First came a right cross, then a huge left hand.
And as quickly as you can say "bye-bye bright lights," local favorite Chris Arreola wobbled, collapsed and exited the heavyweight boxing upper echelon Saturday night.
The new World Boxing Council heavyweight champion is Haitian Bermane Stiverne of Las Vegas, who delivered both blows in the sixth round at USC's Galen Center.
The first sent Riverside's Arreola stumbling and wobbling and crumbling into the ropes. Knockdown. Referee Jack Reiss counted and did his best to keep Stiverne from charging like a wild boar. The second punch did the same thing. Arreola looked like a sailor after the third pint.
Reiss looked closely, talked to Arreola, made him respond, gauged his stability and said later he let him go back out there one last time with the bull raging across the ring because he knew how important this fight was and how tough and resilient Arreola is.
But in seconds, it was obvious that Arreola was defenseless and Stiverne was about to send his opponent much further than out of title contention — possibly to the hospital.
And so Reiss wisely, and correctly, stopped it. Stiverne became the new WBC heavyweight champ, at 2 minutes 2 seconds of the sixth round.
It was a somewhat strange setting for a heavyweight title fight, an event that at one time captured the fancy of the media and the world's sports fans. This one was held on a college campus and caused no traffic jams. Attendance was 3,992.
The WBC title was up for grabs because its longtime owner, Vitali Klitschko, retired to focus on his political and humanitarian pursuits in his currently beleaguered Ukraine. The other heavyweight titles are held by Klitschko's brother, Wladimir.
Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 knockouts) was ranked No. 1 and Arreola No. 2 by the WBC after Klitschko's departure. So Saturday night was showdown time. Also, ESPN needed some programming.
Arreola's nickname is "The Nightmare." That's what this scheduled 12-round fight became for him.
He came out smoking, backing Stiverne into corners and against the ropes and flailing away. Stiverne, curiously, seemed more intent on cursing Arreola out at the end of each round than actually pressing the fight.
By the sixth round, Arreola (36-4) was ahead on most ringside cards. As it turned out, he was also ahead on the judges' cards too, when Stiverne lowered the boom. Two judges had him leading, 48-47. The other had the same score but Stiverne on top.
It was eerily similar to their previous fight, in April of last year, when Arreola pursued early and led before Stiverne caught him with a crushing right hand in the third round. That fight went the distance and Stiverne won a unanimous decision, as Arreola never quite recovered from the third-round knockdown and broken nose.
It was the same crushing right hand again Saturday night.
"Same punch, same ... as last time," Arreola said.
Arreola admitted afterward that he had hurt his left hand in the fourth round.
"He's got a big hard head," Arreola said.
Stiverne, who clearly was saving himself for the right moment, as he let Arreola back him up and whale on him for five rounds, didn't buy the theory that he was trailing.
"I was winning," he said. "I was hurting him.
"I counterpunched and ended up hitting him with same punch as last time."
Arreola, a great ambassador for the sport and division with his refreshing take on everything and his willingness to talk, said Stiverne was a "great champion" and said he wanted to get back in the ring and even take another shot at Stiverne, if somebody will let him.
Doctors and common-sense advocates may have another opinion.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times