This coming September 26, roughly six weeks from this writing, WBC heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko 37-2 (36) will defend his title against the WBC's number one contender, Chris Arreola 27-0 (24) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Who said there can't be a heavyweight title bout contested outside of Germany?
Due to contender David Haye, who was supposed to be Vitali's opponent, talking himself into a title bout with WBA champ Nikolay Valuev, a fight he can actually win, boxing fans will see Arreola fight Klitschko instead. Which happens to be a much better fight and there's a chance Klitschko could be upset by the aggressive and hard punching Arreola, something that most objective boxing observers couldn't envision Haye doing.
On top of Arreola being better equipped physically to combat Klitschko than Haye, it's not a reach to see that he's better equipped mentally and emotionally as well. Haye talked a great fight through June and July in getting himself title shots versus both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, but he didn't instill much confidence that once in the ring confronting one of the brothers that he'd go after them like a wounded animal trying to win. On the other hand Arreola understands his limitations better and is of the mindset that he'd rather be stopped trying to win the fight opposed to going the distance and bragging about not getting stopped afterward.
In reality it is Arreola's mindset and ability to punch pretty good with both hands that make this fight intriguing despite the fact that Klitschko will most likely be a prohibited favorite. The fact that Arreola can punch is one thing, but more importantly it's his willingness to let both hands go is what makes him a fascinating wildcard. When fighters open up and punch at their opponent, sometimes the thought of being open and vulnerable leads them to fight measured and not take chances. In no way is that a shot at Vitali Klitschko, but it'll be nice to see him confronted by a fighter who is going to fire at him and make him have to fight with a sense of urgency for the first time in a while.
In the past Vitali has stepped up when he has been pushed to fight as we saw in his 2003 bout versus heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, and then by southpaw Corrie Sanders until he ran out of gas during their 2004 bout for the vacant WBC title. It was in his fight versus Sanders that Vitali showed he wasn't too brave to step back and hold when he was shook or needed a breather.
From a style vantage point the 28-year-old Arreola has his work cut out for him versus the 38 year old Klitschko. Chris has shown up to this point that he doesn't have the greatest stamina one could hope for in an upper-tier heavyweight contender. On top of that he only can fight as the attacker and is therefore open to get nailed on the way in. Also, it cannot be said that Arreola has a great chin and has been down, something that can't be said about Vitali. The bottom line is, he is who he is. He'll never be considered a great fighter and will probably get stopped a few times in his career. That said, he doesn't have to be great or have a cast-iron chin to win a piece of the title in 2009.
As for Klitschko, he no doubt understands that Arreola has more to worry and concern himself with than either of his last two opponents, Samuel Peter and Carlos Gomez. Granted, Vitali gets a ton of props for coming back after 46 months at age 37 and winning two consecutive title bouts. Although Peter and Gomez can be summed up in two words each. One can't (Peter) and one won't (Gomez) fight, that is. Peter has barely progressed as a fighter and other than having above average two-handed power, he can't deliver it nor does he have a dependable chin. He lacks tenacity and gumption and is about as unimaginative as any fighter you'll see. Gomez was a decorated amateur and was a handful as a cruiserweight, however he hasn't looked anything close to impressive in the eight years he's fought as a heavyweight. He did a terrible job trying to convince himself, let alone Vitali Klitschko, that he thought he was going to win the fight, based on his showing during it.
In all honesty, Arreola has one shot to beat Vitali Klitschko, he has to stop him. To do that he has to go after him and try to get inside and nullify Klitschko's reach without getting his head handed to him in the process. Vitali has shown in previous fights when pressured he'll step back and let his opponent lead until they tire, reload or he sees an opening for a counter attack. In order to keep Klitschko on the defensive, Arreola is going to have to be in the greatest shape of his life. Another thing he is going to have to do better is shorten up his right hand, especially if he hopes to get off with it while inside. In his last fight against Jameel McCline, he lunged and telegraphed it. If he does that against Klitschko, Vitali will smother it inside and see it and react or counter it from outside.
Arreola's only weapon in this fight is his power and willingness. He can't outlast, outbox, or out think Klitschko. So he has to deliver his power and he probably has to do it early. That way there's a chance he can get Vitali's respect and possibly hope to induce him to fight not to lose instead of to win convincingly. Klitschko has an outstanding chin and doesn't panic, therefore I don't see Arreola winning or turning the fight with one punch. He also doesn't throw non-stop punches or apply bell-to-bell pressure like an in shape on his game Joe Frazier. That being the case, Chris probably has to throw the kitchen sink at Klitschko, hitting him on every part of his body from the waist up. If he can somehow beat on Klitschko's arms, shoulders and wrist, maybe he can open him up or injure him and induce his body to fail him in one form or another. It's not like that has never happened to Vitali before, and he is 38 years old.
For a guy like Arreola, there's no getting around the fact that Klitschko is just better. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have some things to work with. The problem is like it is in any other fight, he has to force his only true weapon, his power and two-handed assault, on Klitschko and hope for the best. The last thing he can allow is for Klitschko to have the time to step back and counter him off a miss, or nail him hard on the way in. No doubt Klitschko will sit back and wait and react to how Arreola comes at him.
When all is said and done, if Arreola's power isn't a factor, that being he can't bring it home or Vitali can handle it, it'll be a one-sided beat down by Klitschko of Arreola. Most likely ending with Arreola being stopped inside of ten rounds. On the other hand, if Arreola's power is big enough to hurt and bother Klitschko, it'll be something to watch because if Arreola senses he is bothering or hurting Vitali, he'll raise the rent and give him some more.
Watching Arreola push Vitali Klitschko harder than he has been since he fought Lennox Lewis is well worth watching the fight to see.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV