Vitali Klitschko’s decision to vacate his WBC heavyweight title has created a scramble among boxers eager to fight for the coveted belt. On Tuesday, top contenders Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder engaged in (another) vulgar exchange on social media, while Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola both have made cases that they deserve a title shot.
How will it sort out? Here’s a suggested scenario:
Make Stiverne-Fury for the vacant title: Last April, Bermane Stiverne (23-1) beat Chris Arreola in a WBC eliminator, establishing Stiverne as the No. 1 contender on the WBC rankings. Whether he earned the right to be in an eliminator is debatable -- boxing insiders get a good laugh out of the WBC’s monthly rankings, as they often appear to ignore merit -- but Stiverne did win the fight.
Tyson Fury (21-0) is ranked No. 8 by the WBC, but his résumé is more complete than that of anyone ranked above him, a list that includes Bryant Jennings, Mike Perez and Dereck Chisora. Fury owns wins over Chisora, Steve Cunningham and Kevin Johnson in the last two years. His activity -- he has not fought since stopping Cunningham last April -- has been limited by the postponement and ultimate cancellation of a fight against David Haye. Still, among heavyweight contenders, Fury is as worthy as any to fight for a vacant title.
Make the new titleholder face the winner of Arreola-Wilder: Quality heavyweight fights in the U.S. have been scarce in recent years; Arreola-Wilder would be one of them. When Arreola (36-3) is in shape -- as he was during a first-round destruction of Seth Mitchell last September -- he can be very good. What he lacks in technique he makes up for with an iron chin and crushing power. Deontay Wilder’s list of opponents is pathetic, and he has been wobbled by non-punchers in the past. But he also possesses thundering one-punch power and, at 6-foot-7, Wilder (30-0) has the kind of size that is difficult to match up with.
It’s a classic crossroads matchup: Arreola, 32, the aging contender against Wilder, 28, the untested Olympic bronze medalist just entering his prime. It’s a fight Showtime would snap up in a heartbeat and it would produce a winner worthy of a title shot.
Whoever emerges gets Wladimir Klitschko: Make no mistake, Klitschko is dying to unify the titles. When Vitali held the WBC belt, Wladimir said all the right things. Privately though, Wladimir badly wants to unify the titles. Klitschko figures to be tied up with mandatory defenses for the first half of 2014, leaving would-be WBC contenders to fight it out for the title. Whoever comes out of that scrum will not only be battle tested against two legitimate heavyweight opponents but will have an increased profile that will undoubtedly create a bidding war among premium networks to secure the rights to the fight.
-- By Chris Mannix