Heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder will make his fourth defense against former two-time world title challenger Chris Arreola in a hastily arranged fight, organizers announced Monday.
Wilder will face Arreola on July 16 in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card (Fox/Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET) at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, not far from Wilder's hometown of Tuscaloosa, in a fight made only because Wilder's defense against mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin, which was scheduled for May 21 in Moscow, was called off.
The fight was canceled after results of an April 27 random urine test came to light nine days before the bout, showing that Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.
Wilder (36-0, 35 KOs) and promoter Lou DiBella sued Povetkin and his promoter, Andrey Ryabinsky's World of Boxing, on Monday in U.S. federal court for at least $5 million over the canceled fight while finalizing the optional defense against Arreola (36-4-1, 31 KOs). Wilder was permitted to take the optional defense by the WBC, whose belt he holds, while the organization decides what to do about Povetkin and the mandatory position.
Wilder had completed his training camp when the fight with Povetkin was called off and did not want to let his work go to waste, so the fight with Arreola was made, an easy bout to put together since both fighters are aligned with manager Al Haymon.
"I'm always excited about coming home and being in front of my people where I'm the most comfortable," said Wilder, who will be making his third defense in Alabama. "I've been traveling a lot, going over to Sheffield, England, to train before I was supposed to fight Alexander Povetkin in Moscow. But because of his decision to use a banned substance, the fight didn't happen.
"I'm disappointed about that, but it's not going to stop me from being an active heavyweight world champion. It has also given me the opportunity to again defend my title before my hometown fans. It's always good to come home."
Said DiBella: "We are thrilled that Deontay will be back in the ring quickly, in prime time on Fox, and at home in Alabama. Chris Arreola knows that this is his last opportunity for heavyweight glory and will likely come out throwing bombs from the opening bell. I expect an explosive, fan-friendly fight for as long as it lasts. In the wake of Povetkin's positive PED test and the cancellation of that fight, we are happy that Deontay's next heavyweight title defense will be contested on July 16th and on such a great platform."
It is possible the fight with Povetkin (30-1, 22 KOs) could be rescheduled, but Wilder, 30, was not going to wait around, so his team pressed the WBC for the approval to make a fight this summer.
"This is the longest stretch that I've been out of the ring, and I'm anxious to get back in and continue my quest to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," said Wilder, whose last fight ended in a massive ninth-round knockout of Artur Szpilka on Jan. 16 in Brooklyn, New York. "This is another fight in that process. I respect Chris Arreola for getting into the ring with me, but we all know who the real champion is, and I'm going to prove it. I've been training long and hard for a fight, and now I'm going to take it out on Arreola on July 16."
The title shot will be the third for Arreola, a one-time top contender who has showed very little of late and is getting the opportunity only because of the unusual circumstances of Wilder-Povetkin being called off.
"I'm thankful to Deontay for this opportunity," Arreola said. "He has proven a great deal by winning the heavyweight title and by defending it three times. I'm very excited to step into the ring with him, put on a great show, be victorious and make history."
A win would make Arreola, 35, of Riverside, California, the first heavyweight titleholder of Mexican descent.
In 2009, Arreola got his first world title shot but was dominated in a 10th-round knockout loss to Vitali Klitschko. He got another shot in 2014 when he faced Bermane Stiverne for the vacant belt but got knocked out in the sixth round of their rematch. Stiverne then lost the title to Wilder by one-sided decision in his first defense in January 2015.
Arreola is just 2-2-1 with a no-decision in his past six fights and has looked like a shell of the explosive top contender he once was. In his last fight, on Dec. 12, he got knocked down and struggled to a controversial 12-round decision win against Travis Kauffman, but the result was later changed to a no-decision after Arreola tested positive for a banned substance, marijuana.
Arreola was suspended for 90 days -- a meaningless punishment because he would not have fought during that time anyway -- but it ended in March. It was the second time in Arreola's career that he tested positive for marijuana after a fight and had a victory changed to a no-decision.
"Chris knows what this fight means, and having been in the position to be the first Mexican heavyweight world champion before, he's not going to let that chance slip by him again," said Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, Arreola's promoter.