In the wake of the cancellation of his heavyweight title defense against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow, Deontay Wilder expressed a desire for his next fight to be somewhere within his home state of Alabama. Wish granted.
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) will return to the ring for the first time since mid-January when he faces two-time world title challenger Chris Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) on July 16 in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Fox (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). The title fight will take place at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, just 65 miles north of “The Bronze Bomber’s” lifelong hometown of Tuscaloosa.
Since becoming heavyweight champion with a victory over Bermane Stiverne in January 2015, Deontay Wilder has successfully defended his title three times, with the first two defenses coming in Birmingham. He knocked out Eric Molina in the ninth round at the Bartow Arena last June, then stopped Johann Duhaupas in the 11th round at Legacy Arena on September 26.
Following those two victories on his home turf, the 6-foot-7 Wilder traveled to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on January 16 and knocked out once-beaten Artur Szpilka with a devastating right hand in the ninth round.
That set up a mandatory fight against Povetkin that was scheduled for May 14. However, with Wilder finishing up training camp in Sheffield, England, and about to trek to Russia for fight week, the bout was called off when it was revealed that Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.
Soon after, the WBC granted the 30-year-old Wilder the opportunity to make an optional title defense, resulting in the showdown with Arreola.
“I’m always excited about coming home and being in front of my people where I’m the most comfortable,” Wilder said. “I’ve been traveling a lot, going over to Sheffield, England, to train before I was supposed to fight Alexander Povetkin in Moscow. But because of his decision to use a banned substance, the fight didn’t happen. I’m disappointed about that, but it’s not going to stop me from being an active heavyweight world champion.”
Wilder’s clash with Szpilka represented his fourth fight in the span of 364 days, dating to the victory over Stiverne. When he steps through the ropes to face Arreloa, it will be Wilder’s first action in exactly six months, ending the longest layoff since he turned pro in November 2008.
“I’m anxious to get back in [the ring] and continue my quest to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world,” Wilder said. “This is another fight in that process.
“I respect Chris Arreola for getting into the ring with me, but we all know who the real champion is, and I’m going to prove it. I’ve been training long and hard for a fight, and now I’m going to take it out on Arreola on July 16.”
Arreola is coming off a razor-thin, 12-round split decision over Travis Kauffman on December 12 that was changed to a no contest after Arreola failed a post-fight drug test. Prior to that, he fought Fred Kassi to a 10-round majority draw last July and defeated Curtis Harper by unanimous decision in March 2015.
A 35-year-old lifelong resident of Southern California, Arreola is 0-2 in world title fights. "The Nightmare” was stopped in the 10th round by Vitali Klitschko in September 2009, and lost by sixth-round TKO to Stiverne in May 2014. They are the only two stoppage losses on Arreola's résumé.
Should he shock Wilder, the 6-foot-3 Arreola would become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent.
“I’m thankful to Deontay for this opportunity,” Arreola said. “He has proven a great deal by winning the heavyweight title and defending it three times.
“I’m very excited to step into the ring with him, put on a great show, be victorious and make history by becoming the first Mexican heavyweight world champion.”
For a complete overview of Wilder vs Arreola, hit up our fight page.