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Heavyweight contenders Bermane Stiverne and Cristobal Arreola will meet in a rematch for the world title vacated on Monday by Vitali Klitschko, who resigned the belt after nine defenses in order to focus on his political career in Ukraine.
The WBC on Thursday announced that it has formally ordered Stiverne-Arreola to fill the vacant title. They are the organization's top-rated contenders.
The sides were ordered to begin negotiating the fight, and if they can't come an agreement a purse bid would take place on Jan. 17 at the WBC offices in Mexico City. If there is a purse bid, the split would be 60-40 in Stiverne's favor, according to his manager, Camille Estephan.
Stiverne (23-1, 20 KOs), 35, of Canada, and Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs), 32, of Riverside, Calif., first met in Ontario, Calif., on April 27 in a final elimination bout for the right to challenge Klitschko.
Stiverne, the underdog, dropped Arreola in the third round, badly broke his nose and went on to win a lopsided decision. Stiverne was next supposed to fight Klitschko, but after several delays in a purse bid for that fight, Klitschko retired.
That left Arreola, the next highest-ranked contender, to face Stiverne for the vacant belt.
Stiverne has not fought since beating Arreola 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 on Sept. 7.
"Here we are. We got the order from the WBC to fight Arreola for the vacant title. It's a fight we will happily do," Estephan told ESPN.com. "We would have hoped to take the belt from Vitali but this was not something in our control. I respect what he is trying to do in the political arena. Now we are facing a guy we already beat. We're looking to do it again.
"We feel like Bermane dominated the fight with Arreola in April. But we do have a lot of respect for Arreola and his team, so we take nothing for granted. We will be diligent and put more of an exclamation point on things and send Wladimir Klitschko a message as well. His brother didn't want to fight Bermane, so when we're done with Arreola, let's do it and unify all the titles."
Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, holds the other major heavyweight belts.
There had been some questions about whether Stiverne would be available for the fight with Arreola because of a legal battle with promoter Don King, but Estephan said that their issues were settled earlier this week.
"I know there were a lot of questions about Don King and the relationship with Bermane," Estephan said. "We have come to a very good agreement that everybody is happy with this past Tuesday. We are gonna do things together and hopefully bring the heavyweight division back to North America. We have a good agreement with Don King and we feel like we're a strong team."
For Arreola, it will be his second shot at a heavyweight world title. He got a crack at Vitali Klitschko in September 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles but was dominated before his corner threw in the towel in one-sided fight in the 10th round.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for Chris to not only avenge a loss to Stiverne, but to win the biggest prize in our sport," promoter Dan Goossen said. "Throw in the fact that history can be made by becoming the first heavyweight world champion of Mexican descent, and Arreola has the chance to make every ounce of his blood, sweat and tears he put into this sport come to a climatic and history-making victory."
When the 42-year-old Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) vacated the title, which he had held since coming out of an injury-induced retirement and winning it in 2008, he was given the designation of "champion emeritus," meaning should he decide to fight again he would get an immediate shot at the title.