By Francisco Salazar
USC Galen Center, Los Angeles, California - There is finally a heavyweight champion who doesn't have the last name of Klitschko. In a high stakes rematch, Chris Arreola (36-4, 31KOs) was tougher, more active and landing big shots - but it took one big right hand for Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21KOs) to change the entire fight and capture the WBC heavyweight with a sixth round TKO. The belt was vacated a few months ago by longtime champion Vitali Klitschko. Last April, Stiverne won a dominating twelve round decision over Arreola.
At the age of 33, Chris Arreola believed the boxing world still had not seen the best of him.
Aside from the knockout power and colorful banter, Arreola was also known for falling short whenever he stepped up in class or meaningful fights.
It happened against Vitali Klitschko, Tomasz Adamek, and Bermane Stiverne.
Arreola was down, but he refused to give up on that dream of winning a world title. The only problem was Stiverne also had that dream and even in the anticipated rematch, Stiverne once again capitalized on one Arreola's achilles heel: his chin.
The bout was a rematch of their 12 round bout that took place one year and two weeks prior to Saturday night, when Stiverne dominated the action to win a 12 round unanimous decision while breaking Arreola's nose in the process.
The loss seemed to open Arreola's eyes, where he had to deal with issues with his weight and personal conflicts outside the ring that seemed to get the best out of him. After a change in location and a victory over Seth Mitchell in September, Arreola looked much fitter entering his bout against Stiverne on Saturday night.
Stiverne had not fought since defeating Arreola, waiting for the opportunity to fight then-WBC champion Vitali Klitschko. That fight never materialized, as Klitschko vacated the title and pursued a career in politics in his native Ukraine.
There was anticipation for the fight by media and fight fans as it was to be televised on ESPN and not the customary ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" series.
Arreola started out well from the opening bell, taking the fight to Stiverne. Near the end of the round, Stiverne staggered Arreola with a left hook to the head. Arreola made it out of the round as Stiverne was unable to follow up.
Arreola stunned Stiverne in the second round with a straight right hand to the head. Arreola followed up, but was unable to land anything clean.
As the bout progressed, Arreola did his best work backing Stiverne up against the ropes. His only downfall was not attacking Stiverne's body, which would have taken his legs away. Not to be outdone, Stiverne would land more left hooks to Arreola's head. As he backed up, it seemed that was all that Stiverne was looking for: to land that left hook.
The pace of the fight slowed down by the middle rounds. Arreola's punch output dropped, while there were times Stiverne would walk Arreola down.
Midway through the sixth round, Stiverne landed a sweeping right uppercut to the top of Arreola's head, dropping him to the canvas. Arreola got up and tried to fight back or hold on. Moments later, a barrage to head of Arreola dropped him to a knee. Once Arreola got up, Stiverne went in for the kill, landing at will. Referee Jack Reiss saw enough and waved the fight over at 2:02.
Stiverne is in line to defend the title against number one contender Deontay Wilder. That would depend if the WBC will allow that to happen considering heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko stated that he would be interested in fighting immediately for the WBC crown.
The question remains as to what will be Arreola's next move. Arreola made for a good showing and was up on two judges' scorecards at the time of the stoppage. While it was commendable Arreola was in better shape and prepared to the best of his ability, the loss might have dropped him to the bottom of the totem pole of a weak heavyweight division.
Super lightweight Amir Imam won a eight round unanimous decision over Yordenis Ugas.
From the opening bell, it looked as though Imam would dictate the pace. Towards the end of the first round, Ugas landed a right hand that stunned Imam, who was lucky the bell sounded to end the round before Ugas was able to follow up.
Using a noticeable size advantage, Ugas, who was a Bronze Medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games, would walk Imam down against the ropes. Imam tried to counter, but Ugas was able to slip and land a left hook or a right cross to the head.
Imam got Ugas' attention at the end of the fourth round by landing a counter right hand to the head. Before Imam was able to follow up, the bell sounded to end the round.
The second half of the fight was more tactical, as Ugas' punch output began to drop with each round. Imam used his ring generalship to land more left and right uppercuts to the head. Ugas looked to set up a right hand, which he landed so often until the final bell sounded.
All three judges scored the bout in favor of Imam, 78-74, 78-74, and 79-73.
Imam, from Davie, FL, remains unbeaten and goes to 14-0, 12 KOs. Ugas, from Miami, FL, drops to 15-3, 7 KOs.
Featherweight Mario Barrios (4-0, 1 KO) of Racine, Wisc., scored a four-round unanimous decision over Jaxel Marrero (1-3-1) of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Heavyweight Razvan Cojanu stopped Rodricka Ray in the fifth round of a scheduled six round bout. Ray (5-7-1, 2 KOs) spent more time holding Cojanu in the first two rounds, drawing a warning from referee Ray Corona. Cojanu (10-1, 5 KOs) used his height, reach, and aggression to keep Ray at bay. Ray picked up the punch output in the third round and was outlanding Cojanu during some instances in the fourth round. Cojanu swung momentum in his direction in the fifth round, finally dropping him with a left hook to the body. Ray got up, but was overwhelmed by Cojanu, prompting referee Corona to step in and stop the bout at 2:51.
Middleweight Caleb Hunter Plant scored a vicious first round stoppage victory Travis Davidson. Plant, who was making his professional debut, landed a hard right hand to the head that dropped Davidson (2-3, 2 KOs) onto his back. Davidson attempted to get up, but referee Zac Young immediately waved the fight over at 47 seconds.
Opening the Don King/ Goossen Tutor Promotions card, BJ Flores returned from a 19 month layoff to knock out Adam Collins in the first round. Flores (29-1-1, 19 KOs), who serves as a boxing color commentator for NBC Sports, landed a hard right hand to the head behind a jab, dropping Collins to the canvas. Collins (12-10, 8 KOs) remained on the canvas while referee Ray Corona counted him out at 1:58.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing
Follow Carlos on Twitter @PunchyMcGee.
Tags: Chris Arreola , Bermane Stiverne , BJ Flores , Yordenis Ugas , Arreola-Stiverne , Arreola vs Stiverne , Amir Imam , Mario Barrios