The WBC has ordered a rematch between its No. 1- and No. 2-rated heavyweight contenders Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola for the belt that was vacated on Dec. 16 by Vitali Klitschko, a 42-year-old veteran who announced his presidential candidacy in Ukraine in October.
Klitschko (45-2, 41 knockouts) has not been in the ring since last September when he made the 10th defense of his belt with a fourth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Manuel Charr, and has been named “Champion Emeritus” by the organization, meaning he can retire with the option of being able to return to the ring at any time and be eligible to fight for the title against the reigning beltholder.
“The WBC Board of Governors has finished its voting procedure to determine the steps to fill the heavyweight world championship after Vitali Klitschko has been confirmed as WBC Emeritus Champion while he focuses on his political campaign for the presidency of Ukraine,” read a statement from the WBC.
“It has been decided to order immediate free negotiations between No. 1-ranked contender and WBC Silver world champion Bermane Stiverne and No. 2-ranked contender and WBC International champion Chris Arreola for the vacant WBC heavyweight world championship. A series of fights will be ordered as final elimination bouts to confirm the two mandatory challengers for the division.”
In his last fight in April, which was designated as a WBC elimination bout for the right to face Klitschko, Stiverne (21-1, 20 KOs) scored a third-round knockdown on the way to a unanimous decision over Arreola (35-3, 30 KOs), whom Klitschko stopped in September of 2009. In his last fight in September, Arreola stopped Seth Mitchell in the first round.
“Look, it’s a great opportunity for Chris, not only to avenge his loss to Stiverne, but to win that prize,” said Goossen. “It’s not only the biggest prize in boxing, but it’s the biggest prize in sports, the heavyweight championship of the world.”
Of Arreola, Stiverne said simply: “I’m going to knock him out this time.”
In addition, RING, IBF, WBA and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali Klitschko’s 37-year-old brother, has said that he plans to pursue the WBC’s belt and the right to become the divisioon’s undisputed champion.
Vitali Klitschko held the “Champion Emeritus” status when he was out of the ring from 2005 to October of 2008, when ended his semi-retirement and challenged then-WBC titleholder Samuel Peter, who he stopped in eight rounds.
The top contenders for the vacated WBC belt have been busy during the 13 months that Klitschko has been inactive.
The 6-foot-7 Wilder (30-0, 30 KOs) is coming off October’s fourth-round stoppage Nicolai Firtha, whom he dropped three times. Wilder is a 28-year-old 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Jennings (17-0, 9 KOs) is coming off a sixth-round stoppage victory over Andrey Fedosov and is expected to return to the ring against Artur Szpillka (16-0, 12 KOs) )on Jan. 25.
Perez (20-0, 12 KOs) is coming off a brutal 10-round unanimous decision victory on Nov. 2 that left Magomed “Mago” Abdusalamov in a medically induced coma until last week, and will return to the ring on Jan. 18 against Carlos Takam (28-1, 22 KOs) on the undercard of a main event featuring former IBF super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute against light heavyweight ex-beltholder Jean Pascal at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Perez will be donating a portion of his purse to Abdusalamov’s family and will honor him in the ring by having “Mago’s” name stitched on his trunks. Fans can also make donations to Abdusalamov and his family through www.Ring10Ny.com.
Chisora (19-4, 13 KOs) is coming off last month’s third-round knockout of Ondrej Pala, representing his fourth consecutive stoppage win, since, himself, being knocked out by ex-beltholder David Haye in fifth round in July of 2012. Chisora is slated to be back in action on Feb. 15.
No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s strap. In 2006, Hasim Rahman held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd. Puerto Rican-American John Ruiz was the first Latino to have a belt when he became the WBA champ in 2005.
“For Chris, this is something that we’ve been always working toward,” said Goossen. “Chris would become the first heavyweight world champion of Mexican descent.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com