Bermane Stiverne completed his long journey to a heavyweight title with one more punishing victory, stopping Chris Arreola in the sixth round on Saturday to claim the WBC belt vacated by Vitali Klitschko.
Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) dropped Arreola twice in the sixth and the Haitian-born Canadian was punishing Arreola again when referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight with 58 seconds left in the round.
Brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have held every major heavyweight title for the past six years, but Vitali Klitschko’s retirement to pursue Ukrainian politics in December last year opened the WBC belt for the 35-year-old Stiverne, a late bloomer who has not lost in 13 consecutive fights.
After beating Arreola by decision last year, Stiverne had not fought in nearly 13 months while waiting for Klitschko’s decision to retire.
“I studied and studied,” Stiverne said. “I watched my opponent. I knew I could knock him out... I was patient. The plan was to let him get comfortable and he soon as he gets real comfortable, then crack him. And that’s what I did.”
Stiverne dropped Arreola (36-4) for the first time with a sweeping right hand to the Mexican-American’s left temple that sent him wobbling and crashing to the canvas. Arreola rose and kept fighting, but Stiverne put him headfirst into the ropes moments later with another combination.
“I knew it was a wrap,” Stiverne said. “The way I trained, I knew I could knock him out because I’ve got the power.”
Stiverne won a lop-sided decision over Arreola in April last year, breaking his opponent’s nose in the third round. Arreola, who acknowledged training poorly for that fight, said he lost the rematch when he got hit by the same punch that finished the first fight.
“He has a tremendous right hand, that’s exactly what it was,” Arreola said. “I felt like I was winning the fight. He just got me with the same right hand. Couldn’t get away from it and after that, it’s all she wrote.”
The well-traveled Stiverne, who fought for Canada as an amateur boxer and trained in Florida earlier in his pro career, is the first heavyweight champion of Haitian descent and the first non-Kltischko champ since Samuel Peter in 2008.
Wladimir Klitschko, who holds the other three major heavyweight titles, is eager to claim all four belts by fighting the winner, but before that lucrative bout, Stiverne must fight unbeaten Deontay Wilder, the US Olympic bronze medalist and the WBC’s mandatory challenger.
“With all due respect, I don’t give a damn about Wilder or Klitschko right now,” Stiverne said. “Right now, it’s about what I won.”
Arreola has lost both of his shots at the WBC heavyweight title, getting pounded by Vitali Klitschko in 2009.
“I could have got back up plenty of times,” the Mexican-American said. “Was the fight stopped a little early? I believe so, but then again, the referee is there to protect me from myself, but I felt like I was winning the fight.”