- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Almost two months ago promoters Dan Goossen and Don King made a deal and avoided a purse bid for the rematch between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, the leading contenders to fight for the alphabet heavyweight world title that Vitali Klitschko vacated in order to turn his attention full-time to Ukrainian politics.
Goossen and King pledged to work together to generate the most money possible from the fight. But weeks went by and they were still missing the key ingredient, a television deal.
That search has come to an end. The fight will land on ESPN, multiple sources involved in the event told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Yes, regular ESPN. Not ESPN2, home of “Friday Night Fights.” Not an Internet stream on ESPN3. The fight will air live on the big daddy, ESPN, on May 10, a Saturday night in prime time at 8 p.m. ET, along with at least one undercard bout to be determined.
Also to be determined is the venue, but the TV deal has been agreed to and it is significant for boxing that ESPN, which has televised the sport for the network's entire existence but not at the very top level, is involved. According to my sources, this is a big commitment from the network.
From what I understand, ESPN is hoping to put on three or four similar-level boxing events a year going forward. If that happens, it means another serious player in American televised boxing.
When Stiverne and Arreola met in an April 2013 title eliminator, HBO televised the fight but it was not interested in the rematch. Showtime, from what I am told, had only lukewarm interest. Epix is out of boxing for the time being. ESPN made perfect sense and made a strong pitch to get the fight.
In the first fight, Stiverne (23-1, 20 KOs), 35, of Canada, broke Arreola’s nose on a knockdown in the third round and went on to win a decision. Stiverne was next supposed to fight Klitschko for his title, but after several delays in a purse bid for that fight, Klitschko retired. That left Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs), the next highest-ranked contender, to face Stiverne for the vacant belt.
Stiverne has not fought since beating Arreola, of Riverside, Calif., because of the delays in trying to make the fight with Klitschko. Arreola, however, rebounded to score an impressive first-round knockout of Seth Mitchell in September.
There had been reports that King had made a deal to bring the fight to Cancun, Mexico, on June 21, but those were inaccurate.