By Clive Bernath: One would have to think back a good few years in order to relive the last exciting and entertaining match-up in the heavyweight division. In this writer’s opinion the last time an exciting and evenly contested match-up took place was on June 26, 2003 when Lennox Lewis defeated Vitali Klitschko via six round tko.
Granted, Lewis vs Klitschko did not live up to the glorious heyday when the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman were punching heavyweight lumps out of each other but it did produce edge of the seat excitement at times and was developing into an intriguing battle until a horrendous cut around Klitschko’s left eye gave referee Lou Moret no choice other than to stop the fight.
Following Lewis’ retirement Vitali Klitschko eventually went on to claim the vacant WBC crown with an eighth round stoppage win over South African puncher Corrie Sanders In April, 2004. Following the aforementioned, the 6ft 7inch Ukrainian defended the title just once, against Britain’s Danny Williams in December 2004, before retiring through injury a short time later. Vitali returned in October, 2008, after fours years out, to reclaim the WBC crown via an uninspiring eighth round retirement of caretaker champion Samuel Peter. Four months later in March of this year, the 38 year-old champion went through the motions once again by stopping bitter rival Juan Carlo Gomez inside nine rounds.
Fast forward to the present and Vitali is now poised to defend his title at the Staples Center in California on September 26 against the unbeaten mandatory challenger Chris Arreola, an American with Mexican heritage.
On paper this looks like another routine assignment for the hard hitting Ukrainian, who has either knocked out or stopped 36 of the 39 opponents he has faced since turning pro in November, 1996. Klitschko has lost just twice, both via injury, to Lewis as explained earlier and Chris Byrd(rtd 9) following a serious shoulder injury. So it does appear that Klitschko will start a heavy favourite again against the much less experienced 28 year-old challenger-or will he?
Ok, we know Arreola is unproven and the best dancing partner he has faced inside the ropes was a, with all due respect, past his best Jameel McCline and even when in his prime McCline was a fringe title contender at best. Having said that, we should not and cannot write off the unbeaten contender’s chances. This is an interesting fight for a number of reason’s not least of all that as an unbeaten fighter we just don’ know what to expect from Arreola when the fight gets going and the two big punchers exchange the heavy artillery. We know for sure that Vitali can mix the bombs with the biggest punchers but we are yet to see how Arreola reacts when hit flush around the whiskers.
The two other concerns for me is Arreola does not always look in the best of shape going into fights and does get hit a little too often. He can get away it against the lower level of opponent but he is stepping up to the highest level against Vitali Klitschko and will need to tighten up that leaky guard and spend a little more time pounding the streets.
If you listen to Arreola’s promoter Dan Goossen, though, there is only one winner and its not the Ukrainian national. Speaking to SecondsOut a couple of weeks ago The Californian based promoter said: “Chris Arreola is a chip off the Mike Tyson block. He has a massive fan base in California and Chris vs Vitali Klitschko will be a massive fight and a sell out. It will be a massive night. Chris Arreola is a two hundred and fifty pound power house.”
All that said if Arreola can take his training preparations to the next level, withstand the Klitschko bombs early we may just be in for one hell of an explosive battle. Lets face it, the heavyweight division desperately needs reviving and Klitschko vs Arreola may just be the fight start that revival.
August 10, 2009