By Tyson Bruce
In the heavyweight division power is the great equalizer. Hence, the ability to take another man’s power is paramount in the division of giants. Despite a determined effort and a more conscientious game plan by Chris Arreola, he was ultimately defeated, again, by the superior firepower of Bermane Stiverne.
The fight started out in blazing fashion as Arreola, ten pounds lighter than in the first bout, brought his traditional combination punching. However, the more cautious Stiverne was rewarded for his vigilance when he splayed Arreola’s legs with a well-timed combination at the end of the round.
The second round was even better than the first, as Arreola used a probing jab, combination punching, and strategic movement to outwork Stiverne. Stiverne may have fell victim to looking for one big shot after hurting Arreola the previous round. Arreola punctuated the round by landing a tremendous straight right hand that pierced through Stiverne’s tight guard. Despite losing the round decisively, Stiverne showed a remarkable ability to handle the power of Arreola.
The pattern set in the second round held up in rounds 3-5, as Arreola’s superior activity and passion seemed to be winning him rounds. There were furious exchanges, especially in the third round in which both men landed numerous hard shots.
The turning point came in the fifth round when Arreola, who probably still won the round, showed signs of feeling the pace. All of a sudden, Stiverne’s strategy of weighting Arreola out and looking for big counter opportunities became apparent. That golden moment came in the sixth round when Stiverne landed a howitzer of an overhand right that sent Arreola tumbling to the canvas.
Arreola rose at the count of seven on very unsteady legs. Unbelievably, referee Jack Reisse (not his first officiating miscue) gave Arreola about ten extra seconds to recover. The reason? Your guess is as good as mine. It turned out not to matter as Stiverne pounced on Arreola with a furious combination that saw Arreola crumble to his knees and grasping for the ropes. Reisse gave the tough Arreola one more opportunity to fight on despite hardly being able to stand. The bout was stopped with Arreola on his fight just seconds later.
It was a tragic blow for Arreola, who for years has been one of the most charismatic and likeable guys in the sport. Stiverne proved that boxing is the sport of the sweet science and that the fighter with the superior skills almost, always prevails. It would appear going forward that Stiverne has two options: a mandatory defense against the up and coming Deontay Wilder or a showdown with the real heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko. Stiverne moved his record to 24-1-1-(21 ko’s) while Arreola slips to 36-4-0-(31 ko’s).
In a fascinating co-feature rising star, Amir Imam, moved his record to 14-0-0-(12) by overcoming the extremely experienced former amateur star, Yordenis Ugas, 15-3-0-(7). Imam, who has scored a lot of sensational early knockouts, probably looked for the big right hand too much in the early going of the fight. Ugas took advantage by using his superior size to back Imam up to the ropes. Ugas probably had the edge after the first three rounds but Imam responded by making a fantastic strategic adjustment.
Imam opened the fight up in his favor in the forth round by using his boxing skills, fast hands, and athletic footwork to confound the Cuban. Once Imam took the match from the ropes and into the middle of the ring the fight became very easy for him. Imam had a sensational seventh round, where he hurt Ugas with several flashy combinations.
Official scores were 79-73, 78-74, and 78-74 in favor of Imam. Boxinginsider.com agreed with the 78-74 score. Look for big things to come from Imam, who must be given credit for taking on such a stiff test early in his career.