Saturday night in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center, Bermane Stiverne thwarted Chris Arreola’s attempt to become the first fighter of Mexican heritage to have won a heavyweight world title. In doing so, Stiverne became the first heavyweight champion to be from the country of Haiti. Despite dominating and breaking Arreola’s nose in the first contest held between Stiverne and Arreola one year ago, many ringside experts felt that Arreola could reverse the outcome. Arreola indeed bested the effort he put forth against Stiverne last April, but ultimately still fell short to a superior fighter.
In the early going, the first round would be a foreshadowing of what was to come. Arreola came out aggressive, and would pin Stiverne on the ropes and tag him with combinations. It looked as if Arreola would have a dominant round, but then with ten seconds left, Stiverne fired off some combinations with his back near the ropes to stumble and hurt Arreola to finish the first. Arreola was able to win the round on 2 of the 3 judge’s scorecards, but the sharper, faster counter punches coming from Stiverne were by far the more effective blows.
Stiverne seemed to secure a close second round, then Arreola continued his strong start. In rounds 3 and 4, Arreola really unloaded on Stiverne whenever he was able to pin him on the ropes. Stiverne seemed to just be looking for one big punch (the right hand), and would refuse to let his hands go in the center of the ring. Stiverne would later reveal during the post-fight press conference that his plan was to stay on the ropes. In the early going however, that strategy was leading to Arreola’s advantage on the scorecards.
In the fifth, Arreola was still fighting well but he was never able to hurt Stiverne all night long. Arreola, despite being in good shape by his standards, was still beginning to tire just halfway through the scheduled twelve. The fighting distance between Arreola and Stiverne was widening, Stiverne’s back were not on the ropes as much, Arreola was not pinning him there as he did earlier.
In what would be the sixth and final round of the night, Stiverne added to his performance something that was missing in his first victory over Arreola: a knockout. The home-run, right hand that Stiverne had been waiting for throughout finally found the mark. Arreola did not see the punch coming, he was countered. “He was so fast on the draw like a gunslinger. His power comes from his speed, I didn’t see it coming”, said Arreola following his defeat in the post-fight press conference.
Arreola being the gutsy warrior he is beat the count, but his legs were now jello. Arreola was quickly sent to the canvas a second time, and then a third time. Referee Jack Reiss stated that he typically would have already waived the fight off after the first or second knockdown, but gave Arreola the benefit of the doubt due to his reputation as a tough customer. Once Reiss called a halt to the fight, Stiverne danced around the center of the ring in celebration. The biggest victory of his career had been secured in spectacular fashion.
Many boxing fans feel as if Chris Arreola has cheated himself out of the heavyweight title by being an underachiever in bad shape. Maybe it is possible though, that Arreola is really an overachiever. When is the last time a fighter with the body of Arreola got as far as he has? This was indeed Arreola’s best chance at ever winning a heavyweight title, Stiverne is a good heavyweight but is beatable. Beatable, but dangerous. At 33 years old, Arreola is no young bull anymore. He has made a lot of money and has done very well for himself and his family. However, Arreola has taken some serious punishment in the ring. Following the fight, Arreola said he plans to march forward in Boxing. Perhaps retirement should be more on the big man’s radar than another shot at the title.
Bermane Stiverne remains a very intriguing heavyweight. He carries a deadly right hand, and his confidence is now at an all time high. The mandatory challenger for Stiverne’s newly crowned WBC Heavyweight championship is undefeated American, Deontay Wilder. Stiverne’s famed promoter, Don King, seemed to be in no rush to match his fighter with Wilder. Hopefully boxing fans will not have to wait too long to see Stiverne-Wilder.
Neither Chris Arreola or Bermane Stiverne were even going to “save” the heavyweight division. Both men will never be on the pound for pound lists, but they gave Boxing fans a great fight. Each fighter raised each other’s games from their previous encounter, and it resulted in the paying public getting their money’s worth. If the other heavyweights are not going to dazzle us with their talent, they should start by fighting their hearts out as Arreola and Stiverne did.