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Chris Arreola vs. Bermane Stiverne: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

Chris Arreola vs. Bermane Stiverne: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    This Saturday night, for the first time in nearly a decade, a North American fighter will walk out of the ring wearing a share of the world heavyweight title. Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola will face off in Los Angeles for the WBC belt that was vacated by Vitali Klitschko last December. 

    This is a rematch of their bruising scrap in April 2013, which Stiverne won. 

    Wladimir Klitschko will still hold the rest of the belts and a legitimate claim to top status at heavyweight. But a fight for this stray belt still brings some much-needed movement to the sport's traditional glamour division. 

Tale of the Tape

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images
    Per Boxrec      Bermane Stiverne     Chris Arreola
    Record      23-1-1, 20 KOs      36-3, 31 KOs
    Height      6'2"      6'3"
    Reach      80"      76"
    Weight      Approximately 245 lbs      Approximately 245 lbs
    Age      35      33
    Stance      Orthodox      Orthodox
    Hometown      Las Vegas, Nevada      Escondido, California
    Rounds      76      157

    Chris Arreola is two years younger but much more experienced than Stiverne. Of course, the biggest fight of Stiverne's career was his victory over Arreola in April 2013. 

    They are similar in size, but Stiverne has a four-inch reach advantage. Their weights have both fluctuated, but 245 is the general range for both of them in their recent fights. 

    Arreola was born in LA, where the fight will take place, and lives in nearby Escondido. Stiverne was born in Haiti, lives in Las Vegas and is a Canadian citizen. 

Main Storylines

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    Chris Arreola has been one of the top U.S. heavyweights for most of the past decade. He had a respectable amateur career, winning a national Golden Gloves title, but his chin and one-punch power have made his transition to the professional ranks largely a successful one.

    He has already challenged for the world title once, losing to Vitali Klitschko by Round 10 TKO in September 2009. He dropped a majority decision to Tomasz Adamek in April 2010.

    Those had been his only two losses prior to facing Bermane Stiverne last April in a WBC title eliminator. With a huge edge in experience, Arreola was viewed as a favorite against the relatively unknown Stiverne. 

    Instead, the Haitian-born Stiverne knocked down Arreola and busted his nose en route to a hard-fought, but decisive, decision victory. Prior to beating Arreola, Stiverne's biggest win had been a 2011 Round 2 TKO of Kertson Manswell.

    At 35, Stiverne got a late start in the sport. His amateur career was relatively short, though successful. He recorded a decision win over Robert Helenius and a stoppage of Olympian David Price. Against Arreola last year, he used the better boxing skills.

    Arreola rebounded from the loss to Stiverne to demolish Seth Mitchell in Round 1 in September. He fought bravely against Stiverne last April with a busted nose.

    With a world title on the line in the rematch, expect both of these big men to be ready for war again. Undefeated knockout artist Deontay Wilder has already been mandated as the first contender to this belt.

    For the first time in years, things are heating up in the American heavyweight scene.      

Strengths

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    Alexis Cuarezma/Getty Images

    Bermane Stiverne has good reach and quick hands for a large man. His jab is accurate and reaches its targets in a hurry. The rugged Stiverne also takes a punch very well and hits back with authority.

    He's athletic and physically powerful enough to force his way into position on the inside yet still boxes well off the back foot. He does a good job of mixing up his attack to both the body and head, drawing his opponent's defenses to one and then shifting quickly to the other.

    Chris Arreola has a great chin and excellent punching power. He is an intelligent brawler. He will take a shot to give one, but when he does, he is usually punching from a smarter angle.

    He has a good sense of punching range and attacks the body well. He plants his weight and digs in with the hook downstairs.

Weaknesses

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Bermane Stiverne uses some head movement, but he's not hard to time with the straight punch. He covers up when pressing forward, but he's a hittable opponent.

    He carries more weight than he probably should and looked to slow down somewhat in the later part of his last fight with Arreola. At 35, he's a relatively inexperienced professional.

    Chris Arreola has always faced questions about his conditioning. He's fought at lower weights in recent years, but his midsection still tends to look pretty soft.

    He has often had good success in give-and-take wars, but casual defense can be dangerous against a big puncher who can box, like Stiverne, as Arreola learned in their last encounter.

Bermane Stiverne Will Win If...

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    Bermane Stiverne fought a terrific fight last year against Chris Arreola. He came in with a very successful game plan and shouldn't need to change it much this time around.

    He had to work hard to beat the determined Arreoloa, but Stiverne won decisively. He used a quick, accurate jab and his four-inch reach advantage to box well on the outside. When Arreola attempted to force his way forward, Stiverne was ready for him with a powerful right hand, one of which broke Arreola's nose and dropped him to the canvas.

    Stiverne mixed in a great body attack to draw Arreola's hands down. He threw quick jabs, straight rights, and bruising hooks to Arreola's torso, setting him up perfectly for a shift back upstairs.

    Stiverne has already demonstrated that he can execute the right game plan to beat Arreola. As long as he has trained as hard for this fight as he did for the last one, he should be able to win again.

Chris Arreola Will Win If...

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    Alexis Cuarezma/Getty Images

    Chris Arreola showed tremendous heart and physical toughness in his last fight with Bermane Stiverne. But he got outboxed. If he can't make some adjustments, it's likely to happen again.

    He must get busy with his jab. He has to double and triple up on it as he moves into range on the longer Stiverne. His opponent's quick, accurate jab was a difference-maker last time, so Arreola has to try to even things up in that regard.

    He also fell into a dangerous pattern last time of letting Stiverne get off first, while he stayed busy covering up and reacting. Stiverne would attack the body, and Arreola would drop his hands, allowing Stiverne to attack upstairs. Arreola's hands would come back up into a high guard, and Stiverne would shift back to the torso.

    A busy jab should help Arreola move into the range where he can initiate instead of leaving him frozen at a distance where he is forced to be defensive.

    I have no doubt he wants to win this fight desperately. But he needs to make sure he's fighting at a range where his heart will help him win, not just allow him to survive.  

Prediction

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    In their last fight, Bermane Stiverne busted Chris Arreola's nose, knocked him down and won by wide margins on the scorecards. He had to work hard in every round, but he won most of them, too. Two judges had him winning nine rounds to three and a third scored the fight for him 10 rounds to two.

    He showed in that fight that he had lived up to his amateur potential and developed into a dangerous heavyweight contender. I spoke to Arreola the week before that fight and he told me his camp had gone well and he had prepared for Stiverne. His weight was not outrageous by his historical standards.

    Arreola looked like his usual tough, hard-nosed self in that fight. Stiverne just looked like the more gifted athlete and better boxer.

    So I don't expect anything to change this time around. It's a case where I would be happy to be wrong. Arreola is a very engaging fighter, and a championship run for him would be good for the sport domestically.

    But Stiverne has a great back story of his own. He's worked hard and is coming to this success relatively late in life. On Saturday night, I expect him to be the first Haitian-born heavyweight champion ever.

    I expect another hard-fought battle but clear decision for Stiverne. And while I'm not ready to make an official prediction yet, I'm leaning toward picking him to beat Deontay Wilder too.

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