The World Boxing Council on Thursday ordered negotiations to begin between heavyweights Chris Arreola of Riverside and top-ranked contender Bermane Stiverne to arrange the bout that will fill the world title left vacant by Vitali Klitschko.
Stiverne, 35, improved to 23-1-1 by knocking down Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs) en route to a unanimous-decision victory in April in Ontario.
Arreola, 32, responded impressively with a self-described do-or-retire knockout of Seth Mitchell in September in Indio.
“It’s a great opportunity for Chris in a lot of ways — not only to avenge his loss to Stiverne, but to collect the biggest prize in the sport, the WBC heavyweight title,” Arreola promoter Dan Goossen said.
“We’ve talked about Chris being the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent in history. There’s a lot of reasons for him to train like he’s never trained before for this fight.”
Klitschko, who retired Arreola on the stool after 10 rounds in their 2009 fight at Staples Center, vacated his belt this week to continue his political activities in his native Ukraine, where he is angling for a 2015 presidential run.
It had not been immediately clear that Stiverne would be able to fight for the belt because of his involvement in a lawsuit against promoter Don King.
The lawsuit claims that the famed former promoter of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and many others violated the Muhammad Ali Act by forcing Stiverne to sign a promotional contract with King in order to secure a 2011 fight against Ray Austin.
If Stiverne had been ineligible, Golden Boy Promotions Chief Executive Richard Schaefer said his unbeaten fighter Deontay Wilder would fight Arreola.
Instead, Stiverne manager Camille Estephan told The Times on Thursday that he and King settled the legal dispute Tuesday, restoring King as Stiverne’s promoter.
“This is Don King’s next heavyweight champion,” Estephan said.
“We got the WBC decision today and we’re going to fight for the vacant title and Bermane will win it even better than he won the first fight against Arreola."
Estephan said he had a Thursday morning phone conversation with Bell Centre officials in Montreal about hosting the fight, adding that New York and Toronto were other favored sites.
“Last time, the fight was on Arreola’s turf, this time want it it in our house,” Estephan said.
Goossen wants the fight at Staples Center. Although Goossen didn't say it had to be on a specific date, the bout could join a Feb. 15 card that features the featherweight title rematch between champion Jhonny Gonzalez and Southland fighter Abner Mares and a WBC super-bantamweight title defense by Los Angeles' Leo Santa Cruz, promoter Richard Schaefer said this week.
“We’re not going to leave any stones unturned to make the best choice,” Goossen said.