It appeared that Chris Arreola was in for a short night.
The 262-pound heavyweight contender, who was being cheered on by fans from nearby Riverside, hammered Curtis Harper to the canvas with a monster right hand in the first round Friday night that had knockout written all over it.
But the 265-pound Harper did not read the script, rising to beat the 10-count of referee Ray Corona and staging a surprising rally that included rocking Arreola several times before losing an eight-round unanimous decision in Spike TV’s first Premier Boxing Champions card from Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Arreola won by scores of 76-75, 77-74 and 78-84 on the cards of judges Eddie Hernandez, Pat Russell and Fernando Villareal.
“We’re in boxing. I was hoping he got back up. I didn’t just want a cheap knockout. He has a heart like that and he got back up and made it a fight. He came out there to win a fight,” Arreola said.
“He came out there to upset me and he came to prove to everyone that he’s not a steppingstone. And he’s not; he’s a tough guy. The main thing is getting back in the gym. I want to get in as soon as I can. The sooner the better. I had to knock out some ring rust today, and that’s nothing bad. It happens. It is what it is.”
The victory was the second straight for Arreola (36-4, 31 KOs), who ended a 10-month ring absence as well as a five-fight winning streak for Harper (12-3, 8 KOs).
Arreola tried to finish off Harper in the second, landing a series of head-swiveling rights and lefts. But Harper had some success behind his jab, and rocked Arreola several times during the middle rounds.
“I’m not surprised by anyone. In boxing, once you have over 15, 20 fights, you better know what the hell you’re doing,” Arreola said. “I knew he’d come in here as a tough fighter. Those looping right hands, I just couldn’t get away from them, I don’t know what it is about them.”
By Rounds 5 and 6, Arreola lacked the same power in either hand that he displayed early on, yet he was able to summon enough energy to push the pace and steal the later rounds on his activity alone.