LOS ANGELES – Bermane Stiverne completed his long journey to a heavyweight title with one more punishing victory.
Stiverne stopped Chris Arreola in the sixth round Saturday night at the Galen Center, claiming the WBC heavyweight title belt vacated by Vitali Klitschko.
Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) dropped Arreola twice in the sixth, and the Haitian-born fighter was punishing Arreola again when referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight with 58 seconds left in the round.
The Klitschko brothers had held every major heavyweight title for the past six years. Vitali’s retirement into Ukrainian politics in December opened the WBC belt for the 35-year-old Stiverne, a late bloomer who hasn’t lost in 13 consecutive fights.
After beating Arreola by decision last year, Stiverne hadn’t fought in nearly 13 months while waiting for Klitschko’s decision to retire.
The wait was worth it.
“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 Arreola’s left temple, sending Arreola wobbling and crashing to the canvas. Arreola rose and kept fighting, but Stiverne put him headfirst into the ropes moments later with another combination.
Stiverne won a lop-sided decision over Arreola last April, breaking Arreola’s nose in the third round. Arreola, who acknowledged training poorly for that fight, felt 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.”
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 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the WBC’s mandatory challenger.