Bermane Stiverne wants to go after the big guy in his first chance at a world title.
“Don’t retire,” was his message to Vitali Klitschko immediately after registering a twelve-round decision over Chris Arreola at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA on Saturday night.
He said that for two reasons: for one thing, by virtue of that fight, Stiverne, who was the #2 contender in the World Boxing Council (WBC) ratings, has now elevated himself to the top – and mandatory – spot by winning an “eliminator” over Arreola, who was the #1 contender. That would put him in line for a chance to fight the elder Klitschko, except for one significant glitch, which brings us to the second reason.
Klitschko may quit the ring before all of that has a chance to take shape.
Vitali has a renewed interest in Ukranian politics. Of course, that’s going to happen when you are elected to Parliament, which is what happened back in December. He is also the leader of the Ukranian Democratic Alliance for Reform, which he was instrumental in establishing in its current form in 2010. His aspirations are said to be high; most scuttlebutt has him running for mayor of Kiev in the next election (he got 26% of the vote and finished second in 2006) or even president of Ukraine. So it not difficult to understand why boxing may be put on the back burner, or on the shelf entirely.
That leaves Stiverne in an interesting position. Never mind that his accomplishments against world-class opposition were virtually nil going into the fight with Arreola (Ray Austin was his most notable victim), or that Arreola himself had done very little to re-establish himself as a #1 heavyweight contender after losing to Vitali in September 2009. The opportunity was there, and Stiverne, who had endured a few delays in getting this fight into the ring, remaining inactive for over a year, took full advantage.
He knocked Arreola down with a big overhand right at the end of the third round (and survived a near-disqualification when his corner men started climbing into the ring during the count), then used his jab and straight right to keep Arreola at bay for the most part, adding some very effective body shots to the repertoire toward the end. It was his first time going twelve rounds, and he did finish strong.
The favorable crowd for Arreola (who comes from nearby Riverside) didn’t make much of a difference to the judges. Claude Paquette and Carla Caiz both had it 117-110, while Marty Denkin scored it 118-109, all for Stiverne, who moved to 23-1-1.
For Arreola (now 35-3, 30 KO’s), it is back to the drawing board. He admitted that Stiverne surprised him with his jab and movement, as he expected more of a slugfest. He also admitted that the knockdown punch broke his nose. Asked where he was going to go from here, Arreola replied, “Fight again!”
Stiverne, a Haitian who lived in Miami and now makes his home in Las Vegas, said he was motivated by criticism he received from HBO blow-by-blow announcer Bob Papa when he was fighting Austin. He said he made best use of all the fight delays to polish his game, and that body punching was part of the plan. “If you look at his (Arreola’s) body,” he said, “he’s got a little bit of meat.”
According to the Compubox figures, although Stiverne landed only fifteen more punches than Arreola, he was by far the busier man, throwing 710 punches to just 333 for the Californian.
So what happens if Klitschko, who last fought in September, does indeed wind up retiring? Well, the WBC has constructed its rules in such a manner that it could pretty much do whatever it wants, but in the case where the current champion either gives up his belt voluntarily or fails to defend it in accordance with the organization’s Constitution, the WBC has a number of options it can use to fill a vacant title. They could even schedule more elimination contests if they so wished. But one of the options is that they can “recognize as champion the winner of a previous elimination bout.”
In this case, that would place Stiverne in possession of a belt. So he may want to reconsider his appeal to Vitali, since he may not have to move another muscle.