- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Heavyweights Cristobal Arreola and Bermane Stiverne will duke it out on March 9 for the right to become the mandatory challenger for titleholder Vitali Klitschko, promoter Dan Goossen announced Wednesday.
Goossen and HBO rescheduled the bout to take place as part of a split-site telecast. While Goossen will promote the Arreola-Stiverne fight at The Hangar at the Orange County Fairgrounds & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., in one of the HBO bouts, the telecast will be headlined by Tavoris Cloud's light heavyweight title defense against former champion Bernard Hopkins at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Arreola-Stiverne was originally scheduled for Jan. 26 on the undercard of super middleweight champion Andre Ward's title defense against former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. When the main event was postponed to March 2 and later canceled because of Ward's right shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, the Arreola-Stiverne fight was left in limbo until being slotted on March 9.
The co-feature on the card -- but not slated for HBO coverage -- will be junior lightweight titlist Juan Carlos Salgado (26-1-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico in a rematch with mandatory challenger Argenis Mendez (20-2, 10 KOs) of the Dominican Republic.
Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs), 31, of Riverside, Calif., will be aiming to land his second title shot against Klitschko. As the mandatory challenger in 2009, Arreola faced Klitschko but was stopped in the ninth round of the one-sided fight when his corner threw in the towel.
The fight will be Arreola's first 13 months. He was supposed to fight in June, but an elbow injury forced him to withdraw. Then the fight with Stiverne was postponed when Ward-Pavlik was canceled.
"Prior to Chris' injury, he kept a very unheard of pace for a heavyweight, registering five wins in 2011 and a February bout in 2012," Goossen said. "This is the type of determination Chris has shown fighting his way back to his goal of becoming heavyweight world champion. He's been incredible staying in the gym and keeping his weight under control. I've said for years -- he's one of the most exciting fighters in the world, and now with his desire to be in tip-top shape, he's now one of the most dangerous fighters today."
Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs), 34, who was born in Haiti and lives in Las Vegas, will be fighting for the first time in 11 months, since an eight-round decision win against journeyman Willie Herring.
In September 2011, Salgado won a unanimous decision against Mendez to win the vacant belt. Salgado will be making the fourth defense of the title against Mendez, who has won two fights in a row since the defeat, including a unanimous decision against Martin Honorio in a title eliminator in July.
"I'm excited to defend my title in California," Salgado said. "Mendez has been doing a lot of talking but it won't help him when I beat him for a second time on March 9."
When they met in 2011, Mendez knocked Salgado down in the 12th round of what was a very close fight.
"Salgado-Mendez I was a thriller. The 12th round was a historic round, and I can't wait to see round 1 of the rematch," said Salgado promoter Oswaldo Kuchle of Promociones del Pueblo. "Both fighters fought their hearts out and now, besides the IBF belt on the line, they've made it personal, especially knowing the winner will be on the road to huge fights in this division."
Said Mendez, "I let Salgado off the hook last fight and I won't make the same mistake again. I will make sure that the belt is around my waist at the end this time. The people of the Dominican Republic will have a new champion come March 9."
1dMalik Smith, ESPN Stats & Information