BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Deontay Wilder sported a three-piece suit, bow tie and shades to the pre-fight news conference. Chris Arreola wore T-shirt, jean shorts and a chip on his shoulder.
The contrast in styles also emphasized their disparate situations. Wilder is a big favorite going into the fourth defense of his WBC heavyweight title Saturday night and third in his home state while Arreola is hoping to cash in on an unexpected opportunity. It’s a fight that wasn’t supposed to happen.
Wilder’s scheduled fight in Russia with mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin fell through in May when Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. Instead, Wilder (36-0, 35 knockouts) was left to file a breach of contract suit seeking at least $5 million and to find another opponent on relatively short notice.
“We needed a guy that was going to come and fight,” he said. “We needed a guy that wasn’t going to come and make excuses. He may still make excuses at the end talking about weight. But we mainly needed a guy that was going to come and give the people of Alabama a show, and worldwide.
“There’s no other guy that we could have had that was going to give me the fight that I was looking for out of a fighter than Chris Arreola. That’s why we chose him.”
Wilder said he needed a quick fight after being down following cancellation of the Povetkin fight. This one is part of the Premier Boxing Champions series.
“I can’t wait because I’ve been wanting to pound something,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to pound something since May. I got teased a little bit. I don’t like to be teased. I got teased a little bit and now it’s time.”
Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs) is trying to profit from Vegas odds that put Wilder in the neighborhood of a 30-1 favorite. In previous title shots, he lost to Vitali Klitschko and Bermane Stiverne, who Wilder beat to claim a piece of the heavyweight title in January 2015.
“I told my wife before she got here to make sure she gave $1,000 to one of my cousins to go put at least $1,000 on myself,” Arreola said. “That’s $30,000. I’ll take that all day every day.
“To me, that’s very disrespectful. Extremely disrespectful. Those are almost Buster Davis odds.”
Douglas was a huge underdog when he knocked out previously unbeaten Mike Tyson in 1990.
The 6-foot-7 Wilder has knocked out every opponent except Stiverne, but his three title defenses have all gone at least into the ninth. Wilder is coming off a ninth-round knockout of Artur Szpilka in January.
The 6-3 Arreola hasn’t fought since December, when he won a split decision over Travis Kauffman. It was declared a no contest because Arreola tested positive for marijuana.
Arreola freely acknowledges he hasn’t earned this title shot, but is hoping to catch Wilder looking ahead to possible bouts with unbeaten Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury, who is awaiting a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko. Promoter Lou DiBella calls Arreola “a scary man because he has nothing to lose.” Arreola is seeking to become the first fighter of Mexican heritage to win a piece of the heavyweight championship.
“I’m a sleeping giant because everybody’s overlooking me,” Arreola said. “Wilder was overlooking me. Wilder’s already thinking about his next fight. He’s talking about fighting the IBF champion (Joshua). He’s talking about fighting Tyson Fury. I’m first. You’ve got to remember, I’m first. I’m here. I’m a heavyweight to reckon with.”
The co-main event features welterweights Sammy Vasquez (21-0, 15 KOs) against 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz (17-1, 8 KOs) of the Dominican Republic.