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Chris Arreola Faces Head-Hunting Bermane Stiverne in Title Eliminator

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COMMENTARY | This Saturday, April 27, at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time in over fourteen months to take on Haiti-born Canadian resident, Bermane Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs). The twelve-round contest, part of an HBO Tripleheader, is being billed as a WBC eliminator for a shot at the world heavyweight title, but that's not why fight fans are eager to watch this battle of the big men.

For the last several years, Arreola has been one of the most engaging and entertaining characters in boxing and backs up his cussing, beer drinking "vato next door" image with honest and compelling ring action. The hard-punching Mexican-American may not be the best fighter in the world or the best heavyweight or, even, the best American heavyweight, but one would be hard-pressed to find a fighter who more consistently delivers fist-banging boxing fun to the fans.

There's just not a phony bone in Arreola's heavily-tattooed body. Whether it's openly bawling in the ring after losing in a 2009 bid for Vitali Klitschko's WBC belt or planting a mocking kiss on the cheek of journeyman Joey Abell after a TKO win or publicly admonishing Don King for the use of the word "wetback," fans understand that the product of East L.A. is as real as real gets.

"In case you guys didn't know, I'm a crazy [expletive] guy," Arreola recently said at a press conference to promote his upcoming fight. "I like the fact that you want to chop my head off [Referring to opponent, Stiverne's dead-faced threat, issued right before Arreola came to the podium]…Boxing is about someone trying to knock someone out…Honestly, I'm a [expletive] you up."

Arreola, if he should get by his test this Saturday, will be in a tough spot. He'll assume the role of mandatory challenger to the title of the man, Vitali Klitschko, who sent him home in tears four years ago. In his first and only try for a world title, Arreola pushed hard and fought earnestly, but was clearly overmatched by Klitschko.

But that was four years ago. Klitschko is now four years older. Arreola is a more experienced fighter with a slightly more mature ring style and, purportedly, a better handle on the weight and fitness issues that have plagued him for most of his career.

"The first fight with Vitali I got at the last minute," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I had about five-six weeks. I weighed 295 and I wanted to get to 241. It wasn't a training camp; it was a weight-loss camp."

It could also very well be the case that by the time Arreola cashes in on his title bout the 41-year-old Vitali Klitschko, who turns 42 in July, may be retired from the sport.

Before any of that happens, though, there is a real and live obstacle standing in Arreola's way, also wanting his slice of the heavyweight pie.

Bermane Stiverne has fewer fights than Arreola, fewer years in the game, and a significantly lighter resume, but he's no walkover in this eliminator. Tough guys are a dime a dozen in boxing, but "B-Ware" came about his toughness the old school way. As one of fourteen children growing up in poverty-plagued Haiti, Stiverne learned to fight and fight hard-taking that ability with him to Miami, Florida and then to the Quebec province in Canada.

Stiverne's legitimacy as a qualified challenger shouldn't be in question, but the star of Saturday's match-up is Arreola and, until proven otherwise, he's also the favorite to move on to the WBC title shot.

Arreola understands that, accepts that, and in his own unique way, has let the world know that the fight is his to lose.

"I'm gonna knock him out, don't get me wrong, but I wanna make sure we both go home to our family, that's the most important thing," Arreola recently told the media, before then turning to address Stiverne directly. "You may go home a little sad, a little dejected, but that's alright, I'll send you a fruit basket after."

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Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Sources: You Tube, The Los Angeles Times, Doghouse Boxing

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