By Francisco Salazar
It was there for Chris Arreola. A victory over Bermane Stiverne on Saturday night at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario would erase any previous demons about his losses and volt him to a possible world title opportunity against Vitali Klitschko.
However, someone forgot to give that memo to Stiverne, who came into Arreola’s backyard to not only win, but dominated the action.
Stiverne stuck to his game-plan and won a hard-fought 12 round unanimous decision over Arreola. Stiverne won the opportunity to possibly face Klitschko for the WBC title.
Although Arreola was the favorite coming into the fight and was fighting near his hometown of Riverside, that did little to throw Stiverne off his game plan.
After it looked as though Arreola won the first two rounds of the fight, Stiverne swung the fight in his favor with a crushing right hand that dropped Arreola at the end of the third round.
Any offense Arreola tried to mount in the middle rounds was thwarted by a disciplined attack by Stiverne. Even a rally by Arreola rally at the beginning of the 12th round fell short as Stiverne hurt the popular Mexican-American to the body until the final bell sounded.
All three judges scored the bout in favor of Stiverne, 117-110, 117-110, and 118-109.
“This was personal to me and I felt I had something to prove to the people, including the media,” said Stiverne immediately after the fight. “I wanted to show I can box and that I wasn’t going to back down. I worked to hard for this.”
Stiverne admitted that he hurt his back in the third round, the same round when he knocked Arreola down.
Even as he was being interviewed, the stoic Stiverne seemed to break down his guard, smiling as he described what the victory meant to him.
“It means a lot to me and to Haiti (where he was born),” said Stiverne, who improves to 22-1-1, 20 KOs. “I boxed when I had to and I just kept touching him because I knew his nose was fragile. I think I did great.”
“I’ve been in camp for over nine months, since June 4th. Despite the postponements, I always kept my focus. I just kept saying to myself that if this didn’t work, I’ll stop boxing.”
Stiverne should be glad that his game plan worked and that he does not need to think about giving up boxing in the short term.
Don King, who promotes Stiverne, was proud of his fighter and explained that he would work to get the Haitian-born fighter, who lives in Miami, that opportunity to fight Klitschko.
“We came into Arreola’s hometown and we came to win,” said King, who caused a raucous at ringside when he got into a verbal confrontation with a female security official after the fight. “Bermane fought a perfect performance. It was a great fight. Now we want that fight with Klitschko.”
Arreola, who had won seven fights in a row prior to stepping in the ring with Stiverne, drops to 35-3, 30 KOs. He acknowledged after the fight he could not breathe because of blood seeping out of nose due to the punch that knocked him down at the end of the third round. The punch possible broke Arreola’s nose.
However, Arreola tipped his hat to Stiverne.
“It wasn’t my night,” said Arreola, who is promoted by Dan Goossen and advised by Al Haymon. “Even though I know I have the better jab, he executed his game plan better tonight. I congratulate him.”
Despite that the fact Arreola lost a fight which was not close, there are those who feel Arreola is still a legitimate heavyweight contender.
“Last night (Saturday) was a setback, but don’t count Chris out,” trainer Henry Ramirez tweeted on Sunday evening. Ramirez has trained Arreola throughout his professional career.
Francisco A. Salazar has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper. He could be reached at [email protected] or on twitter at Salazar_soccer