Two of boxing’s best will defend their titles on Saturday, and both champions are considered heavy favorites to retain their belts. Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder takes on Chris Arreola in his native Alabama, while Guillermo Rigondeaux puts his super bantamweight titles on the line against Jazza Dickens in Wales.
Wilder is headed back to the ring for the first time in six months, though he had originally been scheduled to face the more formidable Alexander Povetkin in May. But the Russian tested positive for the banned substance meldonium, and Arreola became the new challenger.
With -5000 betting odds at Bovada.lv, Wilder is considered a virtual guarantee to defeat Arreola (+1400). The knockout artist is 36-0, having won all but one of his fights by early stoppage. Much like the oddsmakers, Wilder doesn’t give his opponent much of a chance.
“[Arreola’s] had low-class opposition,” Wilder said, via The Los Angeles Times, “and he’s still looked vulnerable against them. I’m the champion of the world, and I’m going to let him know, and welcome him to Alabama.”
Wilder’s last fight ended with a ninth-round knockout of Artur Szpilka at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He's had three successful title defenses since he outlasted Bermane Stiverne to win the title in his only fight that has ever gone to the judges’ scorecards. Arreola won a split decision over Travis Kauffman in December, but it was eventually changed to a no contest after he tested positive for marijuana. Five months prior, he fought to a draw against Fred Kassi.
Rigondeaux, who will defend his title a few hours before Wilder and Arreola square off, isn’t as flashy as the heavyweight champ, but he’s just as effective. With a perfect record of 16-0, Rigondeaux is a -5000 favorite as well against Dickens (+1400), who is looking to pull off the biggest upset of 2016.
“Nobody wants to fight me,” Rigondeaux told RingTV.com. "I want to fight them. It doesn’t make a difference who would I like to fight. I’d like to fight them all…Line them up.”
It’s been nearly eight months since Rigondeaux last fought, defeating Drian Francisco by unanimous decision. He has 10 knockouts to his name, though four of his last six fights have gone the distance. Dickens is 22-1, last beating Reynaldo Cajinain in March.
Prediction: Wilder by early-round KO; Rigondeaux by unanimous decision