LOS ANGELES -- After weeks of friendly and respectful banter, Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola finally transformed into a pair of angry heavyweights at the final news conference.
While both fighters took turns lobbing expletives and boasted about knocking the other out once they get into ring Saturday, promoter Don King, a veteran of such events, took it all in stride.
"There is an emotional stress here that needs to be resolved," King said of the animosity between Stiverne and Arreola. "We're going to have a good fight. It is going to be a fight of wills, passion and emotion."
King has always been a factor in the heavyweight division, promoting the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
He envisions the clash between Stiverne and Arreola at USC's Galen Center at 5 p.m. PDT, which is for the vacant WBC heavyweight title, as the start of the revitalization of the division.
"The heavyweight division has lost the magic of a Muhammad Ali, (George) Foreman, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and a Mike Tyson because there hasn't been that worldwide audience, to be able to identify with them as the champion of the people," King said.
Interest in the heavyweight division in the U.S. has disappeared in recent years as brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko ruled the division, fighting predominantly in Eastern Europe.
Vitali Klitschko, who vacated the WBC title, last fought in the U.S. in 2009, when he defeated Arreola at Staples Center. Wladimir, who holds the rest of the major titles (IBF, WBA, WBO), hasn't fought in the U.S. since 2008.
The heavyweight division has suffered a lack of exposure from HBO and Showtime. With ESPN stepping in, there will be a lot more eyes on this fight. According to ESPN Senior Director of Programming Brian Kweder, the network's audience reaches 98 million homes and will also be available on ESPN Deportes and online via its digital platforms.
Unlike recent years, the current crop of heavyweights in the U.S. is looking formidable. Deontay Wilder, who is the mandatory challenger for Saturday night's winner, is just one who will have an interested eye on this fight from ringside.
"What you have here is an opportunity for these guys," King said. "You have to find fighters that will dedicate themselves to their training and to their goal of seeking to win the heavyweight championship of the world."
With all that's at stake, it is understandable when things turned uncivilized Thursday. Stiverne, 35, believes he's being overlooked, despite handily defeating Arreola in their first fight April 27, 2013.
"We're going to make a statement," said Stiverne's trainer, Don House. "Chris has been to the well how many times? Three? Four? Five? He's fought for the eliminator, he's fought for the title, he's fought this guy and got another eliminator. ... This is our first time. We have a lot to prove too."
For Arreola, 33, this could be his last serious shot at a title. One thing he does have going for him is his connection with one of boxing's most influential figures, manager and promoter Al Haymon.
"This is all I've been waiting for from Chris for the last five, six years," said Arreola's promoter, Dan Goossen. "He's always showed that even when he wasn't in tip-top shape, that he has the guts, the mindset, the chin and he has that instinct that he wants to break you in two.
"You throw all of that in with he's in great shape now ... there's nothing that can hold him back from victory."
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