This Saturday night, WBC Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KO) defends his title against up-and-coming challenger Chris Arreola (27-0, 24 KO). In a dismal heavyweight division, this fight is the brightest blip on the radar in a long time.
The Heavyweight titles have been monopolized by the Eastern Europeans for most of this decade. Vitali and his younger brother Wladimir currently hold three of the four major belts, as well as the Ring Magazine title belt. Arreola looks to become the first American Heavyweight and first American of Mexican heritage to hold the prestigious title.
The mountain to be climbed that stands before Arreola is a giant, indeed. Vitali stands 6'8" and 245 lbs. Of his 37 wins, 36 have been won at the end of his "Iron fists." He has two losses on his record, but has never been beaten in the ring. His first loss came to (then) IBF Champion Chris Byrd as a result of a severe shoulder injury.
He lead on all three judges scorecards at the time he elected to end the fight. Questions about his toughness plagued him for the next three years before he took on Lennon Lewis, leading again on all three judges cards before the ringside doctor stepped in to halt the bout as a result of two bloody gashes over his left eye.
Four years away from boxing due to back and knee injuries have experts questioning when Klitschko will show his 39 years and lose his conditioning, punching power, and ability to walk through any punch.
American fight fans are placing their hopes on the round shoulders of Chris Arreola. Arreola, like Klitschko is a big puncher, just take a look at his record. Arreola put his punches together well and has very fast hands for a heavyweight. The big knocks on Arreola are his technique and conditioning.
Arreola is off balance much of the time. He likes to abandon his jab and lunge inside to land his combinations, which usually leave him off balance and open to counters (if his opponent want backing up stunned). When he uses his jab to get inside of taller fighters his balance is much better, his combinations crisper, and his retreating defense is better.
It isn't certain if Arreola will be able to get inside the battering ram that is Klitschko's left jab, which is like other boxers' power punches. Klitschko will, at times, use his jab as a distance-finder for his home run punch, the straight right.
The problem that remains for Arreola, assuming he gets inside Klitschko's jab, will be the upper cut that Klitschko developed in his time away from boxing. He used this weapon with much success against Sam Peter and Juan Carlos Gomez, both short Heavyweights.
It's business as usual for Vitali Klitschko as he looks to be in prime physical condition. Arreola, not known for the appeal of his physique or conditioning, is reported to look slimmed down for this fight. Maybe he is finally taking his career seriously. Maybe he realizes that his career could be drastically re-routed if he comes in looking like a hot dog-eating contestant. Whatever the case, the fight looks like it could be exciting.
As everyone would likely predict, this fight won't see the end of the 12th round, and I have to concur. The only bad news I bring for American fight fans is that I don't see Arreola's hand raised in victory. I'm predicting a fourth round KO for Klitschko.
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