The Vitali Klitschko - Chris Arreola WBC heavyweight title fight followed the expected script on Saturday night, with the taller and more skilled Klitschko fending off Arreola, who was unable to connect meaningfully for most of the fight and was prevented from continuing after the 10th round. If anything there was less exchange between the two, with Vitali having adopted a Wladimir-like strategy of not getting hit rather than mixing it up with his opponent as he has in the past.
For almost the entire fight, Vitali's strategy remained the same. As Arreola came at him, he would jab to the face; if that didn't stop him Vitali would move back out of range; and if Arreola managed to get in close Klitscko would clinch. Whenever Arreola stayed at range, Klitschko would pepper him with a variety of shots. There were very few times when this pattern was disrupted, perhaps in the fourth and eighth round for brief moments.
The judges in attendence scored it 99-91, 99-91, and 100-89 after 10 rounds; I had Vitali ahead 99-92.
- Round One: This round set up the basic template for the fight: Arreola moving forward, trying to press the action, and getting hit in the face for his trouble. Klitschko 10-9.
- Round Two: After feeling out Arreola for one round Vitali started to unload more, as if he were testing the possibility for an early knockout. But Arreola kept coming, lured in by Vitali's guard which was very low, close to his waist. Klitschko 10-9 (20-18).
- Round Three: Same as round two, except that Arreola might have gotten in his first good punch of the fight, while of course absorbing dozens of hits to the face. Klitschko 10-9 (30-27).
- Round Four: Arreola had his first good flurry of the fight early in the round, and for the rest of the round Klitschko was less active. Arreola showed he wasn't going down early, and was still strong despite the damage he took the first few rounds. Vitali may have been surprised at Arreola's ability to take punches, and showed the first signs of tiring. Arreola 10-9 (Klitschko 39-37).
- Round Five: Klitschko bounced back from round four with another dominant round, as Arreola was no doubt disappointed that his best shots had little effect. Klitschko had just minor scrapes on his face compared to reddening all over Arreola's. Chris' corner told him to keep moving in and pressing the action, to which Arreola protested "yeah but he keeps running away man!" Klitschko 10-9 (49-46).
- Round Six: Arreola gets in a few shots here and there, but Klitschko's game plan remains intact, avoiding and pre-emptively punching to keep him at distance. Klitschko 10-9 (59-55).
- Round Seven: Arreola is getting very frustrated by this time, and trying to charge in more quickly to get inside, at which point Klitschko was clinching. Arreola tried to get in some body blows while in the clinch and came close to kidney punching a few times. Klitschko 10-9 (69-64).
- Round Eight: With the score on the cards clearly against him, an unlikely knockout was Arreola's only hope. He showed good stamina this round and connected on his two best punches of the fight, but Vitali kept his composure, tying up Arreola as he made it inside, and fighting back whenever Arreola scored. 10-10 Tie (Klitschko 79-74).
- Round Nine: Like the fifth round following Arreola's other good round, Klitschko re-established dominance quickly in round nine. For the first time Arreola was stopping his forward movement and even backing up when he was hit as the cumulative damage took its toll. Arreola was getting a profuse nosebleed between rounds by this point. Klitschko 10-9 (89-83).
- Round Ten: Klitschko avoided Arreola's weakening attacks and punished him more in another one-sided round. Arreola was doing a lot more standing in front of Klitscko and the question was not if he could get a surprise KO in the last two rounds but rather would he last the distance. Shortly after the end of the round the referee called the fight, mainly because there was no protest from his corner who didn't see any good coming from two more rounds. Klitschko 10-9 (99-92)
Not too much in the fight surprised boxing observers. Many thought Arreola had a chance to win, and most figured he'd be able to connect more than he did based on Vitali's normal style, but it seemed that Vitali had learned some strategy from Wladimir's dominance of Ruslan Chagaev, a fight that had a similar trajectory and ending. He did exactly what Wladimir did: stay out of his opponent's range, jump back to maintain that range, and tie him up when he got close, all the while gradually wearing him down with punches. The main difference was that Vitali has a wider arsenal of stronger punches to use than Wlad, and Arreola had more height and reach than Chagaev, but the end result was similar.
Arreola showed little sign of tiring during the fight despite the often asked questions about his weight and stamina. Though Arreola could have been in better shape it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome, and it wasn't his weight or the pace of the fight that slowed him down by the end, it was the damage from relentless punches to the face. On that note Arreola showed a very good chin, but his defense remains suspect. He tried to cover up a lot more than he did in previous fights but Klitschko was too accurate and powerful.
Vitali Klitschko will solidify his #2 position in the SportsRatings Heavyweight boxing rankings while Arreola will fall only to #10 as the division is weak beyond the top six. In the post-fight interview Arreola vowed to be back; let's hope that he takes a cue from Eddie Chambers and gets in top shape. He also needs to fight some better competition, perhaps tackling a few seasoned foes still in the top 25. It was clear he'd never faced anyone close to Klitschko's strength and skill, and because he couldn't bully him he couldn't control the fight. Arreola needs to be in better shape and learn how to fight against his equals before he can again challenge for a belt.