By Jake Donovan
During a recent press conference to promote the May 10 vacant heavyweight title fight between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, it was suggested by Don King – who promotes Stiverne – that the winner will be free and clear to take on whomever he pleases. The Hall of Fame promoter insisted that the winner will be ready to take on all comers, simply out of desire and not by necessity.
The World Boxing Council (WBC) doesn’t quite agree, simply because the statement isn’t true.
“The winner of Stiverne vs. Arreola will have to face Deontay Wilder, who is the mandatory contender,” confirmed Mauricio Sulaiman, who assumed the reins of the WBC shortly after the passing of his father and long-time President Jose Sulaiman. “The heavyweight division has been extremely inactive since September 2012.”
The mandatory status fell far behind due to the belts previous claimant, Vitali Klitschko taking on optional defenses and not pursuing a showdown with Bermane Stiverne. The Ukrainian giant spent most of 2013 mulling his next move before finally agreeing to relinquish his title and most likely retire. Klitschko is running for office in his native Ukraine, also actively and intimately involved in the current revolution as the leader of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR).
Stiverne earned a mandatory ranking following a landslide win over Arreola in their first fight last March. The Haiti-born heavyweight, who hails from Canada but trains out of Las Vegas with chief second Don House, wound up spending most of 2013 chasing Klitschko and also embroiled in a lawsuit with King before the two sides eventually worked things out.
Patience paid off for Stiverne, who was first in line for a title shot after Klitschko vacated. However, busy times await the winner of his rematch with Arreola at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles. Waiting in the wings will be not one but two mandatory title defenses before even thinking about pursuing other options.
Wilder became the mandatory challenger following his 1st round knockout of Malik Scott in their sanctioned eliminator earlier this month in Puerto Rico. Prior to the bout, a second eliminator was ordered, with Bryant Jennings and Mike Perez currently in negotiations to avoid a purse bid hearing set for late April.
It is naturally in a promoter’s best interest to sell any fight – especially a heavyweight title fight – as its eventual winner ready to conquer the world. It’s not enough that a fight of this magnitude will air live on ESPN’s flagship station in a rare edition of Saturday night boxing on its airwaves; there has to come the suggestion that Stiverne or Arreola will call out Wladimir Klitschko or any other top heavyweight the moment a winner is declared in their fight.
What the forthcoming heavyweight titlist should do instead is drop fair warning those actually next in line.
“How soon everyone gets their title shots will be determined by the other factors taking place,” Sulaiman explaned. “But the May 10 vacant title fight between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola will be followed by two (uninterrupted) mandatory title defenses.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox