The month of May has traditionally been one of the most active in the sport of Boxing in a calendar year. Of course, last year Boxing much like the rest of the world saw many norms brought to a halt due to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic. This year however, there is at least a sense that things may get back to normal in due time as vaccines to combat the COVID-19 virus continue to be rolled out. As progress continues to hopefully move forward, the Boxing world much like the rest of sports have begun the process of trying to stage events in front of a limited number of spectators due to COVID-19 protocols.
May 2021 began with two Heavyweight bouts that each had a similar storyline of a former world champion going against a former world title challenger whose better days were thought to be behind them. The first of these two bouts took place at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England where former WBO Heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker took on longtime contender and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora.
In previewing Natalie this fight, but also the second of the two Heavyweight bouts, which will be discussed later in this column, I stated that it would be a bout that in this observer’s view would come down to whether or not Chisora would be able to use his pressure style to walk down the boxer/puncher in Parker. As it would turn out, Chisora would make a statement almost immediately after the opening bell as he would quickly score a knockdown of the former world champion with an overhand right in the first ten seconds of the round. Although this was the definition of a “Flash Knockdown,” it did send an immediate signal that Chisora had come to fight and that this would not be as easy of a bout for Parker at some may have anticipated.
Following the quick knockdown in round one, I felt that Chisora executed an effective fight plan where he frequently pushed Parker back to the ropes and landed offense to the body and head. It was this approach with an emphasis on focusing a majority of his attack to Parker’s body that seemed to carry most of the first six rounds of the scheduled twelve round bout. It did not seem as it was a close fight throughout the first half based largely on not only the success Chisora was able to have, but also basic ring generalship and effective aggression in bringing the fight to Parker.
While Chisora was able to maintain a high pace throughout the entire fight, he did seem to fatigue as it progressed in this opened the door for Parker to make up some crucial ground on the scorecards in the middle and late rounds. Even though Parker did not seem to hurt Chisora throughout, his greater activity in the second half of the fight was such that it could sway opinion as to who had the upper hand. It should also not be overlooked that during the latter stages of the fight Parker was able to establish some distance between himself and Dereck Chisora. This differed significantly from how the fight was fought in the first half where Chisora consistently pressed forward and was able to walk Parker backward.
Although in the eyes of this observer I felt that Chisora had done enough to win the fight by a margin of nine rounds to three or 117-110 in points with an extra point for the knockdown in round one and feeling that Chisora won five of the first six rounds, it did not surprise me to see a close decision announced in this fight in it being a split decision. As I have often said over the years and unfortunately have frequent practice in saying whenever it is appropriate when talking about close fights, it will often come down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense.
Even though I felt that this was a relatively simple fight to score in favor Chisora based on what I saw as effective aggression and seeming to land the harder punches, if one does not score the knockdown in the first round by a 10-8 margin in favor Chisora, there is an argument for this fight being closer as well as for Parker as having won it based on what he was able to do over the second half the fight. From my perspective in addition to Chisora’s effective aggression and ring generalship throughout the bout, I felt that he was very effective in using head movement to deflect a good portion of Parker’s offense and this is what I based my score on.
The official decision of a split decision in favor of Joseph Parker was not one that I felt was inadequate or as some fans often say was “A Conspiracy,” but I do feel especially given that many felt going into the fight that Chisora may be in the twilight of his career, a rematch may not be a bad idea based on how the fight was fought.
A fight that was quite similar to Parker-Chisora in terms of the storyline of a former world champion going against a longtime contender and former world title challenger that was thought to have seen better days is coincidentally the second Heavyweight bout that took place on what yours truly unofficially dubbed “Heavyweight Saturday.” I am referring of course to the encounter between former unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Andy Ruiz and former multi-time world title challenger Chris Arreola that occurred at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA in a bout that was the main event of a card promoted by the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) group of promoters and was broadcast in the United States on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View.
This venue in Carson, CA has seen many incarnations over the years in the form of name changes, so much so that this observer has referred to it on more than one occasion as “The Venue In Carson, CA.” The subject of naming rights for a stadium aside, the outdoor venue has become known for producing many memorable battles. Ruiz-Arreola proved to be the latest memorable battle.
Much like the circumstances Dereck Chisora found himself in going into his bout against Joseph Parker, Chris Arreola had been through a long career that has seen many wars and has the distinction of having challenged for a World Heavyweight championship on three separate occasions. Although Arreola has two more world title fights than does Chisora, the similarity between the two at this stage was that some felt he was a significant underdog compared to Ruiz, who was fighting for the first time since losing his unified portion of the Heavyweight crown in December 2019 in his rematch with the man he had taken the title from earlier that year, Anthony Joshua.
While I touched upon what could be viewed as a questionable business decision in putting this fight on pay-per-view given both the continued decline of the pay-per-view medium as well as the current state of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, in reality this was not a bad style match up as both Ruiz and Arreola are offensive-minded fighters that do come to fight and the decision to stage the fight in Carson, CA was a smart decision given both fighters respective California roots as well as their respective fan bases.
Unlike the Parker-Chisora bout, which took place with no non-essential personnel in attendance, the Ruiz-Arreola event was able to have a limited number of fans in attendance under social distancing guidelines in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. A crowd of over 3, 900 were treated to a memorable and some might say surprising Heavyweight encounter.
Although much of the story going into the fight centered on Ruiz, his dropping nearly thirty pounds from his last bout where he lost his title back to Anthony Joshua, and the addition of trainer Eddy Reynoso in his corner, what did not get nearly as much focus including by yours truly was the adjustment Chris Arreola made in hiring trainer Joe Goossen to work in his corner as well as his coming in at the lightest weight of his career at the weigh-in prior to the fight of 228lbs. Despite having the reputation of a brawler, Arreola would also show new elements of technique and strategy that was unexpected.
What was a noticeable difference about Arreola’s approach was how disciplined he was in that he remained committed to a fight plan that had an emphasis on defense as well as lateral movement. Although he was at a disadvantage in terms of hand speed, which seemed to increase with Ruiz’ drop in weight, Arreola’s strategy gave him opportunities to land counter punches in the midst of exchanges of offense. It was during one such exchange in the second round that Arreola landed a short right hand on the top of Ruiz’ head that sent him down for only the second time in his career.
Ruiz was clearly hurt by this blow. In some ways, it brought back memories of a similar exchange that resulted in the first time Ruiz was knocked down in the third round of his first fight against Anthony Joshua where he was caught by a short hook to the head in an exchange of punches. As most know, Joshua, who is a devastating finisher when he has an opponent hurt, approached Ruiz recklessly and ended up being knocked down himself moments later in what was one of the best rounds in Heavyweight Boxing in recent memory.
Knowing Arreola’s offense-first style, it was logical to expect him having hurt and knocked the former champion down to approach Ruiz in a similar fashion as Joshua had. Surprisingly, Arreola showed restraint and perhaps knowing what Ruiz was capable of in this type of situation, stuck with a tactical approach and this proved well for him as he continued to have sporadic success in landing hard shots particularly with the right hand that did get Ruiz’ attention.
An aspect that I feel ultimately worked against Arreola however, was, despite that success and the knockdown he was able to score, he was not able to limit Ruiz’ offensive output and as Ruiz found his rhythm, he gradually took control of the fight. What was an entertaining, yet tactical battle can be summed up as one fighter using his quicker reflexes to outwork an opponent that when he was able to land seemed to land the harder blows. Although Chris Arreola deserves all the credit in the world for fighting a completely different fight than one could expect and as a result looked like a new fighter than he had been throughout his entire career, his inability to nullify Ruiz from being able to get his punches off first and allowing himself to be outworked is what cost him the fight in a bout that I unofficially scored eight rounds to four or 116-111 in points for Ruiz.
The official decision of the twelve round bout was more lopsided in Ruiz’ favor in his winning a unanimous decision. While he did not take anything away from his opponent’s performance, the scoring of the three official judges infuriated Arreola, who lashed out in an explicit-filled tirade toward the official judges in a post-fight interview with Fox Sports’ Heidi Androl.
It is understandable how Arreola, who, despite the loss, fought one of the best fights of his career could be angry at a decision that he felt he should have won. He likely did not do himself any good by venting his frustration in the explicit way he did and it will be interesting to see what response the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) might have given that they and other regulatory commissions around the world have taken disciplinary action against fighters who have responded in similar ways as Arreola did towards judges and other commission officials.
Whether or not this could lead to a fine against Arreola or even a suspension remains to be seen. Prior to these two Heavyweight bouts there seemed to be a feeling that the two former world champions Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz, who fought in December 2016 for the then vacant WBO Heavyweight world championship that Parker emerged victorious in what was a razor thin bout in terms of scoring, could have been headed towards a rematch as both fighters look to secure another opportunity at a world championship if they were able to get past Dereck Chisora and Chris Arreola respectively.
Coming out of these fights however, that were extremely competitive, an argument should be made that both Chisora and Arreola deserve rematches because many felt neither fighter had much chance and much like the similarities each man found himself in going into these f, they are similar going out in each man having put forth what should be considered as the best performances of their respective careers. Something that should serve as another example for Boxing fans that you never know what to expect in the sport and especially in the Heavyweight division.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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