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Arreola Live Underdog – WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 36-0 (35) will defend his title against former title challenger Chris Arreola 36-4-1 (31) this Saturday night at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.  Wilder was permitted another voluntary defense by the WBC when longtime mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin tested positive for trace amounts of a banned substance. Arreola, who is getting a third shot at the WBC title, won a split decision over Travis Kauffman in his last bout this past December, which was later changed to a no-decision after Arreola tested positive for marijuana. He received a 90-day suspension and was removed from the WBC ratings, but the suspension has expired.

The fight is being sold as two big knockout artists facing each other, and based on their records and some of their previous showings it’s not hard to endorse that. Had this fight taken place a year and a half ago, I would’ve had more of a conundrum picking the winner. And the reason for that is, neither fighter has a first tier chin and they’re not hard to find or hit. However, in July 2016, I question Arreola’s desire and will, especially when matched against a guy like Wilder who is fighting with a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he’s the equal to IBF title holder Anthony Joshua who is getting all the attention among today’s heavyweights.

Arreola Live Underdog

In regards to Arreola, 35, he’s been a pro for 13 years. It’s pretty much documented that Chris has been fun to watch, comes to fight, but also has come up short in the big spot when he’s stepped up in class. He’s not technically proficient, he lacks hand and food speed, telegraphs his punches and isn’t always in shape. On the other hand, he’s dangerous because if he does manage to land his Sunday punch, he’s capable of hurting anybody in the division. The question is, how much of a shellacking will he absorb before he brings it home? In his last five bouts he’s gone 2-2-1. The two defeats were against Bermane Stiverne, the guy who Wilder handled much more easily than I thought he would to win the title. What’s really troubling, pertaining to Arreola, is that Stiverne handled Cris almost with ease in their rematch. And he did that by boxing first and then when Chris had been worked over pretty good, he went in with the real ammunition and stopped him. Since the first Stiverne bout, Arreola hasn’t looked the same.

As for Wilder, 30, he hasn’t faced a murderers row of opposition. (Then again, who has?)  That said, after 36 professional bouts, winning 35 inside the distance, I have no clue how authentically good Deontay Wilder is. Anthony Joshua’s opposition is almost as questionable as Wilder’s. Both are being peddled to the boxing public as the next Lennox Lewis in regards to being able to combine competent boxing and punching, but during their short careers I’ve seen both Wilder and Joshua hurt more than I’d like to have seen. Yet I’m more confident in Joshua’s power being the real deal than I am Wilder’s. Joshua also has better form than Deontay and he puts his punches together more fluidly. If Anthony Joshua were fighting Arreola, I’d be writing that it’s a mismatch and you better tune in early or you’ll miss the fight.  I know Joshua would hit Arreola with his best stuff cleanly and with regularity– something I’m not confident saying about Wilder fighting Arreola.

Wilder is tall and long.  He likes to fight behind the jab looking to set up the right hand and a sometimes sneaky left-hook. But when he’s rushed, he’s sloppy. I expect him to stop Arreola, but it’ll be more the case of him landing something big during a wild exchange against the open and exposed Arreola opposed to something he set up. In other words, the ending won’t be crisp and clean via a methodical fight plan and strategy. And if Arreola comes out and really starts winging his heaviest artillery at Wilder, Deontay will become a little undone, but his better skill and length will enable him to see everything Chris is hurling at him and I expect him to survive.

Had these two met when Chris was still all there and not shopworn, it would’ve been a fun fight with the outcome in question. But that’s no longer the case. Right now Wilder holds all the advantages physically and mentally. Arreola is so there to be hit cleanly, doesn’t have a first tier chin and Wilder will see everything he throws.  Add to that the loss of hunger on Arreola’s part that I believe exists, and it’s almost a gimme for Deontay.  Although there’s one thing Arreola can try, which is to make it a one or two round fight.  When he’s unsettled, Wilder is reckless with his punches, and he really almost slaps just to try to keep his opponent off him.  If I were advising Arreola, I’d tell him to go in like a bull in a china shop; break everything in sight.

Stylistically, especially against a declining Arreola, Wilder should have his way. If he keeps his jab in Arreola’s face, and by that I mean throwing more than one at a time, he should have success keeping Chris on the outside, a place where there’s no shot he can be effective. In addition, if Wilder keeps him turning and doesn’t go straight back, he’ll reduce his chances of getting nailed with the home-run punches that Arreola must send his way. That’s the early recipe. Once Arreola is slowed to a walk, which will definitely be the case after a few heated rounds and spirited exchanges, Wilder can then start to look to end the fight in a memorable fashion. A showing like that will keep him in the conversation when discussing the supposed elite fighters at the top of the heavyweight division.

When playing this bout out in my mind, I see Wilder landing at least a few of his best right hands on Arreola’s chin as if it were a heavy bag. And if that happens, I can’t see Arreola surviving because he doesn’t catch as good as he once did — and then there’s the question of how bad he still wants to fight. Actually, if Wilder’s chin wasn’t unproven, it would be nearly impossible to make a case for an Arreola win at this stage of his career.

My issue going into the bout is I question how well Wilder can take a really big shot. What’s even scarier is, Deontay’s chin is reachable, and Arreola, for one shot probably can hit him harder than anyone he’s been in the ring with to date. And that’s the intrigue for me. It’s not a reach to picture Wilder owning every minute and then suddenly getting caught with something big that he didn’t see in the midst of a wild exchange. The fact that Wilder could possibly control the entire fight and then possibly go out like John Tate did versus Mike Weaver is the biggest hook for me in seeing the bout.

Yes, I expect Wilder to win and land some missiles on Arreola in the process. But I can picture Arreola being a threat as long as he’s still standing. This wouldn’t be the case if I was sold on Wilder’s chin being a reliable last line of defense.

 

Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

Arreola Live Underdog – Picture courtesy of The Premier Boxing Champions.

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