Chris Arreola and Travis Kauffman came into their fight Saturday night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio as friends and longtime sparring partners. They left with plenty of questions unsettled.
Arreola (37-4-1, 31 KOs) didn’t have the dominant performance he was looking for, but he escaped with the victory nonetheless, earning the slimmest of split decisions on two 114-113 cards versus a 113-114 tote for Kauffman (30-2, 22 KOs).
“It could have gone either way. I knew the last rounds were the championship rounds, and I had to pull it out of my ass,” Arreola said. “This is a quality opponent. I barely won by a split decision. I’d gladly give him a rematch. He gave me a real good fight.”
After Arreola made it to his feet, Kauffman pounced on his former sparring partner and had him in trouble, but the bell brought a reprieve. From there, Kauffman poured it on through the middle of the fight, but things swung back in Arreola’s favor after a low blow from Kauffman stopped the action in the ninth.
The delay, as painful as it was, seemed to wake Arreola up, and he re-established himself over the later portion of the fight. He switched from setting up a chopping right hand with a jab to setting it up with a left uppercut, and it worked—so much so that Arreola didn't hesitate to flash a “How you like me now?” smile at Kauffman as he retreated to his corner.
“He’s a good counterpuncher, and he knows how to throw punches," Arreola said. "I was catching him with some punches that I knew were staggering him. I knew he was expecting me to just bull-rush him, to come forward like I used to do it. I knew I had to show him something a little different.”
Kauffman had only ever been into the 10th round once in his career, and was noticeably laboring from the fifth. The extra frames tilted things in favor of an Arreola who entered the fight at 236.5 pounds—his lightest weight since 2011.
Following consecutive lackluster efforts prior to Saturday, Arreola had talked about needing to put on a more convincing show in order to once again be considered a player at the top of the division. And even though his performance against Kauffman was his best of the year and got him back in the win column after his July draw against Fred Kassi, Arreola's showing wasn’t much different.
“I’ve got to earn it,” he said. “I’m in here to fight. No matter what stage of my career I’m in, I’ve got to win convincingly. I’m not like Shannon Briggs, who I like, but that’s not me. I’m not the guy who’s going to be out there yapping.”
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