When Deontay Wilder dethroned Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision on January 17, 2015, he became the first American world heavyweight champion in more than eight years.
Now, as “The Bronze Bomber” pursues his fourth straight knockout in as many title defenses Saturday at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), he’ll do so against an opponent looking to make history of his own.
A 35-year-old father of two from Riverside, California, Chris Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) can become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent if he can shock the world and defeat Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) in what will be Arreola’s third shot at a world title.
An upset victory would also make Arreola just the second Latino world heavyweight champ, following Puerto Rican-American John Ruiz, who had separate reigns from 2001-03 and 2004-05.
“I want to make history, because there is no Mexican legacy in the heavyweight division,” said Arreola, who will be fighting Wilder about an hour from the champ’s native Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “In my house growing up, we had eggs, beans and tortillas—that was my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“Now that I have this great opportunity, coming from nothing, I can’t let it slip away. I want to make my kids proud and show them something. That’s a Mexican thing.”
“ I know I have a lot of doubters, so this is about doing something people think can’t be done, and not allowing this final opportunity to slip away. ” Chris Arreola
In Arreola’s first world title fight in September 2009, “The Nightmare” was stopped in the 10th round by champion Vitali Klitschko. His last two defeats were against Stiverne in April 2013 (unanimous decision) and May 2014 (sixth-round TKO), the latter being for a vacant heavyweight title—the same one Wilder ended up winning by knocking off Stiverne.
Arreola says he understands why a lot of critics don’t believe he deserves a third chance to become a heavyweight champ. He also understands there likely won’t be a fourth shot, which is why the 6-foot-3 slugger plans to lay it all on the line Saturday night.
“I know I have a lot of doubters, so this is about doing something people think can’t be done, and not allowing this final opportunity to slip away,” he says. “The way I’ve interpreted the Mexican fighting style is to come forward, throw punches and fight to the end.
“Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. was my all-time idol, with what he did to Meldrick Taylor, to Hector Camacho, and the wars that he had with Roger Mayweather. As a heavyweight fighter, those are the kinds of fights I want to be in. That’s the way I learned how to fight, and that’s the Mexican way.”
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