BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Deontay Wilder dished a beating to Chris Arreola, mostly one-handed, and turned Arreola’s face into a swollen, bloody mess in an eighth-round technical knockout victory to retain his world heavyweight title before 11,974 on Saturday night at Legacy Arena.
Headlining a Premier Boxing Champions card on Fox in prime time in front of his home state fans, Wilder retained his belt for the fourth time as he cruised against Arreola, who fell to 0-3 in heavyweight title fights, getting knocked out in all three.
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But Wilder was not the same after savaging Arreola in the fourth round, in which he knocked Arreola down and nearly stopped him.
Wilder said he broke his right hand and tore his right biceps, rendering his right arm useless after the fourth round.
“It’s broke,” Wilder said, pointing to his right hand as he walked past the ringside media section after the fight. “I also tore my biceps.”
Wilder, ahead 80-71, 80-71 and 79-72 on the scorecards when the fight was stopped, showed his arm to ringside media afterward, and his biceps was badly disfigured.
“[The hand injury] was from an [awkward] punch,” Wilder said. “I hurt the hand first, and then the biceps. Look at my hand. This thing hurts.”
Dr. David Williams, an Alabama commission physician, diagnosed Wilder with a broken hand and probable torn biceps in the dressing room, according to promoter Lou DiBella. Wilder was sent to UAB Hospital for an MRI.
“It showed me he’s a real champion,” DiBella said of Wilder. “He was hurt, and I thought he fought well under the circumstances. He tried to entertain, and he tried to hide the injury. But when I saw the biceps, I could see it did not look good. And his hand also. It hurt to take off the gloves, and he couldn’t even put his shirt on.”
But Wilder still managed to dominate Arreola, who took the fight on relatively short notice.
“He just kept me on the outside,” Arreola said. “I couldn’t figure him out, plain and simple. I have to give him all the respect in the world because he was just a much better fighter.”
Wilder was supposed to face Alexander Povetkin in a much-anticipated mandatory defense on May 21 in Moscow, but that bout was canceled nine days beforehand; Wilder was in Sheffield, England, in training camp and about to fly to Russia the next day.
Povetkin had taken a random drug test April 27, and the results came back positive for trace amounts of the banned substance meldonium, and the fight was canceled.
Having put in nearly two months of training, Wilder, 30, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, did not want to let that work go to waste, and the WBC, whose belt Wilder holds, granted him permission to set up an optional defense while it investigated the Povetkin situation.
Arreola quickly accepted the offer, but even he admitted he did not deserve the title shot. He came into the bout just 2-2-1 with a no-decision (because of a failed drug test) in his last six fights, and he has looked like a shell of the explosive top contender he once was.
Arreola (36-5-1, 31 KOs) showed very little against Wilder (37-0, 36 KOs) in what was likely his last chance to become the first fighter of Mexican decent to win a world heavyweight title. In 2009, Vitali Klitschko stopped Arreola in the ninth round, and Bermane Stiverne knocked Arreola out in the sixth round of their 2014 fight for the belt Klitschko vacated upon his retirement.
The fight began with both fighters doing very little, although the 6-foot-7, 226-pound Wilder worked his jab and established his distance. But in the second round, both began to press the action more, and there were a few exchanges; one resulted in Arreola suffering a cut over his right eye that needed seven stitches.
The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Arreola bulled forward in the fourth round, but Wilder grabbed him, gyrated his hips and landed an uppercut, eliciting a roar from the crowd.
Later in the round, Wilder, whose purse was $1.4 million, connected with a clean right hand that wobbled Arreola badly. Wilder landed a couple more clean shots, and Arreola dropped to a knee. Arreola beat the count but got hammered in the final 15 seconds of the round. Wilder landed everything and had Arreola reeling and nearly out when the bell rang.
“He was just as tough as I thought he would be,” Wilder said. “I know he was scared of the right hand, for sure. I think I would have gotten him out of there (in the fourth round) if he didn’t hold the ropes. On that last one he told me in my ear, ‘I had to hold the ropes. I had to hold the ropes.'”
Arreola, 35, of Riverside, California, said he got through the fourth round on heart.
“It takes a real fighter to be in the ring with someone like him,” Arreola said. “He’s a big man. We’re in the heavyweight division, man. This is the hurt business. You have to know how to deal with adversity. I get punched, I’m going to get back up.”
But the fourth round is probably when Wilder suffered the injuries. He did not use his right hand at all in the fifth or sixth rounds. His right hand had been surgically repaired after a previous injury.
That left Wilder to rely solely on his left hand, which he used to wobble Arreola with a jab early in the fifth round.
Wilder did not panic when he was forced to use only one hand.
“I got one of the best jabs in the world because I have super trainers,” Wilder said. “I got Mark Breland, who showed me all kinds of ways to throw my jab. I got Russ Anber, who shows me techniques. I have Jay [Deas], my longtime trainer on everything, and, of course, I have Cuz Hill, who gives me great work on the mitts.”
Wilder continued to control Arreola, who earned $150,000 for the beating, with left jabs and hooks, although in the seventh round Wilder threw one solid right hand in a combination. But, again, he only occasionally pawed with the right.
“I have to give him credit for using his distance, using his jab, and just keeping me at bay,” Arreola said.
According to CompuBox statistics, Wilder landed 152 of 346 punches (44 percent), and Arreola landed 52 of 188 (28 percent)
By the eighth round, Arreola’s face was a bloody, swollen mess. His left eye was nearly closed as Wilder continued to stuff jabs down the middle. When the round was over, Henry Ramirez, Arreola’s longtime trainer, asked referee Jack Reiss to call off the fight.
“It was very satisfying to punish a guy like Chris Arreola,” Wilder said. “I straight punished him. I didn’t get my knockout like I want, but it was a knockout. I’ll take that on my record. I still advanced to 37-0 with 36 KOs.”
Wilder also said he learned that he can fight through serious adversity.
“Man, it lets me know I’m a force to be reckoned with,” Wilder said. “If I have one hand or two hands, you can’t deny that I’m the best in the world. I’m going to still give it to you whether I have one hand or two hands. I won’t stop. As a champion it’s my duty to keep going no matter what I’m going through. Pain ain’t nothing to me. I got a high tolerance on pain.
“When you’re dealing with fights, it’s not over until it’s over. Whoever fights me, they have to be ready. They just can’t come in and think they’re going to bully me or think they’re going to out-tough me or think they’re going to outpunch me, because there ain’t no out-bullying, there ain’t no out-toughing, there ain’t no outpunching, because I’m the heavyweight champion of the world. That means a lot to me.”