LOS ANGELES - Bermane Stiverne claimed the vacant World Boxing Council heavyweight title, stopping Chris Arreola Saturday to become the first fighter in years not named Klitschko to grab a share of the heavyweight crown. The 35-year-old Canadian Stiverne knocked Arreola down twice in the sixth round before referee Jack Reiss stopped the bout at 2:02 of the round, giving Stiverne the victory in the first heavyweight championship bout on American soil since 2009.
"I had a dream to be the world champion," Stiverne said. "For me it was an impossible dream but I just kept going. I didn't stop." Stiverne connected with a right cross to the temple that sent Arreola to the canvas for the first time early in the sixth in front of a crowd of 3,992 at the University of South California's Galen Center arena. Arreola's knees buckled and he stumbled several feet across the ring before going down.
Later in the round Stiverne knocked the American halfway through the ropes with a left and then finished him off with a barrage of lefts and rights in Arreola's corner. "I came here on a mission," said Stiverne, who was born in Haiti and lived there until age seven when he emigrated to Montreal. "I didn't come here to lose. Nobody was going to beat me."
Heavyweight title fights in North America have been rare in recent times because of a lack of serious challengers to the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir. Stiverne captured the WBC title that Vitali Klitschko surrendered so he could concentrate on politics in his native Ukraine. It was the second straight win for Stiverne over Arreola as he put on an impressive performance in a rematch of their April 2013 fight. Stiverne broke Arreola's nose in that one with a similar right cross in the third round en route to a unanimous decision. "I didn't see that punch coming," Arreola said of Saturday's first knockdown. "His power is in his hand speed. It is like a bulldozer. "That's boxing. All it takes is one punch to knock someone out. He hit me with that right hand, put my ass down and I couldn't recover."
Stiverne said he was waiting for the right opportunity to use that right cross again after an exchange on the ropes. "I did my homework. When Chris unloads his punches it is when his opponent is against the ropes," Stiverne said. "The plan was to let him get comfortable and then surprise him. In the sixth round he did it two or three times and that is when I caught him with the right hand."
Two judges had Arreola winning the fight 48-47 and the third had Stiverne ahead by the same score heading into the sixth. Stiverne said he has dreamed of being a boxer ever since 1990 when he was in elementary school and watched Buster Douglas upset Mike Tyson in Japan.
"It is a dream I have had since Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson. I was in the fifth grade," Stiverne said. "I was mad that Tyson lost a fight. I wanted to get into boxing to beat Buster Douglas." It has been five years since there was a heavyweight fight on US soil and eight years since the fight capital of Las Vegas has hosted one. The Klitschko brothers have dominated the heavyweight division for almost six years. But they have fought almost exclusively in Europe because of a lucrative contract with German television.
Stiverne could eventually get a shot at Wladimir Klitschko, who holds the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization belts, with only the WBC title missing. Now that Stiverne has the title Wladimir could have a chance to unify the major titles without having to fight his brother to do it.