Chris “Nightmare” Arreola (36-3, 31 KOs) resurrected his sagging career in an important crossroads fight against one-loss prospect Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell (26-2-1, 19 KOs) with an emphatic two and-a-half minute demolition Saturday night. Mitchell had serious questions about his chin against world-class opposition before the bout, and despite his undeniable punching-power, was considerably less experienced than his opponent. This daunting combination resulted in a mismatch.
Mitchell came out moving well with his hands high–clearly mindful of his defense–and landed a pair of hard left hooks that Arreola partially blocked. Both punches still landed with an audible thud, as Arreola said in his post-fight interview, “Trust me he hits hard. ‘Cause when he hit me a couple times I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ Lot harder than I thought.”
Arreola patiently stalked forward and landed a big right that had Mitchell badly hurt and groping for the clinch a minute into the opening round. Mitchell only survived a knockdown after Arreola threw him down to avoid being tackled to the floor himself. Mitchell rose stunned yet game, but soon a left hook and another right wobbled him and a follow-up volley sent him crashing to the canvas.
Mitchell rose at the count of four looking dazed before taking the mandatory eight-count, and Arreola calmly pursued his out-gunned opponent when the ref waved the action back on. A right stunned Mitchell and pinned him to the ropes as Arreola unloaded with both hands, forcing Mitchell to turn his back and stumble away as the ref called a halt to the action at 2:26 of the first round.
In the post-fight interview, the newly-trimmed Arreola admitted to shooting himself in the foot in the past with erratic training habits, but credited his renewed dedication to his new grueling Phoenix, Arizona-based fight camp. Despite winning the WBC international heavyweight title, Arreola expressed his desire to fight for the “Big one,” against either Wladimir Klitschko or in re-matches against Vitali Klitschko or Bermane Stiverne. Given the bleak picture of American heavyweights, Arreola may have just rocketed his way back to the top of the contender’s list.
In the undercard, Efrain Esquivas (17-2-1, 10 KOs) scored a major upset in earning the biggest win of his career with a ninth-round knockout of Mexican fighting legend Rafael Marquez (41-9, 37 KOs). Marquez started fast sweeping the first two rounds, but took an ever-increasing amount of punishment as the fight wore on, and the thirty-eight year-old hinted at retirement following the largely one-sided affair.
Esquivas admitted to being a slow starter after the bout, and heading into the third was down on all three judges’ scorecards. In the third the tide began to turn however as Esquivas suddenly found a home for his rolling counter-right that he continued to land repeatedly throughout the evening, until it ultimately ended up being the punch that put Marquez away. After the third time he cracked Marquez with it in the round, Showtime commentator and welterweight Paulie Malilgnaggi proposed, “(Esquivias) may have found something there.” Malignaggi’s observation became increasingly obvious as the fight wore on.
Esquivias showed slight swellings under both eyes as well as a small cut, but began walking Marquez down in the fourth. The fifth was Esquivias’ best of the bout so far, as he started to work Marques over with a ripping body attack and solid head shots–many of them rolling counter-rights to the head. The sixth was even better for Esquivias as he began to overwhelm Marquez with his pressure and work-rate, hitting him with everything but the ring post.
While receiving a beating the caliber of the savagery of his four bouts with Israel Vasquez, and although not doing nearly of his own damage as in those classic wars, one of the toughest and gutsiest fighters of his era entered the seventh round undaunted. The seventh was basically more of the same, with Esquivias walking down Marquez and chewing him up on the inside until suddenly Marquez rallied viciously. Marquez landed a one-two before unloading a brutal left hook to the body that caused Esquivias to retreat for the first time in many rounds. Marquez followed his opponent to the ropes, and unloaded everything he had in the final ten seconds, although many of the punches did not land solidly upon inspection of the replay. Still, Marquez fans familiar with his penchant for such heroics could now sense a miraculous come-from-behind upset.
In the eighth Marquez came out eager to turn the tide, but it may have been his undoing mentally as Esquivias responded in kind and resumed his withering attack. The two fighters met at center-ring, each determined to impose his will on the other, but soon Esquivias began to once again take control. Esquivias landed a four-punch combination that drove Marquez back to the ropes as Esquivias continued to land seemingly at will for the remainder of the round. Esquivias landed a huge right at the bell that rocked Marquez enough that he nearly touched a glove to the canvas to steady himself.
Marquez never recovered from that shot. Esquivias landed a couple left hooks to open the ninth before unleashing the same punch he had been successful with all night: a sharp rolling counter-right hand that dropped Marquez. Marquez struggled gamely to get back to his feet by the count of five but began dazedly walking to his corner, forcing the ref to stop the bout nineteen seconds into the round.
The post-fight interview between the two that turned into an impromptu joint press conference with an equally impromptu translation from Esquivias to non-hispanic fans was one of the non-fight highlights of the year. Esquivias was extremely respectful, explaining how much of a fan he was of Marquez and what an honor it was to fight him. Marquez for his part, proclaimed that his kid-conquerer was destined for greatness, and eluded to retirement.
These night of fights should propel the charismatic heavy-hitter Arreola into the title picture, while simultaneously likely removing certain future hall-of-famer Marquez from the list of active fighters. One young fighter ascends, another older one falls: the cycle of life in boxing.