ONTARIO, Calif. – Bermane Stiverne vowed to cut Chris Arreola’s head off before their WBC heavyweight title elimination bout at the Citizens Business Bank Arena, and though the Haiti-born puncher tried his best to decapitate the local favorite in the early rounds of their HBO-televised fight, he had to settle for putting on a boxing clinic en route to a wide points decision on Saturday.
Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 knockouts) dropped Arreola with a big right hand in the third round before controlling the rest of the fight with an educated jab, good defense, lateral movement, hard body shots and a lot of heart. It wasn’t easy an easy victory, as Arreola (35-3, 30 KOs), from nearby Riverside, kept the pressure on Stiverne, even as his face was gradually battered into a gruesome, bloody mess.
“I didn’t beat a bum,” said Stiverne, who won by scores of 118-109 and 117-110 (twice). “I’m in his back yard. He lives 20 minutes away from here. All the fans here were here to see him.
“So can I get a little credit from the critics who wrote me off before the fight?”
Stiverne, a decided underdog going into the bout, said he was motivated by the naysayers, most of whom were media members.
“I felt I had something to prove to the media because some of them bashed me,” said Stiverne. “They thought I was just a puncher but I showed I could box.”
Arreola had no problem admitting that he lost to the better boxer.
“He fought a better plan than I had anticipated and he used a better jab,” said Arreola, who landed 38 more jabs than Stiverne (61 to 23, according to CompuBox).
However, Stiverne, who threw a total of 447 jabs, used his left stick to direct and confuse Arreola. It set up the right hand that not only knocked Arreola down in the third round but probably broke the Mexican-American slugger’s nose.
“When he dropped me and once my nose was busted, I couldn’t breathe,” admitted Arreola.
The former heavyweight title challenger got up from the knockdown and huffed and puffed his way through the next few rounds, unable to cut the ring off on the stick-and-moving boxer-puncher.
Arreola finally closed the gap in the sixth round, buzzing Stiverne into the ropes with a straight right and landing some follow-up shots. However, he says he hurt his left hand when trying to close the show at the start of the seventh round.
“My left hand died in the seventh,” he said. “I couldn’t use it after that.”
Stiverne not only regained control of the fight in the seventh, he appeared to toy with Arreola during the late rounds. However, he wasn’t content to merely jab and move to victory. He occasionally planted his feet and fired hard shots to Arreola’s midsection.
“The jab was working,” Stiverne said. “I kept touching him with it because I knew his nose was fragile, but I would have liked to throw more body shots. I hurt my back in the third round so I couldn’t go to the body as much.”
Stiverne, who had a 47-to-4 advantage in body connects, according to CompuBox, did more than enough to win the fight.
He said he would have ended his career if he hadn’t won.
“I’ve been in camp since last June,” he said. “That’s nine months; nine months and only seeing my family maybe two weeks out of that time. I went through a lot to get here. If I didn’t win tonight, I would’ve quit boxing.”
Stiverne’s perseverance obviously paid off. He is now in line to face WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko, who stopped Arreola after 10 rounds in 2009.
Stiverne will once again be a huge underdog against Klitschko, who turns 42 in July. However, it’s doubtful anyone in the media who watched Stiverne outclass Arreola will “bash” him going into that fight.
His promoter Don King, who remains in the fight game thanks to Stiverne’s victory, was his usual bombastic self after the fight.
“He’s the People’s Champion!” crowed King. “He fights for the people, even the people who booed him here tonight. He put on a boxing exhibition and it’s great for the sport and for the heavyweight division.
“We’re all looking for something that will bring heavyweight boxing back to America and here he is.”
A ‘Great American Hope’ that was born in Haiti, raised in Quebec, Canada?
Only in America.
Notable undercard results:
Junior middleweight Oscar Molina (5-0, 4 KOs), a 2012 Mexican Olympian from Norwalk, Calif., needed only 55 seconds to starch Las Vegas’ Jeremiah Wiggins (2-1).
Junior lightweight Charles Huerta (21-2-1, 17 KOs), of Lakewood, Calif., blasted journeyman Jonathan Alcantara (6-10-2, 1 KO), of El Salvado.
Heavyweight Eric Molina scored a fifth-round knockdown but had to survive a 12th-round knockdown in outpointing Tony Grano by scores of 114-112 and 116-110 (twice).