There are more last chances in boxing than there are in Hollywood or politics. But Chris Arreola probably faces a DEAD END sign after Bermane Stiverne knocked him out on Saturday night in the sixth round at the USC Galen Center in Los Angeles, California, in a battle for the vacant WBC heavyweight title.
Arreola was trying to become the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a portion of the heavyweight championship, but wound up losing another significant fight instead. Although Arreola, now 36-4 with 31 knockouts, has been a professional for over a decade, he has a record devoid of signature wins. In 40 outings he has beaten a fighter best known for being managed by Denzel Washington (Damian Wills), a fighter whose cousin was a two-time heavyweight titlist (Chazz Witherspoon), and an ex-football player who would have been better off had he been allowed to wear his helmet into the ring (Seth Mitchell). Class fighters have always beaten Arreola.
A few years ago, Arreola, a colorful pug with a solid left hook, had some serious buzz surrounding him. A Mexican-American heavyweight champion: Was it possible? (In the early 1990s, Alex Garcia, an ex-gangbanger out of San Fernando, came close to a title shot, but his chin and lack of talent—a deadly combination in boxing—held him back.) Unfortunately, Arreola, recently under house arrest for DUI, has never taken his craft seriously, which is one reason he has never beaten an A fighter. In 2009, Vitali Klitschko pummeled him from bell to bell in a title defense before forcing a TKO stoppage in the tenth round. Since then, Arreola, 33, has been as erratic as Amanda Bynes or weather patterns in the South.
If anything, Stiverne, 24-1-1 with 21 knockouts, has faced even worse opposition than “The Nightmare,” but when he got a name opponent in the ring with him—in this case Arreola—Stiverne delivered. Last year, Stiverne, 35, easily outpointed Arreola over 12 bloody rounds. This time, he showed a finishing touch to go with his hand speed and power.
Stiverne, staggered Arreola late in the first round, but the action see-sawed thereafter, with Arreola pressing the action and Stiverne countering off the ropes. In the second, Arreola landed a jolting right that staggered Stiverne in a corner. “B. Ware,” a Haitian native fighting out of Las Vegas, recovered and the two men mixed it up at a fast pace for heavyweights.
By the end of the fifth, Arreola, who hails from Los Angeles, was slightly ahead. That changed in the sixth, however, when Stiverne began to treat him like a shock absorber with a very, very limited warranty. A whiplash right hand over the top of a lazy jab dropped Arreola early in the round. Arreola rose on rubbery legs, but a follow-up barrage left him on his knees and draped over the ropes, resembling a man in a pillory. Again, a wobbly Arreola beat the count, but when Stiverne began to tee off, referee Jack Reiss intervened.
Here is a sample truth about contemporary boxing: There are so many titles to choose from today that the concept of “champion” is immeasurably, perhaps irreparably, devalued. But try telling that to Bermane Stiverne, who hurled himself to the canvas, overcome by emotion after fulfilling a recurring dream all fighters have. You get the feeling that Chris Arreola would have done the same thing had he won. After all, who can say with certainty that one dream is better than another?
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.