Unfortunately, this is a holiday weekend. Now it's great in almost all ways that it is a holiday weekend, but that means boxing is basically non-existent on U.S. TV. But there is a Friday Night Fights show tomorrow, featuring two of America's best heavyweights in tune-up fights.
Chris Arreola (31-2, 27 KO) vs Kendrick Releford (22-14-2, 10 KO)
Everyone knows Arreola, of course. Until recently he's been most noted for his weight gains and his unsightly jiggle every time he took or threw a punch, or so much as got off his stool. It's not that Arreola was so grossly out of shape that you won't see worse on any trip to the beach, or if you came to my house on a hot summer day when I don't have a shirt on, but he's a professional athlete and our expectations are higher there. Also, because he's an exciting, likeable American heavyweight -- and he wasn't taking full advantage of his abilities.
This is short notice for Arreola, who jumped in to replace the slated main event of Josesito Lopez vs Steve Upsher Chambers after fighting on May 14 in Carson, Calif., on the Ward vs Abraham card. He got Nagy Aguilera out inside of three in that one, which is about normal for Arreola.
Of Arreola's 31 wins, 20 of them (64.5%) have come inside of three rounds. Of course, 0 of them (0%) have come against a real top-level opponent, and he's still kind of searching for a defining win. At this point, that would probably be his win over busted prospect Chazz Witherspoon, who was undefeated at the time they met but has done nothing since. Releford won't be that win, but it's nice to see Arreola so active and trimmed down anyway.
Releford, 29, is probably a hair or two better than his record. "The Apostle" turned pro in 2001 and really never got into any sort of groove for his career. He's a pretty durable guy, having only been stopped twice in 14 losses, by DaVarryl Williamson in 2004, and at cruiserweight in 2009 by Alexander Alexeev. He also once got to main event on that Versus abomination series that Top Rank ran, against -- you guessed it! -- Tye Fields. It was an awful fight, but he went the full 10 with "Big Sky" Tye.
Figure on Arreola ending this one early, even though Releford doesn't often get stopped. For one thing the miles are piling up for him, and Arreola fights with more aggression than most heavyweights out there. If the Abell and Aguilera fights for Arreola are any indication, he's not planning on staying too long in this one. Arreola KO-4
Tony Thompson (35-2, 23 KO) vs Maurice Harris (24-14-2, 10 KO)
6'5" southpaw Thompson didn't turn pro until he was 28 years old in 2000, and outside of a stumble in his fifth pro fight, he's done nothing but win except that time in 2008 he lost to Wladimir Klitschko. And even then, Thompson gave Klitschko about the toughest fight and most resistance he's faced since the first bout with Samuel Peter. He's been residing in or around the worldwide top ten for a few years now, and has earned it. Only the Klitschko fight caused any headlines, but you get the feeling he's not high on anyone's list to fight, either. He fights who he can, and he beats them.
Since losing to Klitschko, he's won four straight, all by stoppage.
Since returning to the pro rings in 2010 after missing 2008-09, the 35-year-old "Mo Bettah" Harris has won four straight, all against decent gatekeepers. Billy Zumbrun, Julius Long, Robert Hawkins, and Nagy Aguilera have all lost, and all by decision to Harris.
While Harris has been stopped 10 times in his career, six of those stoppage losses came from 1992-1996, when he started his career with a mark of 7-8-2 as a light heavyweight and cruiserweight. Since then he's gone 17-6. Back in '97, he lost a split decision to Larry Holmes in one of Holmes' many retirement fights. Harris is a big guy (6'4", 80" reach) and has trimmed down in his comeback to around 230-240 pounds on the scales, down from the 260s in 2006-07, when he was really out of shape.
You have to favor Thompson here, but keep in mind he did drop a three-rounder that didn't count toward the records to Harris back in 2002 in Cedric Kushner's "Thunderbox" tournament. It was the tournament finals, and Harris walked out $100,000 richer. This time they meet "for real," with less money on the line. I'd expect Thompson, who has improved with age, to take this one, but not without some decent trouble from Harris. This fight is also an IBF eliminator for the #2 spot in their rankings. Thompson TKO-11