Arreola-Klitschko not likely to go distance

Published Sep. 26, 2009 9:32 p.m. ET

Can we call it the fight to save the heavyweight division?

Probably not, but Saturday night will represent a return to the time-honored tradition of giving a damn about boxing's big boys.

There's very little to not appreciate about the heavyweight title fight between Vitali Klitschko and Chris Arreola in Los Angeles (HBO, 10 p.m. ET).

downlevel descriptionThis video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.

Historical angle? You have the possibility of Arreola becoming the first ever fighter of Mexican descent to claim heavyweight hardware. Regardless of your opinion on alphabet belts these days, Arreola defeating the 6-1 favored Klitschko would rate as a very big deal.

There's also Klitschko becoming the first fighter to headline three shows at Staples Center, currently tied with Shane Mosley and Erik Morales for such honors.

Modern significance? The Klitschko brothers have a stranglehold on the heavyweight division. It's either a good or a bad thing, depending on your viewpoint.

Wladimir is regarded as the lineal heavyweight champion by those who keep track of such things. To everyone else, he's simply the best heavyweight in the world. Whatever the label, the most common perception is that Wladimir is No. 1, with big brother Vitali right behind him.

Those who've long ago accepted the fact that the two will never meet in the ring can appreciate the fact that the division is manned by a two-headed monster.

For everyone else, the same formula applies whenever one or the other fights these days: If so-and-so can beat one, his next fight will be against the other, to which all questions are answered atop boxing's most storied division.

This weekend, Arreola plays the role of so-and-so. If he plays it well enough, instant demand will be created for a showdown with Wladimir. If such a fight can't happen right away (the younger Klitschko is presently on the injured list and two-deep in the way of mandatory obligations), the next great heavyweight matchup will not be met with anticipation and enthusiasm rather than disgust.

But let's pretend that none of the aforementioned bells and whistles mean anything to you. You don't care about sidebars, rankings, or who goes where after this fight. Let's say that all you want is to sit down and watch an entertaining heavyweight fight.

Sixty-six represents the number of combined professional fights between the two heavyweights. Two represents the number of times that scorecards determined the winner of their fights.

The only time Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) or any of his opponents required the ringside judges' input came nine years ago, when he scored a virtual shutout over then-unbeaten Timo Hoffman. The distance win came on the heels of his first professional defeat, when a torn rotator cuff forced the Ukrainian to retire on his stool after nine largely dominant rounds against Chris Byrd.

He is presently on a five-fight knockout streak, though spanning nearly six years. All have been on American TV, as was his courageous showing in a loss to Lennox Lewis in his first appearance at the Staples Center in June 2003.

Kicking off the knockout streak was a second-round blasting of fleshy Kirk Johnson — the fighter for whom Klitschko served as a late replacement against Lewis six months prior. The night revealed very little, other than America's willingness to rally around the de facto heavyweight leader.

More telling have been his past four fights, all of which have seen Klitschko systematically pick apart his opponents before stopping them relatively late. Four straight fights have gone eight rounds or more, accentuating Klitschko's knack for maintaining focus over the long haul while knowing exactly when to move in to close the show.

Like his Ukrainian counterpart, there has only been one occasion in which Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs) left matters into the hands of the three ringside judges. That moment came four years ago, just two years and 12 fights into his pro career, when he was taken the distance by Andrew Greeley.

Of the other two times in which Arreola was denied a knockout victory, both opponents were well on their way out, only to suffer a disqualification loss.

However, his past three fights saw the hulking Mexican-American exceed the 250-pound barrier, gaining more flesh with each performance. Poor conditioning almost cost him his undefeated record last November, turning in a sloppy performance against an upset-minded Travis Walker, suffering the first — and to date, only — knockdown of his career before returning the favor three times over in scoring a third-round stoppage.

A common thread after each of his last three fights was his claim that conditioning wouldn't be an issue in his next fight. He weighed at 251 Thursday, so we'll see how serious his training has been soon.

It was a fight that almost wasn't, as the date and opponent was originally slated to go to former cruiserweight king David Haye. The brash Brit previously had a date with younger brother Wladimir before pulling out due to an injury.

Read more at...

For more boxing news and features, check out