Ring of Fire: Klitschko-Solis, Lee-Duddy, Friday Night Fights and More

Odlanier Solis will get his shot at Vitali Klitschko on March 19. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Friday Night Fights

The start of a new year always makes for a slow boxing news cycle, and there is basically nothing going on right now. It won't be until January 29 that we get the first major fight of the year as far as U.S. fans are concerned, though ESPN2 has put together a solid January schedule for Friday Night Fights, including Peter Manfredo Jr. in the main event this week, along with Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez in the co-feature against Aaron Pryor Jr.

On January 21, FNF will be off, but the show returns on January 28 with Cristobal Arreola against Joey Abell in the main event from Temecula, California. Also featuring on the show that night will be Shawn Estrada, who faces Minnesota club fighter Jon Schmidt (10-1, 6 KO). Arreola-Abell is your standard fight for a name guy (Arreola) to look good on TV and get back in the mix, even though beating Abell isn't really going to say much about him. Arreola injured himself last time out against Manuel Quezada, though, so the soft-ish touch upon return isn't unexpected, and it's not like Cristobal has a habit of ducking anyone or anything like that, so it just is what it is. Could be a slugfest.

The Klitschkos

The big news this week centered on the Klitschko brothers. Tomasz Adamek is in the mix to face one of them later this year, and apparently it doesn't much matter which one. For now, David Haye is back off the table and everyone is bitching and whining and accusing each other and refusing to get a fight done. I still think Wladimir-Haye happens this year, but we'll see. The further along it goes, the more David Haye looks genuinely uneasy about the idea of fighting either of them, and that's just how I'm seeing it these days.

As for big brother, Vitali will be facing Odlanier Solis on March 19 in Germany. I don't think Solis will win, but it's not because I don't think he can, so that's a big difference. Solis just doesn't keep himself in peak shape, which can make it reasonable to assume he doesn't focus very well during training. It's one thing to get through the likes of Monte Barrett and Ray Austin while ballooning up to 260-270 pounds on a 6'1" frame, but Vitali is a different animal. The good thing is I'm genuinely curious, because Solis' skillset is legit. So for the first time in a while, I'll be tuning in to a Klitschko fight actually anxious to see how the challenger does.

Andy Lee-John Duddy

It's also been reported that Andy Lee and John Duddy will "finally" meet in March. Lee (24-1, 18 KO) was at first accepted and later rejected as a potential HBO opponent for Sergio Martinez, and because he thought he had that lined up, he lost an ESPN2 rematch with Brian Vera, the only man to beat him so far. Duddy (29-2, 18 KO) has been off the radar since his June loss in Texas to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., where he was pretty well outclassed overall by Chavez.

A few years ago, both Duddy and Lee were considered future challengers for Kelly Pavlik in money fights. Both have big Irish-American followings and can sell in the northeast. But then it all started coming down. Ignoring even Pavlik's career collapse, Lee was upset by Vera in 2008, and realistically has yet to rehab his image despite going 9-0 since then. He's been fighting on smaller cards since then and hopefully fine-tuning himself, and a lot of the fights, to be fair, have been against fair competition. Duddy finally had a decision go against him when he faced Billy Lyell in 2009, and then got beaten by Chavez. The Lyell loss was something that in a lot of ways was a long time coming. He'd escaped by the skin of his teeth against Walid Smichet and Howard Eastman, and I thought he lost the Smichet fight, and felt the two judges' scorecards of 98-92 for Duddy were a disgrace.

Duddy, at 31, is a known quantity. He is an OK fighter, but nothing more, and it seems to me that he's lost a lot of the gusto that "got him over" in the first place. He really isn't a blood-and-guts guy anymore, and seems a bit tentative when the action picks up. He was great at getting his face beaten in while coming forward for a good while, but it seems like he's gotten sick of having his face beaten in, or at least sick enough of that to hesitate with his own offense. Lee, 26, still has upside, and it would be very silly to write him off just yet. The Duddy fight is a good one to tell us where he's at right now. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), this isn't the Lee-Duddy moneymaker envisioned a few years ago, but they should do a nice house in Connecticut.

Odds and Ends

WBC cruiserweight titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk is recovering from knee surgery right now, but is scheduled to fight on April 2 against Francisco Palacios in Poland. He had the surgery in December, a couple of months after struggling a bit with Jason Robinson in what was, on paper, supposed to be an easy fight for him.

Quietly, it was announced that Audley Harrison will keep his purse for the David Haye debacle in November. Boxing sanctioning bodies and governing bodies love doing this kind of thing. They make a big ruckus about how they're going to look into something, and fix what's wrong with this damned sport, by God, and then they wait for most people to forget all about it and send out some news that nothing changed at all, and along we move. Not that I don't agree with the move. You can't punish Harrison for freezing up, and I really feel that way. It's not his fault people bought the hype and then felt ripped off.

FX's "Lights Out" seems to be getting solid reviews after its debut last night. I reviewed the show recently here, so if you missed that, check it out. Did anyone check it out last night? Thoughts?

Speaking of which, who's going to be getting Fight Night Champion upon release? Truth is, I almost surely won't unless I wrangle a review copy (hint, hint, EA Sports), and I'd love to have sort of a community review of the game from those who are bigger gamers than myself. If you're interested in participating, let me know. I figure everyone interested could play the game for a few days, send me thoughts, and I'll put together a front page post.

For those who might be wondering about some of the Boxing Bulletin staffers who did not join our esteemed and wonderful cast, don't worry, they're still out there. Michael Nelson and Patrick Connor (along with our own Andrew Fruman) will be contributing to Carlos Acevedo's excellent blog The Cruelest Sport, while Corey Erdman and Andrew Harrison (along with Anthony Wilson) will be at another great boxing blog, Tim Starks' Queensberry Rules. I cannot recommend both sites highly enough for those of you here who aren't familiar with them. Ivan Montiel can be read at FightFan.com.

On a final note and a bit of an aside, the best thing about Michigan's hiring of Brady Hoke is that in four or five years, the Wolverines will introduce Jim Harbaugh as head coach of the football team. I have nothing in the world against Brady Hoke and I hope it's a success, but I thought the school handled the whole thing really poorly, didn't really give themselves a shot at Harbaugh, and now no matter what the good word is out of Ann Arbor, it feels like they settled on Brady Hoke. And if he fails, I don't think it's going to be his fault, but a cold, hard reality that Michigan ain't Michigan anymore.

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