After months of deliberation and several relaxations of the rules, we will finally see a new WBC heavyweight champion crowned this weekend.
Despite still holding ‘Champion Emeritus’ status with the WBC, his impending political career seems to have placed him into retirement for good. At the age of 43 and last seen donning the gloves with a victory over Manuel Charr back in 2012, smart money would not go on seeing him inside the ring again.
True, this isn’t the first time Vitali has been handed Emeritus status. His last hiatus from the squared circle came between November 2005 and October 2008, when he defeated then-champion Samuel Peter on his return. But given his age and increasing attention towards the political scene, the mantle will finally be passed over.
And so, for the first time in over ten years of Vitali domination, Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne will welcome in a new era of heavyweights aiming to make waves in the WBC rankings.
If Wladimir Klitschko gets his way, he will fight the winner of this bout almost immediately. The dominant force is running out of legitimate challengers, with mandatory challenger Alex Leapai the latest to be beaten to submission by the Ukranian powerhouse, and needs a talented dance partner to enhance his legacy.
Even if Wlad gets his way and hands Arreola or Stiverne a brutal defeat to become the undisputed heavyweight champion, one of the two Americans will have their time in the limelight.
Stiverne had been hot on the heels of Vitali. After defeating Saturday night’s opponent over 12 rounds in April 2013, including a vicious third round knockdown that bust the nose of Arreola, the 37-year-old has been waiting patiently for the former champion to decide over his future.
In a bid to force the issue, Stiverne personally attended the WBC boxing convention in November to pressure the governing body into forcing Klitschko into a decision.
While Stiverne faces what could well be his last chance at a world title shot, given his advancing years, Arreola approaches the do-or-die contest in another fashion.
The American has been defeated whenever stepping up to ‘world’ level. Three blemishes on his record have come against Vitali, Stiverne and Tomasz Adamek, though he does have a string of fringe contenders on his record and spectacularly dismissed Seth Mitchell inside one round.
My pick is for Stiverne to once again prevail by unanimous decision, using his quick speed and sharp jabs to nick rounds from his tough opponent.
Unbeaten American Deontay Wilder, who has registered 31 knockouts in as many wins, is mandated to face the winner after his recent first round victory over Malik Scott.
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