ESPN Boxing Preview: Imam vs. Ugas, Stiverne vs. Arreola
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, California Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola will face off against one another for the WBC Heavyweight title that was previously held by Vitali Klitschko.
This will be the second heavyweight title fight shown by ESPN in the past three weeks, and if this event is successful, it may lead to more coveted and competitive fights for boxing fans on ESPN.
An eight round junior welterweight bout between Amir Imam and Yordenis Ugas will serve as the co-main event.
The following is a preview of these two bouts on Saturday night.
Amir Imam (13-0) vs. Yordenis Ugas (15-2); Junior Welterweights
This is an intriguing bout between two highly regarded prospects in the junior welterweight division. Ugas was a successful amateur Cuban boxer who won the bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic games and he was a former World Amateur Champion in 2005. However, his hype lost some luster when he lost a split decision to Johnny Garcia in 2012. He also lost a split decision to Emmanuel Robles in his last bout in February of this year.
Ugas has only stopped seven of his opponents for less than a 50% knockout ratio, while Imam has stopped twelve of his opponents for a very high knockout percentage of 92%. Imam is also four years younger than Ugas at the age of 23.
Ugas has had a disappointing professional career and has come up short whenever he’s taken a step up in competition. His biggest victories were against John Williams, Cosme Rivera, and Kenny Abril. But with a low knockout percentage and two losses this early in his career, he badly needs an impressive victory to inject some new life into his career.
Only one of Imam’s victories came by way of decision, and that was in his professional debut in 2011. He’s faced some cream puffs in his career and has not faced the quality of competition that Ugas has faced. But, Imam does hold victories over Jared Robinson, Jeremy Bryan, and Sergio Perez. Robinson was undefeated when Imam defeated him, but most of Robinson’s victories came against opponents with sub .500 records.
Ugas’ has the experience and talent edge over Robinson and should win on Saturday, but he badly needs to show that he can rise to the occasion on national television.
Bermane Stiverne (23-1) vs. Chris Arreola (36-3) WBC Heavyweight Title
These two contenders boxed each other in April of 2013 and featured a clear and wide decision victory by Bermane Stiverne, which included a solid third round knockdown by Stiverne. Stiverne however has not fought since he faced off against Arreola, while Arreola wiped the floor with former heavyweight contender Seth Mitchell.
Both boxers have considerable power in their hands. Stiverne has stopped twenty of his opponents for a knockout ration of 80% while Arreola has stopped thirty one of his opponents for a knockout ratio of 79%. Arreola will have a one inch height advantage on Saturday night but will be giving up four inches in reach.
They both have had successful amateur careers. Arreola won the National Golden Gloves in the light heavyweight division while Stiverne was a Canadian Super Heavyweight Silver Medalist.
Additionally, neither boxer can be considered to be in their athletic prime. Arreola is currently thirty three years old while Stiverne is thirty five years old.
Arreola holds a slight edge in quality of victories. He has defeated the likes of Seth Mitchell, Eric Molina, Nagy Aguilera, Joey Abell, and Jameel McCline. He has also lost to Tomasz Adamek and Vitali Klitschko. Stiverne’s biggest victory was over Chris Arreola, but other than that bout his only other notable victories were over Ray Austin and Kertson Manswell.
There was little from the first fight that would lead this writer to believe that Arreola will be able to avenge his defeat to Stiverne. Stiverne’s inactivity and age may be a factor, but he was dominant over Arreola and is a better technically skilled boxer.
If Arreola can turn Saturday’s bout into a brawl he has a decent chance at winning, but Stiverne will likely put on another dominating performance against Arreola.
The most interesting question will be who will the winner of Saturday’s bout face next. Wladimir Klitschko is an obvious option, but rising American heavyweights such as Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings could be possible opponents.