By Sean Crose
Let’s get something out of the way: Bermane Stiverne looked uneasy walking into the ring on Saturday night. This was a strange thing to witness, since the man had handily taken care of his opponent, Chris Arreola, just about a year earlier. Still, the guy didn’t look at ease.
Chris Arreola, however, appeared lean (for Arreola), mean, and ready to go. People had said Stiverne was going to win it easy. We’re they right? Arreola, after all, looked like the confident one. He started off fighting like the more confident of the two, as well.
For Arreola stalked Stiverne, banged away once he had his man on the ropes, then – wait for it – actually got out of there. The pudgy tough guy seemed to be long gone, replaced by a skilled boxer. It was surprising to watch. Stiverne himself must have been stunned.
Still, the whole thing was far from a blowout in the early going. Stiverne hit Arreola hard at the end of the first, stealing the round in the process. He also flicked a mean, accurate jab, in Arreola’s face throughout the early going. It would pay off later.
“Do not forget about his body,” Henry Ramierez, Arreola’s trainer, told his man in between rounds. “Don’t head hunt.” Arreola listened, going to Stiverne’s body hard. By the fifth Arreola seemed to be starting to tire, but he was still fighting like a chess player.
No matter. It all ended in the 6th. Stiverne nailed Arreola with a missal, sending his man to the floor. Referee Jack Reiss seemed a little uneasy to let Arreola continue, for the man wasn’t looking his best. Still, Arreola was allowed to fight.
And he went down again. It looked like he wouldn’t beat the count, but he did. Again, Reiss had a serious decision to make. And once again, Arreola was allowed to continue. A few more brutal punches from Stiverne was all it took, however. Reiss knew there was no more reason for the fight to continue. Arreola was spared more punishment…and Bermane Stiverne became the new WBC heavyweight champion of the world.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Arreola, but the fact is Stiverne deserves to be champ. He simply hit too hard for Arreola to be able to beat him. That’s all there was to it. Arreola must now ask himself whether or not he’s built to eventually become champ. And he’s the only guy on earth who can answer that question.
As he himself said afterward: “It doesn’t matter how tough you are. A loss is a loss.”
As for Stiverne, he gets to soak in the success of being in the same company as men like Ali, Louis, Marciano, and Tyson. That’s some rarefied air, to put it mildly. After that he gets to face Deontay Wilder, a man with an unbelievable series of knockouts against not so unbelievable opposition. Wilder was there at the fight, in fact, mugging for the ESPN cameras.
As for ESPN, the network gave the world a very exciting matchup on Saturday. Hopefully, it will be the first of many top level fights ESPN will showcase in the future. As was made clear several times throughout the broadcast, the fight didn’t cost anyone upwards of $70.00 to watch. If the ratings come in strong, HBO and Showtime may find themselves put on notice. And perhaps not a minute too soon.
As for the true heavyweight king, multi-titlist Wladimir Klitschko, there’s little doubt he was watching carefully. Who knows? The man may soon return to a live fight on a television near you. Perhaps on a Saturday night – for free, on ESPN.