By Jake Donovan
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--The third time could only be a charm for one fighter.
In the end, it was Deontay Wilder who was a knockout winner in Birmingham for the third time in as many appearances. The latest came in an 8th round stoppage of Chris Arreola in their Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox main event Saturday evening at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
It was relatively easy for Wilder until it wasn't, as he eventually had to fight through the excruciating pain of torn biceps and potentially broken right hand. At what point he suffered - or reaggravated - such injuries is currently being called into question.
What remains without dispute is that the unbeaten fighting pride of Tuscaloosa remains among the top heavyweights in the world.
Such a lesson had to be painfully dished out to Arreola, who is now 0-3 with three knockout losses in title fights. The veteran contender from Riverside, Calif. was brought in on roughly six weeks notice, an alternative selection to mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin, who ruined plans for a Wilder trip to Moscow after producing a positive test for the banned substance Meldonium in pre-fight testing prior to their eventually canceled May 21 clash.
Arreola is certainly no Povetkin these days - and perhaps not even on his best day. On this particular evening, he was no match for Wilder's right hand shots. They opened a cut along the bridge of Arreola's nose in round two, his face slowly paying the price for a lack of sufficient defense.
One thing the Mexican-American heavyweight has never been short on is fighting heart. He pushed forward as long as possible, but his face and body eventually gave in towards the end of round four. A series of right hand shots had Arreola wobbly before eventually teetering to the canvas. He barely made it out of the round, but not before taking another pummeling along the ropes.
It was at this point where Wilder caused (further?) damage to his right arm, wildly throwing punches at round's end. A silver lining to the beating absorbed by Arreola was that he'd no longer have to worry about right hand shots.
He did have to ride out a visit from the ringside doctor prior to the start of round five, although the subsequent three minutes turned out to be the best of the fight for Arreola to that point in the bout. It was largely due to the fact that Wilder threw exclusively with his left hand, jabbing and attempting to hook to the body while holding open his right hand.
"It was a tear. My bone is practically coming out my arm," Wilder confirmed to press row immediately after the fight. “It was early – the third or the fourth round. It was from an (awkward) punch. I hurt the hand first, and then the bicep."
Even a one-armed Wilder was too much for the veteran contender, whose last - and undeserved - chance at a heavyweight title would ultimately end on a ringside stool. Arreola's cut worsened in round seven, at which point his left eye was swollen shut. Once again came a thorough once over from the ringside physician, with his corner informed that the fight wouldn't be allowed to go on much longer.
Arreola was given one more round, but offered little to convince his people that he had a chance of turning things around. This much was realized by one of his closest friends and longtime trainer Henry Ramirez, who informed referee Jack Reiss at the end of round eight that his fighter was done for the night.
The official time of the stoppage was 3:00 of round eight.
"As you see, I got my outfit paying homage to (the late) Muhammad Ali - float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," Wilder pointed out afterward, improving to 37-0 (36KOs). "I had to fight like a champion do, display the full arsenal for all my fans here in Alabama."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it's likely the end of the road for Arreola as a heavyweight contender. He falls to 36-5-1 (31KOs) with the loss, stumbling out to a 1-2-1-1NC stretch in his last five fights.
The first loss of his career came on the title stage, suffering a horrific one-sided 10th round stoppage loss to Vitali Klitschko in Sept. '09. Five years later he found himself within a win of becoming the first-ever boxer of Mexican descent to claim a heavyweight belt. The opportunity came against a former conqueror, having been dominated over 12 rounds by Bermane Stiverne in their first fight in 2013.
The rematch ended in worse fashion, as Arreola was stopped in the 6th round of their vacant title fight rematch in May '14. The loss was followed by a struggling win versus journeyman Curtis Harper last March, a draw versus Fred Kassi one year ago to this exact weekend, and a win-turned No-Contest versus Travis Kauffman last December after testing positive for marijuana.
As for Wilder, the future is bright aside from having to heal current wounds. The 30-year old racked up the fourth defense of the heavyweight title he earned last January. Three of the four defenses have taken place in Birmingham, including a long overdue homecoming last June in front of a sold-out crowd at Bartow Arena on UAB campus.
Fittingly, this night would end up right back at UAB, taking to the university's hospital for further observation, though only adding to what he was able to accomplish in front of a partisan crowd of 11.964, his largest home state crowd to date.
“Man, it let’s me know I’m a force to be reckoned with," Wilder said afterward. "If I have one hand or two hands, you can’t deny that I’m the best in the world. I’m going to still give it to you whether I have one hand or two hands. I won’t stop. As a champion it’s my duty to keep going no matter what I’m going through. Pain ain’t nothing to me. I got a high tolerance on pain.
"When you’re dealing with fights, it’s not over until it’s over. Whoever fights me they have to be ready. They just can’t come in and think they’re going to bully me or think they’re going to out-tough me or think they’re going to out-punch me, because there ain’t no out-bullying, there ain’t no out-toughing, there ain’t no out-punching, because I’m the heavyweight champion of the world. That means a lot to me."
It will mean even more if he can encourage the division's other belt occupants to get together for a series of unification bouts.
"Whoever got those belts, that's who I want," Wilder confirmed after the fight. "It don't matter if I got a broke hand, a tore muscle or whatever. Of course I want the (Tyson) Furys, Of course I want the (Anthony) Joshuas.
"The question is, do they want me?"