One week after Floyd Mayweather faces Marcos Maidana on Showtime pay-per-view, The Worldwide Leader will get into the boxing game, as ESPN will air the vacant WBC heavyweight title rematch between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola.
And that's ESPN, not ESPN2 or WatchESPN.com. The real one. The one that shows live NBA games and Monday Night Football.
Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KO) beat Arreola (36-3, 31 KO) convincingly in April 2013 in a WBC eliminator, but hasn't fought since. Arreola returned to the ring in September against Seth Mitchell, predictably destroying the football hype job in less than a round.
Dan Rafael of ESPN.com says the network wants to commit to two or three fight cards like this one per year, which means there's a new, smaller-scale player in the boxing game, somewhere between their ESPN2 series and the HBO and Showtime cards. HBO aired the first fight between the two, but wasn't interested in the rematch, and Showtime wasn't, either.
Personally, as happy as I am that ESPN is looking at live boxing, and I think that says something for the sport (or maybe they just see it as affordable original programming), I am a bit uneasy about another heavyweight fight being the gateway for anyone. Epix recently tried to build a boxing brand around heavyweight fights that the premium networks didn't care about, and it crashed and burned rather quickly.
The fight doesn't yet have a venue set, but should soon. Though given Don King is promoting, maybe they'll wait until the last minute and then give away a bunch of tickets by making it a Whitney Houston Memorial event or something.