For good and bad, the talk of the last three years of heavyweight boxing has centered on one name: Wladimir Klitschko.
Wladimir has been dominant, occasionally highlight-reel, often dull, and in many minds, part of the continued downward spiral of what was once boxing's glory division, which frankly I doubt will ever be the case again. When he battered Chris Byrd for a second time in 2006, Wladimir let the world know he was fully back in action. Destructive knockouts of Calvin Brock and Ray Austin led to a series of truly one-sided, largely boring meetings with Lamon Brewster, Sultan Ibragimov, Tony Thompson (who gave him the most resistance), Hasim Rahman and Ruslan Chagaev.
With the Chagaev win, Klitschko became champion, and not just unified titlist. Over the same time period, his older brother Vitali returned to the ring after injuries led him to retire in 2005. He mauled Samuel Peter last year and overcame a slow start to punish Juan Carlos Gomez in 2009.
Now the news has come that Wladimir will be out until the spring of 2010, and some doors have opened. It's a two-headed monster at the top of the heavyweight division. Wladimir the champ; Vitali, some will tell you, still the better fighter.
Chris Arreola couldn't have a better shot at making a lot of noise than he has right now.
Arreola, the Mexican-American contender lauded for his aggressive style and knockout power and derided for his indifference to his own physical condition, has a chance to wake up the American fans and let them know that they have a fighter worth rooting for. Arreola (27-0, 24 KO) is taking a huge leap in competition against the 38-year old Klitschko (37-2, 36 KO), and there are already concerns that he simply is not in very good shape.
Vitali's back will never be 100% again, and he came out looking stiff as a board against Gomez, who isn't a big puncher. Arreola can throw bombs, and if Vitali is cold to start again, we could see one of those upsets where we all know, frankly, that the lesser fighter wins.
With Wladimir Klitschko out of the picture for a good while, there is an opening for someone else to grab the headlines in the heavyweight division. Arreola has a chance to not only take out Vitali and chop off half of that two-headed monster, but to set himself up for what could be a genuine mega-fight against Wladimir in 2010, too.
And he has the chance now to REALLY make some waves. Beating Vitali alone would be huge; beating Vitali and becoming even for a brief period the de facto No. 1 heavyweight in the game would be even bigger.
He'll never get a bigger opportunity than the one he has right now.