CHRIS ARREOLA vs. JOEY ABELL
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / heavyweights
Location: Temecula, Calif.
The backdrop: Arreola (29-2, 25 KOs) is known for his lax training and flabby body but is trying to turn over a new leaf. He hired trainer Ronnie Shields to work with longtime mentor Henry Ramirez and moved his training camp to Houston, where his handlers say he trained diligently. The Southern Californian is coming off a unanimous-decision victory over Manuel Quezada in August but is 2-2 in his last four fights, having lost to Vitali Klitschko and Tomasz Adamek. He said his goal remains to win a world title and that his fight against Abell represents a fresh start toward that end. Abell (27-4, 26 KOs) is riding an eight-fight unbeaten streak (including one no-contest) but hasn’t faced anyone near Arreola’s ability as a professional, although Alfred Cole (against whom he lost a split decision) was once deemed a solid heavyweight. The Minnesotan, a southpaw, matches Arreola in size and evidently has punching power. More important, he has a solid amateur pedigree. He knows how to box. We’ll see whether he has the ability to compete with a Top-10 heavyweight, though. On the undercard, Michael Dallas is a talented young prospect facing a significant test against Josesito Lopez. Shawn Estrada is a former U.S. Olympian.
Also fighting: Michael Dallas Jr. vs. Josesito Lopez, 10 rounds, junior welterweights; Shawn Estrada vs. Jon Schmidt, 6 rounds, super middleweights
Rating the card: B. Abell probably won’t last long against Arreola but, with two big punchers, the main event should be fun to watch. And talented prospects Dallas and Estrada give the card depth.
CHARLES HUERTA vs. RAUL HIRALES
Rounds / weight class: 8 rounds / junior featherweights
Location: San Diego
The backdrop: Huerta (16-1, 9 KOs) has won five consecutive fights since his stunning first-round knockout loss to Derrick Wilson in 2009. And the Los Angeles-area product is coming off perhaps his most-impressive victory, a unanimous decision over experienced Arturo Camargo in his second eight-round fight. Huerta, 24, was a successful amateur who brings solid skills – and good punching power – to the professional ranks. Hirales (11-0-1, 7 KOs) slipped in his most-recent fight, settling for a six-round draw against countryman Fernando Vargas in September, but remains undefeated. The Mexican, who reportedly had a decent amateur career, has not fought outside his native country. On the undercard, former Olympian Gary Russell, who has unbelievably quick hands, is one of the most-talented prospects in the world. He faces Colombian veteran Feider Viloria, who has served as a stepping stone for a number of big-name opponents.
Also fighting: Gary Russell vs. Feider Viloria, 8 rounds, featherweights; Anthony Martinez vs. TBA, 4 rounds, welterweights
Rating the card: C+. Huerta has passed all but one of his tests. This one might turn out to be the most difficult. It will be interesting to see how he fares. And Russell is always fun to watch, if for no other reason than to marvel at his natural gifts.
Also Friday: Andrea Sarritzu defends his European flyweight title against Lee Haskins in Cagliari, Italy. In Chicago, former 135-pound titleholder David Diaz faces Robert Frankel is a 10-round lightweight bout.
DEVON ALEXANDER vs. TIMOTHY BRADLEY
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / junior welterweights
Location: Pontiac, Mich. (Silverdome)
The backdrop: This is the type of matchup hardcore boxing fans dream of, two prime young titleholders who are willing to put their perfect records on the line in an evenly matched fight. Bradley (26-0, 11 KOs) is THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight. The Southern Californian, athletic and skillful, probably has an edge over Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) in big-fight experience. He outpointed Junior Witter in the UK to win the WBC 140-pound title before decisioning Kendall Holt and Lamont Peterson. He also was beating Nate Campbell when the fight was declared a no-contest because of a cut over Campbell’s eye. Alexander, rated No. 3 (behind Amir Khan), also is athletic and well-schooled. He stopped Witter to claim the belt Bradley gave up. The St. Louis product subsequently knocked out Juan Urango in eight rounds and then narrowly outpointed Andreas Kotelnik in his most-recent fight, a tougher-than-expected challenge. Alexander probably has an edge in punching power. The winner could face Khan for supremacy of the division, although both obviously would prefer a huge-money fight against either Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao. Regardless, the winner on Saturday will make a loud statement. Julio Diaz, a two-time lightweight titleholder, is trying to re-establish himself as a junior welterweight. He is coming off a unanimous-decision victory over Herman Ngoudjo last May, which was preceded by two losses that threatened Diaz’s career. Miranda is 1-5-1 in his last seven fights. And, finally, the ever-popular Emanuel Augustus told boxingscene.com that his fight against Vernon Paris will be his last.
Also fighting: Julio Diaz vs. Pavel Miranda, 10 rounds, welterweights; Vernon Paris vs. Emanuel Augustus, 8 rounds, junior welterweights.
Rating the card: A-. This is the kind of matchup we should see every weekend. Purists are salivating. And Diaz has always been fun to watch, which is a bonus.
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR. vs. BILLY LYELL
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / middleweights
Location: Culiacan, Mexico
Television: Fox Deportes
The backdrop: Chavez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time since he outpointed John Duddy last June, his only fight in 2010. Junior, a popular fighter in Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, pulled out of a pay-per-view fight against Pawel Wolak in December because of a high fever. The inactivity stole much of the momentum he had built the past few years and with his victory over Duddy. Look for him to have a busier 2011, which starts with a rust-removing matchup with Lyell (22-8, 4 KOs). The former stablemate of Kelly Pavlik, who also lives in Youngstown, Ohio, is a good boxer but has little punching power. He upset Duddy in 2009 but was stopped in 10 rounds by Sebastian Sylvester in January of last year in his only title shot. He also has lost to Vanes Martirosyan, Yory Boy Campas and James Kirkland.
Also fighting: Jackie Nava vs. Fredee Gonzalez, 10 rounds, junior featherweights (females).
Rating the card: C+. Lyell should represent a stepping stone for Chavez. We’ll see if Junior’s inactivity hinders him in any way.
Also Saturday: Jason Gavern faces Mike Mollo in a 12-round heavyweight bout in Verona, N.Y., on gofightlive.tv. In Brakpan, South Africa, Nkosinathi Joyi defends his strawweight title against Katsunari Takayama. And, in London, the Prizefighter: Light heavyweights quarterfinals feature Travis Dickinson-Llewellyn Davies, Menay Edwards-Joe Smyth, Billy Slate-Jack Morris and Tony Dodson-Michael Banbula.
On Monday (Jan. 31): Takashi Uchiyama defends his junior lightweight title against Takashi Miura in Tokyo. Also on that card, Ryol Li Lee defends his junior featherweight title against Akifumi Shimoda.