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BILL DWYRE

Vitali Klitschko dominates to beat Cris Arreola in heavyweight bout

Arreola, from Riverside, wins over the audience but is no match for the Ukrainian, who puts on a clinic at Staples Center.

September 27, 2009|BILL DWYRE

The tree was just too tall for Cris Arreola to chop down.

Vitali Klitschko is still the WBC champion. That was expected to be the outcome of this heavyweight battle at Staples Center on Saturday night.

What wasn't expected was the manner in which Arreola, the battling bruiser from Riverside, stirred the emotions of those in attendance, despite spending a full 10 rounds being taken to school by the older, more experienced Ukrainian boxer.

When Arreola's trainer, Henry Ramirez, decided his friend and fighter had had enough and kept Arreola on his stool, rather than sending him out for the 11th round, Arreola sobbed and the crowd seemed to feel his pain.

"He was taking too much punishment," said Ramirez. "When I told him, he was irate."

Ramirez's decision was correct. Arreola's face was bloodied and battered and he had been on the receiving end of 301 punches, 151 of them in the non-jab, power-punch category. Arreola had landed 86, and only 24 of those in the power category.

The 6-foot-7 Klitschko did what most expected he would. He put on a boxing clinic. He didn't just beat Arreola. He surgically destroyed him. His reach advantage was listed as only one inch, but it looked like five times that much.

Each round looked like the previous one. Klitschko would stand erect, poking his big left jab at the ever-charging, pressing Arreola and keeping him at bay the way you might a yapping Yorkshire terrier.

Arreola would start, hands held high next to his head, then try to lunge for an opening. Klitschko would swat him away, then counter with a right uppercut or a right-hand chop, each time moving backward, keeping the charging bull just out of reach. If the judges had scored merely on which boxer was the aggressor, Arreola had a unanimous decision. But Klitschko sliced away, retreated, and sliced away some more.

This was the sweet science Klitschko talks about so much, and he performed it just as he speaks it.

When Ramirez ended the fight, Arreola's face told the tale.

"I wanted to go the full 12 rounds," Arreola said. "He was fighting the fight he was going to. I just couldn't get to him. He found a way to win. I found a way to lose."

In some ways, Klitschko is actually the more local boxer. He lives in Bel Air much of the year, while returning to his main residence in Kiev, Ukraine, often and fighting most of his bouts in Europe, mainly Germany. All three of his children were born in the U.S. and speak fluent English.

Klitschko emerged generally unscathed, despite rush after rush from the previously undefeated Arreola, who did his best and used every ounce of his energy to excite the partisan Mexican American crowd.

When it was over, even Klitschko seemed impressed with his opponent's effort.

"I was surprised he didn't come out" for the 11th round, Klitschko said. "It was a tough fight, as I expected, and he's a tough fighter. In the end, I know I hurt him."

The official record of the fight will show a technical knockout in the 10th round. That means, of Klitschko's 38 victories, 37 have come by some form of knockout, an incredible record.

On a night of both promise and proof, in front of a crowd announced as 14,556, Klitschko may have won handily, but Arreola captured a lot of hearts.

His Mexican heritage had been much touted going into the match. Despite the impressive history of Mexican boxing champions, none has ever been heavyweight champion. In 1968, Manuel Ramos was knocked out by Joe Frazier in the second round of his heavyweight title attempt. That's as close as anybody had come until Arreola on Saturday.

Not only did Arreola go further in a match than he ever had before -- eight rounds was his previous longest outing -- he also went further in the heavyweight title chase than anybody of his heritage.

That, of course, will be of minimal consolation for Arreola as time passes.

"I'll be back," he said.

Klitschko will be back quite soon too, but not at Staples, where he was fighting for the third time. He reportedly has a match set in early December in Germany. His opponent has not been announced, but as he carries on into the final few fights of a career in which he has never been knocked down and has increasingly demonstrated the difficulty of even getting to him, it becomes more obvious that his only current ring peer is the other Klitschko in his corner.

That would be the younger Wladimir, who holds two other heavyweight titles and, by brotherly agreement, will never get in the ring against Vitali.

So the heavyweight division, which had its short-lived United States buzz preceding this fight, will go back to Europe. There, it will produce more big paydays for both Klitschko brothers and, sadly, more indifference to the division in the U.S.

Arreola and Ramirez will go back to the drawing board. They learned a great deal Saturday night about what it really takes at this level.

They also gave fans of the sport a show of courage that should not go unsaid. Sometimes, that doesn't have to go hand and hand with winning.

"I ain't going to let this one break me," Arreola said.

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bill.dwyre@latimes.com.

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Fight stats

A look at Vitali Klitschko's 10-round TKO of Cris Arreola:

*--* Category VK CA Punches thrown 802 331 Punches connected 301 86 Pct. connected 38% 26% Jabs thrown 519 224 Jabs connected 150 62 Pct. connected 29% 28% Power punches 283 107 Power connected 151 24 Pct. connected 53% 22% *--*

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