LOS ANGELES – If he weren't a foot taller and about 100 or so pounds heavier, one could have sworn that it was pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. and not Vitali Klitschko bounding around the ring Saturday at the Staples Center.
Klitschko put on one of the finest performances of a brilliant career in which he's fended off doubters and naysayers as often as he has his opponents.
Klitschko used his jab, lateral movement and counter punching to dominate previously unbeaten Cris Arreola before 14,556 on Saturday, stopping him after the 10th round of their World Boxing Council heavyweight title fight when trainer "Electric" Henry Ramirez would not allow Arreola to take further punishment.
"Cris is one of those fighters you have to protect from himself," Ramirez said.
Arreola entered the bout with a 27-0 record and 24 knockouts and was hardly the cheesy challenger like so many who are ranked No. 1 by the WBC. However, judging by the way Klitschko tore him apart and parried his ill-intentioned punches, Arreola would have needed a SWAT team in full tactical gear to protect him from Klitschko, who in just the third fight of his comeback is establishing himself as the game's most unbeatable heavyweight since the mid-to-late 1980s version of Mike Tyson.
There is literally no one on the scene with the capability of defeating the Ukrainian-born Klitschko, who at 6-foot-8 and 252 pounds towers over the division in more ways than one. He's now 38-2 with 37 knockouts, failing only to stop Timo Hoffman. He has the power to knock out anyone in the division and showed on Saturday he has the diversity in his game to outbox anyone with whom he chooses not to brawl.
Klitschko grimaced as he was asked why his style hasn't resonated with American boxing fans, many of whom booed him in the second half of the bout on Saturday.
"All of the public, they want to see great fighters get close and prove who has a better chin, [and see] a lot of blood [and] a couple of knockdowns," Klitschko said. "I don't want to prove [I have a hard] head. I want to use my head after my boxing career. That's why I work a lot on defense. Maybe it didn't look so impressive, but I wasn't going to let him punch me." Klitschko diffused Arreola's power by keeping a jab in his face and constantly circling away from danger. Arreola's one hope to win the fight was to get inside and land a leaping left hook that could have stunned Klitschko.
As Ramirez was watching the fight unfold, he didn't see that ever happening despite his faith in Arreola.
"I didn't see the possibility of him turning the tide," Ramirez said.
When Tyson knocked out Trevor Berbick in 1986 to become the youngest man to hold the heavyweight belt, he was so dominant that it appeared he would hold it for as long as he wanted. Ultimately, personal issues and a lack of discipline eventually did in Tyson and resulted in his 1990 upset loss to Buster Douglas.
It's hard to imagine Klitschko succumbing to the kind of lifestyle issues that plagued Tyson. Nor are there anywhere near the same kind of quality contenders for Klitschko to fight.
The result is that unless he agrees to fight his younger brother, Wladimir, who holds the World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation belts, there is no one with more than a fluke chance to defeat him.
Klitschko is likely to take the belt back to Europe and defend it against a string of second-tier contenders. He'll get ripped for it because he seems to get ripped for much of what he does, though it's hardly his fault.
He's professional, he's classy and he's successful. There is little he doesn't do.
The only thing he didn't do on Saturday was put Arreola down and that was more a testament to Arreola. Klitschko landed 301 of 802 punches while limiting Arreola to just 86 of 331.
"In the second round, I landed a left hook and actually I was shocked," Klitschko said. "I felt it was so strong and he still stayed up. In Round 4, it was exactly the same and he stayed up. In Round 6, I landed a right cross, exactly on the chin. He shook a little bit but he kept going forward. I was very surprised by his chin. He has a great chin and a big heart.
"He has a big heart, a big punch, a good amateur background and he's had a good professional career. The thing, though, is he doesn't have the experience I do. The main point in any job, whether you're a journalist or whatever, is experience. You take your time and do the job. … I tricked him a few times. I made him work and I hit him with counter combinations."
Klitschko hit Arreola with a counter left and a lead right. He landed punishing jabs and crunching uppercuts. He went to the body, the head and the arms. Much of Arreola's elbow pain came as a result of blocking Klitschko's punches.
It's puzzling why the American public hasn't embraced the man.
For those who don't like him, though, there's bad news.
Vitali Klitschko is going to be around for a while. Nobody on the horizon is going to beat him unless they start allowing opponents to carry weapons into the ring.
- Vitali Klitschko