It is interesting that the true champion of the heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko, may never hear that he was in a classic title fight, or any classic fight at all, despite his Hall of Fame lock of a career, yet Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola get to say it. Neither gets to call themselves the top heavyweight in the division for now but they both get to have that badge of honour over the champion. Last night, with Pete Rose, Mario Lopez and Deontay Wilder in attendance, and Don King waiting to get back a major heavyweight titlist after so long, Bermane Stiverne, trailing on most cards that I've seen, in a genuine heavyweight dustup, found the equilibrium button on Cristobal Arreola. Two men battled for some history as one tried to be the first Haitian-born fighter to earn a major heavyweight title and the other tried to be the first Mexican-blooded fighter to do it.
Stiverne beat Arreola convincingly again, sure enough, but this time he was losing and this time he knocked his man out. It didn't play out like many saw it-a perfect repeat. It took dramatic twists and turns. Contrary to Stiverne's bizarre post-fight assessment that he'd only been hit with one decent punch (a body shot) during the night after taking quite a few bombs which clearly caught his attention, both fighters landed huge punches from the opening round. Arreola took an early and aggressive lead and then at the end of round one Stiverne found a few left hooks that shook Arreola up. In the second it turned back in Arreola's favour as he drove Stiverne to the ropes. Arreola's jab was excellent in this fight, and Stiverne was excellent at timing it at the tail end. It was exciting, tense action. Referee Jack Reiss did an exemplary job and knowing the resilience of Arreola, he gave him a chance that some may have disagreed with, and perhaps it would have been questioned if something medically traumatic had occurred. Thankfully, we did not have an Abdusalamov moment in this one, brutal as it was.
The decision by Reiss that I'm mentioning is following the second knockdown, where Arreola got up and clearly didn't have his balance. He wobbles, you see. He's not quite right upon rising. It's a small thing, perhaps, in the grand scheme of the event, but it is absolutely not an insignificant thing. It reminded me a lot of a Tim Bradley knockdown suffered at the hands of Ruslan Provodnikov where many a ref would've said that was it, "You got up, son, but you're not all there. Good try. But no more." The referee that night gave Tim, a man known for having inspirational tenacity even before that match, a questionable chance to continue. And Bradley won. Raul Caiz Senior played a part in a classic that night by making a judgment call involving a supremely resilient fighter. Jack Reiss gave Chris Arreola that chance to come back. Chris mentioned that maybe he was stopped prematurely. But I hope he sees in hindsight that if anything, he was given the perfect amount of opportunity by Reiss, who could've stopped it sooner and been thoroughly justified. This is a chance that these days you don't see in a lot of big United Kingdom fights, a place which has become notorious among the hardcore of boxing fans for contentious stoppages, with fans being disturbed by the thought that fights of all levels are given premature endings on the regular. And not out of cautious refereeing but out of bad refereeing. Out of either "hometown" corruption or blatant incompetence. I use the UK as an example because I can't go two weeks without hearing the term "British stoppage" and Jack Reiss is the kind of guy I'd like to see teaching a course in the UK after Saturday night.
Now, one of the reasons why I support this decision and think it was good work, even in retrospect, knowing now that Arreola would still be stopped soon after, is that A. Arreola did go the distance with Stiverne previously and B. Arreola's history must give context, as he's so well known to his followers for roaring back after being hurt and pulling out victories. A fighter's history matters. Like Bradley's history mattered in the Provodnikov match, Arreola's history mattered here, no matter what would happen; he should've gotten that chance, I say. Some guys fight well while hurt and if you have that ability, if you're known not to freeze up, defenselessly, when hurt, even in a questionable circumstance, with so much on the line, you should probably be given the benefit of the doubt if your corner doesn't throw in the towel. You had too hotly a contested match with too proven a fighter to stop it there. Split seconds matter in recovering during a match and even though the referee is within his right to call a fight if a man gets up wobbling and stumbling, he does not have to. And if the context is on the side of the fighter, the ref shouldn't call it. If you've proven your mettle in these situations, even though it's dangerous, it can still be a good call on the referee's part to give you more leeway than an unproven fighter might get, or in a fight that isn't particularly competitive. I support Jack Reiss, and think he did a great job here and saved the match from a lot of what-ifs.
So, the boxing world can applaud two true warriors for putting on a classic, one true warrior for making history, one fine referee for wisdom, and arguably boxing's greatest hairdo for a huge promoter victory in his old age.
Work that bag,
Basement Gym Boxing
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