Fuentes D12)
Previous Titles: WBO Minimumweight (2011-13, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 108 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 108.95 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 19-1-1, 10 KO
Rankings: #5 (ESPN), #6 (BoxRec, Ring), #9 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0-1, 2 KO (4-0-1, 3 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Raul Garcia SD12; Ivan Calderon TKO5; Donnie Nietes D12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Nietes B; Fuentes C+
Pre-Fight: Power – Nietes B; Fuentes B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Nietes B+; Fuentes C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Nietes B+; Fuentes B+
Their outcome of their first fight was hard to argue with. Both men did a lot of what they do well and made it hard to choose. Fuentes can sometimes wind up on his shots, but he places them well and has an educated body attack. Nietes is one of the less heralded but well schooled men of his nation. He has excellent balance, good timing, and sound defense. He’s a hard guy to catch clean and accurate with his punches. In the first fight, Nietes blocked a lot of shots, and defended the body well. In the late stanzas of their first fight, it was Nietes landing the clean, eye-catching stuff as Fuentes gave chase.
The recipe is there for another close fight. Fuentes is the larger man and regularly fights higher than Nietes in non-title affairs. If he can impose that size over the course of the fight, the chance for an upset is there. He did his best work last time, and will again, when he was able to close the gap on the often moving target. Launching from range, Nietes will have time to catch shots with gloves, arms, and elbows. Nietes will have the crowd on his side Pasay City and if he picks up where he left off last time, Fuentes could be in for a long night.
At 108, this remains a toss-up but one where the more skilled technician probably has the edge. Nietes is the sort of fighter who isn’t necessarily great at any one thing but does so many little things well. He understands the space of the ring and has good punch selection. Fuentes is going to make it tough in spots, and the chance of a stoppage either way is slim, but the better boxer should walk away with the decision. Nietes is the better boxer.
At Heavyweight, both men have shown dedication in their preparation and shown up better than they did last time. Given the outcome of their first fight, there is little reason to think this plays out all that different. Arreola is still going to come forward all night and he’s still going to be the slower man. If Stiverne has any rust from a year layoff, he could be vulnerable to an early assault. He’s been stopped once before early in his career against a journeyman. Then again, Arreola isn’t hard to find and might make it just as likely that he catches the Southern Californian big early, just as was the case the first time.
Stiverne is the better athlete, the more coordinated of the two, appears to hit harder, and is faster. Minus close to ten pounds for each, that’s still true. We might get a feistier fight this time, and that may mean a knockout, but the choice here is another Stiverne decision wide on points.
Report Card Picks 2014: 21-7
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]