After surrendering $20 for parking and making my way into the Galen Arena at USC, the occupancy rate at the time was around 10% as BJ Flores stepped into the ring against Adam Collins. As I found my press row seat and put my fedora hat down, Collins was laid out on the canvas, victim of a vicious KO by Flores.
After scouting the location, one thing I noticed about the Galen Center is that there really is no bad seat in the arena. Doesn’t matter if you are sitting ringside or on the nosebleeds, you will get a descent view of the night’s action. Kind of reminds of me of the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Hopefully the Galen Center will decide to host many more events just like the StubHub has been doing in recent years.
With an hour left for the main event fighters to enter ring, the occupancy level was now at about 15% with big spots of empty seats in many areas of the arena. As I was noticing this, I focused my attention back on the fight at hand and just as I did, Caleb Hunter Plant scored probably the prettiest knockout punch anyone will see all year. It was Hunter Plant’s pro debut, and hopefully his very un-skilled opponent’s Travis Davidson last one.
In the undercard televised bout, Amir Imam faced off against former Cuban amateur world champion Yordenis Ugas in what would be a very close fight. Imam, the favorite to win, found himself needing to win the eighth and final round to at least get a draw on my scorecard. He did and I could see the fight going to Ugas by at least one round, or a draw being the fair decision.
When the final scorecards where read, it was obvious that the judges had turned in their scorecards in favor of the Don King fighter even before the fight had started. They had to upcoming prospect Imam winning the fight by a very large margin.
As the two main event fighters made their way into the ring, the arena had gotten busier but still felt very empty. One upside was that the crowd there, no matter how small, was very passionate. The mix of casual fans and USC students who accidentally stumbled into the arena, along with the Mexican-American fans supporting Arreola, gave the arena great vibe and excitement.
In the opening round of the bout, Arreola was the aggressor, throwing more and by simple mathematic equation, landing more. Things would turn in the closing seconds of the round as Stiverne finally let his hands go and landed a perfect combination which hurt Arrela. Stiverne followed the combination with a step back and taking the last 5 seconds of the round to embrace what he had just done.
Throughout the next few rounds, the fight started to take a trend, Arreola was the busier fighter more willing to throw, while Stiverne was more calculated in his punches and carried a sniper like vibe about his game plan.
Stiverne clearly seemed capable of dominating the bout, but more willing and content in showcasing his ability to make Arreola miss, than him actually landing.
In the fifth round, for every punch Stiverne threw he screamed two sentences at Arreola. It was not only a physical bout by now; it was also a verbal one. The crowed loved it and the arena no longer felt empty, instead of feeling sorry for the organizers of the event, I started feeling bad for anybody who was missing this great fight.
In the sixth round, Stiverne finally let loose at full potential, landing a flush right on Arreola’s temple that saw him stumble to the canvas, badly hurt. This time Stiverne knew his opponent was ripe for the picking and he went in for the kill, dropping Arreola another two times in the following seconds and forcing referee Jack Reiss to finally call an end to the bout.
In celebration, Stiverne, a guy known for not showing much emotion inside or outside of the ring, jumped around in joy eventually collapsing in the center of the ring from happiness. It was a big moment for him, he had just made boxing history in becoming the first Haitian born Heavyweight champion of the sport.
Stiverne executed his gam plan perfectly, thru all of Arreola's moments, Stiverne stayed calmed and collected, sort of with a sense of knowing what was to come. He let Arreola get confident in his approach towards him on the ropes, and once he had Arreola’s full trust, he struck with that quick right hand that marked the beginning of the end for the night's fan favorite.
As legendary announcer Michael Buffer was announcing Stiverne as the winner, the Haitian heavyweight shared a special moment with the most unlikely person, Don King. Both men hugged for along period of time as Stiverne cried in King’s shoulder. It was a scenario not often seen with King fighters given his reputation, but one that for at least that night, that moment, seemed genuine.
Meanwhile, moments later, as Stiverne was being interviewed, Arreola hang his head low as he leaned in the ropes and looked to the crowd for final embrace even in defeat. He would get it and you can see the frustration and dissatisfaction in his eyes all while in the back Don King loudly screamed “And the new, and the new” as he held up his fighter’s hand.
For Stiverne, the future possibly holds big fights against the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Deontey Wilder, while for Arreola who at age 33 and in my opinion has reached his limit in terms of improvements in his fight game, one has to really wonder what the future realistically holds for him in the sports, or even if he still has one.
Overall, the night was great; it was an ol'school heavyweight clash between two exciting fighters. Regardless of the attendance number which was reported at a seemingly high 3,900 people, the event was important because if the people at home tuned in to ESPN in high numbers, then it is most likely that we will be seeing a lot more fights like these on ESPN instead of HBO or Showtime. That’s a good thing for the sport, a very good thing.
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