ONTARIO, CA. – Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola proved to a national televised audience that he’s ready for another level of heavyweight as he stopped Chicago’s Thomas “The Hitman” Hayes (26-2, 18 KOs) in capturing the WBC Continental America’s title on Friday.
The Riverside, California heavyweight Arreola has been riding an impressive streak and continued his undefeated ways before more than 1,200 mostly pro-Arreola fans at the Doubletree Hotel in the fight card promoted by Goossen-Tutor and Thompson Boxing Promotions. It was televised by Telefutura.
“I’m a little excited about winning the title but I was more excited about fighting at home in front of my crowd,” said Arreola (22-0, 20 KOs).
There had been some questions about his punching power, his size and his speed but none of that mattered against Hayes. Now it looks like its onward and upward for the Mexican-American heavyweight attempting to become the first of his heritage to crack the top 10 in several decades.
“I brought the title home,” said Arreola, 26. “When I hit him with a stiff jab I felt he felt the power.”
Both fighters fought within inches of each other with a tight guard in the first round. Arreola landed a few hard rights to the body that seemed to give him the opening round but neither fighter landed enough to be the dominant winner in the opening frame.
“Chris started off a little sluggish at first,” said Henry Ramirez, Arreola’s trainer. “I was surprised it happened so quickly to tell you the truth.”
The second round saw both fighters land some hard blows. A six-punch combination by Arreola forced Hayes to hold on. But the Chicago fighter returned with a right counter and left uppercut. Arreola resumed working on the body with right hands that seemed to affect Hayes.
“I kind of froze a little bit. I wish I would have thrown more combinations,” said Hayes (26-2, 18 KOs), in his first fight in California and recently signing a contract with Goossen-Tutor Promotions who co-promoted the fight with Thompson Boxing Promotions. “I hit him with a right hand and left uppercut but I couldn’t really get my shots off.”
The third round saw Arreola land a right hand and left uppercut that forced Hayes to hold on once again, but the Riverside heavyweight tore through his guard with body shots and a three-punch combination dropped Hayes through the ropes. Referee Tony Crebs wisely stopped the fight immediately at 1:45 of the third round for a technical knockout victory for Arreola.
“It was body, body, body, I’ve been working on that since I was a kid,” said Arreola explaining how he opened up Hayes tight defense. “I knew when I landed it was over.”
Hayes was examined by the ringside physicians and deemed fit.
“I got nothing but good things to say about the man. He beat me fair with no cheap shots,” said Hayes, 26, who lost for the first time in more than four years.
The crowd of more than 1,200 cheered deliriously for the area’s first heavyweight titleholder of any kind.
“He’s got the KO power that the fans love,” said Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor Promotions.
Rialto’s Dominic Salcido ripped through Arizona’s Saul Ochoa with his blazing speed in winning a relatively easy decision and the vacant WBC junior lightweight . It looked like he could have ended the fight in two rounds but he decided to move and pepper Ochoa from the outside after hurting his right hand in the fourth round. It was a dominant unanimous decision for Salcido 80-72 twice and 79-73.
Immediately after the fight, Salcido grabbed the microphone, asked his girlfriend to come up on the ring, and kneeling before he proposed marriage to Yesenia Flores, 20, of Rialto, California. She answered yes.
In the semi-main event Fernando Zuniga, who was winning the fight, was disqualified for repeated low blows in his middleweight bout against San Jose’s Ricardo Cortes.
A counter right hand dropped Cortes in the second round but Zuniga’s blows to the abdomen in the first, second and third rounds, were ruled slightly low by referee Lou Moret. The third blow, that seemed on the belt from ringside, saw Cortes drop to his knees for the third time. The crowd was irritated by Cortes who they felt was feigning injury. The referee stopped the fight at 55 seconds in the third and gave the victory to Cortes.
Riverside’s Rafael Lopez (2-0), the younger brother of lightweight contender Josesito Lopez, needed only 45 seconds to knock out Jose Hurtado (0-1) in a junior middleweight contest.
A featherweight battle between Hemet’s Ricardo Martinez and Chino’s Jesus Hernandez (1-1) was decided with a fourth round knockdown by Martinez and ended in a unanimous victory for him. The judges scored it 39-36 twice and 38-37 for Martinez (1-1) who captured his first pro win.
A slow-moving fight between lightweight counter-punchers Cortez Bey (7-0, 4 KOs) of Ohio and Puerto Rico’s Roberto Acevedo (2-3-3) tested the crowd’s patience. After six rounds of posing and feints the judges scored the lifeless bout a split-decision for Bey 59-55, 58-56 and 55-59.