Bermane Stiverne introduced himself to the boxing world in April of last year when he beat Chris Arreola, unanimously outpointing his favored rival over 12 rounds (118-109 and 117-110 twice), punctuating the victory with a vicious, third round knockdown that broke Arreola’s nose.
Since then, Stiverne, now 35, has waited patiently for his opportunity to face Vitali Klitschko for the WBC heavyweight title. It proved to be futile when Vitali retired at the end of last year.
When the dust settled, the WBC mandated that Stiverne, 23-1-1 (20 knockouts) again meet Arreola, 36-3 (31 KOs). A deal was brokered that will see the pair contest the vacant WBC heavyweight title this Saturday at the USC Galen Center in Los Angeles, live on ESPN.
“As a matter of fact, to me, I'm going to the ring like I'm defending my title.” said Stiverne at the official press conference to announce the rematch. “This title is mine. It's my title; you know what I'm saying? They just didn't give it to me yet. I'm going in there to defend my title.”
Despite having fought previously, winning rather handsomely on the scorecards, Stiverne is taking nothing for granted.
“That fight is in the past and that's where I'm leaving it,” he said.
“I am not relying on my last performance at all. This is a brand-new fight to me. As far as I'm concerned, we never fought.”
The ESPN card, dubbed, “Fight for Peace,” will also feature an interesting junior welterweight match-up between up and coming Amir Imam and Cuban Olympian Yordenis Ugas, as well as Vanes Martirosyan vs. Elco Garcia. Several prospects including Michael Hunter, Abel Ramos and Mario Barrios are also scheduled to appear. The telecast will begin at 8 p.m., ET.
Anson Wainwright – On Saturday, you meet Chris Arreola in a rematch for the vacant WBC heavyweight title. What are your thoughts on facing Arreola in a rematch?
Bermane Stiverne – My thoughts are not so much on facing him; they are on getting that belt.
AW – What does it mean to you to fight and possibly win one of the most coveted prizes in sports?
BS – It would mean the world to me. All the sacrifices, hard work, disappointment…I mean, everything I ever went through in my life and I'm still going through will pay off.
AW – Having shared a ring with Arreola in April of last year, you know him relatively well. You won a wide points decision on that occasion, looking back at that fight, what would you say about it?
BS – That fight is in the past and that's where I'm leaving it. I am not relying on my last performance at all. This is a brand-new fight to me. As far as I'm concerned, we never fought.
AW – What do you see in Arreola in terms of his strengths and weaknesses?
BS – You just answered your own question: his strength is his weakness.
AW – This fight takes place on ESPN. That is a very possibly a huge deal for boxing. How do you see this opportunity?
BS – I think it is great. ESPN is one of the most or the most watched network when it comes to sports. I personally watch ESPN every day. I would think boxing will be grateful.
AW – Since that fight 13 months ago, you haven't fought. You've waited for Vitali Klitschko to make his mind up on what he was going to do. Could you tell us what you have done in that time?
BS – I am a professional athlete. I always keep busy; it's my job and duty to do so. Whatever happened, I’m making sure I am ready to go.
AW – You were born in La Plaine, Haiti before moving to Canada and on to Las Vegas. Could you talk us through your youth growing up in Haiti and then moving?
BS – I was young and it was fun for me. Now that I'm old and as I look back, I must say it wasn't easy at all but today, I appreciate the struggle and everything else. When I left Haiti, I was always travelling from Miami to Montreal but then I finally moved to Miami for good. Now, I have been training and living in Las Vegas for the past 10 years. I love it.
AW – You had a pretty impressive amateur career. Could you tell us about it?
BS – You could also talk about narrowly missing out on the Olympics. My amateur career was great. I had a lot of fun travelling all over the world. I do miss it sometimes (laughs). That was one of the reasons I stayed in Canada. I have to admit not going to the Olympics was very hard to swallow because of the way I lost in the pre-Olympic Trials [against George Garcia in Mexico]. It was nothing but politics at the time.
AW – If we look at the heavyweight division, what are your thoughts on top guys?
BS – I don't have thoughts or watch other heavyweights unless it's my appointment but I do think some of them are overrated.
AW – If all goes well for you and you repeat the victory over Arreola, you mandatory is Deontay Wilder.
BS – Arreola is what matters to me right now. As far as I'm concerned, the WBC doesn't have any mandatory to its crown as we speak.
AW – Away from boxing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
BS – I'm a homebody but I still play basketball, football and jet-ski, some of the things that I do outside boxing.
AW – Lastly, do you have a message for Chris Arreola?
BS – No…I don't.
Photo by Anson Wainwright