Heavyweight boxer Chris Arreola at the Lincoln Boxing Club in Riverside. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
The heavyweight boxing title aspirations of Riverside's Chris Arreola ended in a bloody mess Saturday night.
The hard-punching, clever-talking Arreola, marketed as a great hope to become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican heritage, took a convincing beating from unheralded Bermane Stiverne.
The boisterous, diehard Arreola fans in attendance in Ontario's Citizens Business Bank Arena, were they to be realistic, had to leave with the realization that their 32-year-old hero likely had had his last big shot. Sadly, for them, Arreola left almost as many questions as he did blood in the ring.
The fight was a World Boxing Council title eliminator. The winner, barring always present boxing politics, gets to fight champion Vitali Klitschko, the nearly invincible Ukrainian who, along with brother Wladimir, holds all of the sport's meaningful heavyweight titles.
That shot now goes to Stiverne, a native of Haiti, a resident of Las Vegas and a ward of the mouth that roars in boxing but has been silent for years because he has had few major fighters. Don King, the never-bashful, 80-something promoter, was in rare form after Stiverne's impressive win.
As Stiverne's promoter, King jumped from the ring to the floor to make sure he would get into the HBO postgame camera shot, and said several times that boxing continues to look for the next great heavyweight and Stiverne is it.
The summation of the evening may be: Stiverne was impressive enough to make King think he is back. And if he even has a hint that that is real, the sport is in for a new storm. Silencing King is like muzzling a hyena.
Stiverne felt out Arreola for the first two rounds, as his corner loudly and repeatedly reminded him of the game plan: "Hit him in the bread box. He's got plenty of bread."
That was a reference to Arreola's penchant for fighting in a less-than-sculpted condition, and even though he weighed in at 248 pounds, a pound heavier than Stiverne, there were still enough jiggles in the stomach area to justify the Stiverne game plan.
But the need for that ended seconds before the bell ended the third round. Stiverne caught Arreola with a huge right, Arreola went down and, while he wasn't out and didn't need the bell to save him, he was suddenly in big trouble.
"That broke his nose and he couldn't breathe after that," said his trainer, Henry Ramirez.
Arreola spent the rest of the evening trying to attack while protecting his bloody pulp of a face. Stiverne spent the rest of the evening jabbing and dancing away from Arreola's desperate lunges. Arreola, who never quit and doesn't seem to have that gene, said, "He wasn't stronger than I thought, but he fought a better plan than I expected. His jab was a lot better than I expected."
The computer punching statistics reflected that.
Stiverne threw 710 punches, including 447 jabs. Arreola threw 333 and 206, and even though he connected at a higher percentage in each category, Stiverne's stick-and-move approach clearly dominated.
For boxing fans, it was a fairly rare high-quality heavyweight battle. Ramirez called it "a good brawl," and he was right.
Arreola, 32, told the HBO interviewer afterward, when asked about the future, that he would go on.
"I'll fight again, man," he said.
Ramirez was less giddy. Asked the inevitable "what's next?" question, he shrugged and said, "I'm not sure right now."
All three judges had it a domination by Stiverne. The scores were 117-110 by two judges and 118-109 by the third. That meant two judges gave Arreola three rounds, the other two.
Arreola's record went to 35-3, Stiverne's to 23-1-1.
In a couple of weeks, Don King will have that adjusted to 45-0, with 42 knockouts. Expect to hear lots more from Bermane Stiverne, even if none of it comes out of his mouth.