By Ivan G. Goldman
RINGSIDE IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – Chris Arreola won most of the rounds, but in round six he got caught by a huge right by hard-hitting Bermane Stiverne. Knocked to the canvas, he got up only to be put down again by a combination. When he got up a second time, referee Jack Reiss looked him over and waved it off. The vacant WBC heavyweight championship was the prize.
Stiverne will now defend his belt against mandatory challenger Deontay Wilder, who, like Arreola, is a client of boxing godfather Al Haymon.
It was an action-packed five and a half rounds, with Arreola often driving his opponent back to the ropes with big combinations, but he never seemed to really hurt Stiverne, who improved to 24-1-1 (21 KOs). The U.S. blew the best chance it had in years to get a piece of the coveted heavyweight title. Haitian-born Stiverne calls Canada his home but trains in Florida.
Stiverne kept his left low, inviting Arreola to come in with rights. It turned out to be an intelligent strategy. Stiverne mostly used his left, but eventually he got his man to come right at him exposed, and the momentum changed with one Stiverne right hand in the sixth round.
Both fighters, who stand about six feet two, came in relatively trim at 239 and change. It was Arreola’s lowest weight in years. He’s fought as high as 261. Arreola is a good puncher who usually knocks his opponents out, but he’s a pressure fighter who relies on combinations to do the work, and against Stiverne they didn’t work.
The crowd was behind native Californian Arreola all the way. He grew up in the neighborhood around the fight venue, the Galen Center on the campus of the University of Southern California. It was a good-sized crowd with cheap seats going for $25 (attendance not announced), but it received relatively little publicity. It costs a lot to buy ads in big cities. The L.A. Times wrote nothing in advance of this heavyweight championship fight three miles south of its newsroom.
Fortunately for Arreola’s promoter Dan Goossen, Don King didn’t take him up on a dare at a pre-fight media conference. The losing promoter, said Goossen, should shave his head. For once in his life, King was speechless.
Arreola, who’s 33, will probably never get another title shot, but with Haymon steering him, anything is possible. His record dropped to 35-4 (31 KOs). He challenged Vitali Klitschko for the same title in 2009 and was stopped after ten rounds.
There’s a good chance that Wladimir Klitschko, who holds the other three major belts, will seek a title unification after Wilder fights Stiverne.
Stiverne went back to the ropes frequently, and was frequently hit there. He clearly had a plan. He’d already decisioned Arreola in a twelve-rounder last year.
Arreola was vying to be the first heavyweight of Mexican extraction to win a world belt. Stiverne was the first heavyweight of Haitian heritage to win it.
The fight was carried by ESPN.
` Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.