Wednesday, August 5, 2009 Updated: August 6, 5:10 PM ET
Klitschko, Arreola agree to title fight
By Dan Rafael ESPN.com
Handlers for heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko and Cristobal Arreola of Riverside, Calif., have reached an agreement to fight Sept. 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the camps told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Klitschko had been making plans to defend his title against England's David Haye on Sept. 12 in Germany, but that was before Haye snubbed him. Instead of signing the contract that had been agreed to with Klitschko, Haye instead signed to fight titlist Nikolai Valuev in November, leaving Klitschko to look for a new opponent.
He found one in Arreola, the hard-punching contender aiming to become the first fighter of Mexican decent to win a piece of the heavyweight crown.
Heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko, left, will be returning to the arena where he fought his two most significant fights.
Although Klitschko-Arreola has not been signed, it has been agreed to, Klitschko manager Bernd Boente told ESPN.com.
"It will happen," Boente said.
Henry Ramirez, Arreola's trainer, also confirmed that the deal had been struck.
"The fight's done. It's a done deal," Ramirez told ESPN.com. "It worked out to our benefit with whatever B.S. David Haye was pulling with Klitschko."
Boente said that a news conference to make the formal announcement is scheduled for Aug. 13 at the Staples Center. HBO will have live coverage of the fight in the United States.
Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) will be returning to the arena where he fought his two most significant fights. In June 2003, he challenged then-champion Lennox Lewis for the title and lost on a sixth-round TKO because of severe cuts around his left eye. It was a dramatic and action-packed fight, which Klitschko led on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
Lewis retired and Klitschko returned to Los Angeles 10 months later to stop South Africa's Corrie Sanders in the eighth round to win the vacant title.
"Vitali is very happy that he can fight again in the U.S. and especially in L.A., where his fight against Lennox Lewis was his international breakthrough and where he beat Sanders to win the WBC title the first time," Boente said. "Both events were huge successes and almost sold out. I think this is a very interesting fight with two fighters who have great knockout percentages and only very few people think this fight goes the distance. ... We are looking forward to [coming] back to the U.S. again, which is still a very important market for us."
For Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs), 28, it will be an opportunity to make history in front of a home crowd. He lives 45 minutes away in Riverside.
"We're very excited," Ramirez said. "It's a great opportunity for Cris. I definitely feel he has a big challenge in front of him. Some people think we have no business in the ring with Klitschko and that's OK. There will always be naysayers. I know one thing -- Cris will leave everything in the ring to win that title. Nobody is going to question his desire. He will fight his fight and he's going to make history. We're not coming for any moral victories. We've going to win the damn fight."
Talks for the fight went smoothly, the key issue being the date. Klitschko had hoped to keep Sept. 12 but relented and pushed it back to Sept. 26 to accommodate Arreola, who didn't think he could be ready that quickly.
Ramirez said Arreola had been anticipating an Oct. 3 HBO fight against former titlist Oleg Maskaev before the Klitschko fight came up.
"Once they came back and said Sept. 26, we said fine," Ramirez said. "Cris has been in the gym for over two weeks. He's working out twice a day and we're relocating our camp on Sunday from Riverside to the San Fernando Valley. We'll just get a little bit away from everybody. [Strength and conditioning coach] Darryl Hudson will go with us. We're all on the same page."
Klitschko, 38, is 6-foot-7, 250 pounds and will be making the second defense. He has been dominant in his two fights since ending an injury-induced retirement that lasted almost four years. When he returned to the ring in October 2008, he thrashed Samuel Peter over eight lopsided rounds to regain his old alphabet title. In a March 21 mandatory defense, Klitschko routed former cruiserweight titlist Juan Carlos Gomez in a ninth-round knockout.
Arreola, who 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, has yet to face any significant opponents, although he is coming off a fourth-round knockout in April of faded title challenger Jameel McCline.
Ramirez said he's not concerned about Arreola wilting under the pressure of his first title shot.
"Mentally, Cris won't be overcome by the event or get caught up in the moment," he said. "He can rise to the occasion. He'll never be consumed by the moment. This is the first real opponent that I think Cris has truly respected and he has been preparing as such. I don't think there was that kind of respect for McCline or [Travis] Walker. Cris never respected any of those guys. He respects Klitschko and the people will see much improved head movement and footwork, a better all around game plan. It's a huge fight and it will be an exciting fight."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.