By Cliff Rold
WBC heavyweight beltholder Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KO) wasn’t supposed to be fighting Chris Arreola. That’s just the way it worked out.
He was supposed to be fighting former WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin earlier this year. As more information about Povetkin’s positive meldonium test comes in, that fight may yet work out too. The WBC has yet to make any official ruling and lawsuits can be replaced by sweat suits in boxing fairly quickly.
It’s fair to say Wilder’s team did the right thing not going through with the fight against Povetkin in May. If the drug testing agencies and the WBC ultimately clear Povetkin of wrongdoing, it would also be fair to reschedule their encounter.
For now, there is this Saturday (Fox, 8 PM EST/5 PM PST).
There have been plenty of fans that pointed out, even as a replacement opponent, that Arreola doesn’t deserve another crack at a major title. They’re not alone. Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KO) has agreed publicly with the sentiment.
Deserve has got nothing to do with it.
On the heels of the successful Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter bout on CBS, PBC has a chance to follow up the momentum with their next foray on a national platform. Wilder is the biggest potential star in the entire PBC stable.
He can punch like hell.
He’s got personality.
He’s a heavyweight.
That’s been the recipe for success in boxing for pretty much as long as there has been boxing.
In this match, we get probably the two best-known American heavyweights in the ring together. That should draw eyes. If it makes for a good fight, and Wilder wins, it could be the biggest night of his career to date.
There was a time when Arreola was touted as the best of the American big men. It always felt more like hype than reality. Eddie Chambers or Tony Thompson probably deserved the tag a few years back but they didn’t have the personality of TV friendly style of Arreola.
Those ingredients allowed for a big hole in the Arreola resume to be overlooked by some: he’s never really beaten a contender. He was pummeled by Vitali Klitschko, outboxed by Tomasz Adamek, and bested twice by Bermane Stiverne. Not since Vaughn Bean has a fighter had so few quality wins and come up with so many title shots.
And yet this fight is not without intrigue. How much intrigue might be evident on the scale; Arreola’s battle with the bulge is an ongoing epic. He’s been in better shape in his last couple fights but hasn’t looked as good as he did on the way up. All those struggles to get and stay in shape, and the punches he’s taken over the years, appear to have taken a toll.
Fighting a Wilder, for a belt, may be the motivation the 35-year old needs to dig in and find the best of what’s left in him. If he can, we could get a show.
For all the athletic attributes Wilder displays, all the improvement he’s made from where he started as a pro, the jury is still out on how good he really is. Arreola might never have beaten a contender but Wilder’s 35 contests don’t go much deeper.
He’s beaten one universally recognized contender: Stiverne. Arreola isn’t regarded as a serious contender by most entering this fight so that number, one, isn’t growing. That win last year gave him the title he’s since defended three times. The results of those fights were all knockout wins.
That didn’t make the roads to the finish easy. He struggled, and appeared stunned, against journeyman heavyweights Eric Molina and Artur Szpilka. If those men can give him issues, so can Arreola. Arreola went through Molina in a round in 2012 and his style is set in stone.
Arreola comes forward, he throws punches, and he catches them. A betting man would assume the younger, faster Wilder gets to the target first. Can Arreola get their last?
There is a serious chance for fireworks and drama here. If Wilder’s chin is as suspect as the whispers still pertain, Arreola might have enough left to find out. If Wilder is the force some think he is, or will become, this is the chance to show it.
The stage is set and the stage is big. This can be Deontay Wilder’s coming out party and potentially his largest audience as a pro.
The pressure is on him to make the most of it.
Gonzalez-Cuadras is on. This marks the fourth straight fight for Gonzalez against a consensus top ten fighter in the division he’s fighting in. There aren’t a lot of guy who are showing up as consistently. It’s easy to appreciate and, as he continues to win, it may become easy to take for granted. Cuadras is a legitimate threat…Sergey Kovalev’s B game was still good enough to beat a solid fringe contender at least 9-3. Hometown trap fights rarely bring stellar performances but make no mistake. Kovalev-Andre Ward is still every bit a 50-50 fight. One hurdle cleared…Finally catching up on the most recent season of The Americans. If there is a better post-Breaking Bad show on TV, I have yet to see it…Star Trek Beyond isn’t going to be beyond us much longer…Manny Pacquiao never really retired. Don’t believe the hype.
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]