In the weeks leading up to their world heavyweight championship showdown, Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola showered each other with respect. As the fight drew closer, that all changed. Their last press conference was emotional. The admiration was gone.
On Saturday night, the heavy-handed Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOS) became the first Haitian boxer to capture a piece of the heavyweight crown by stopping Arreola in round six at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, California.
The bout was carried live on ESPN.
At the time of the stoppage, Arreola was ahead on two of the three judges scorecards. He had accomplished this by outworking Stiverne on the inside and using his jab. But Stiverne’s great equalizer, his power, was always a threat.
In the opening stanza, Arreola did well, but Stiverne wobbled him with a left hook at the bell. Arreola, from nearby Riverside, kept working in rounds two and three. His volume of punches had Stiverne covering up. Stiverne had success with counter hooks and crosses.
Arreola banged to the body in round four. Stiverne, who resides in Las Vegas, NV., continued to look for the home run punch. He did better in round five as Arreola appeared gassed. The tiny ring didn’t allow much room for movement, but Stiverne was no longer languishing on the ropes as much as he had in the early going.
In round six, the fight changed. Arreola marched after Stiverne as usual. He jabbed, but then made a tragic mistake. Instead of bringing his left hand back up to protect himself, it dangled near his hip. Stivern fired a sweeping right that caught Arreola on the temple.
Arreola lurched forward and went down. He beat the count, but still looked hurt. Stiverne landed a combination of punches that floored Arreola for a second time. The gutsy battler was up at six, but as Stiverne battered him some more, referee Jack Reiss waved off the contest.
The time was 2:02 of round six.
“I watched my opponent,” said Stiverne in the ring after the bout was over. “I was being patient. I knew I could knock him out. I’ve got the power. Praise the lord.”
“I’m devastated man,” said Arreola. “I was here to win. He has a tremendous right hand.”
In the aftermath, the fighters embraced.
The mutual respect had returned.