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Official Picks for Williams-Wright and Arreola-McCline

234x246_medium Here we go again on our own...

This weekend's HBO World Championship Boxing doubleheader will just be part of a night of the sweet science on the network.

At 8pm, the documentary Thrilla in Manila will air for the first time ever. The fight has been talked to death over the last three decades, but HBO has a keen eye for quality sports documentary/etc. programming, so I really expect it to be nothing less than excellent.

At 9:30, the new "24/7" series covering Hatton-Pacquiao airs its debut episode. And then at 10 we head to Vegas for live fights. Should be a fun night for fight fans.

Let's get pickin'.

Paul Williams v. Winky Wright (Middleweights, 12 Rounds)

This one is a pain to try to predict. Winky Wright is unquestionably the best fighter Paul Williams has ever faced -- period. Paul has some good wins (Margarito, Quintana, Verno, etc.) but nobody who's headed to the Hall as Winky likely is. These are two of the decade's most avoided fighters. Winky couldn't get anyone to fight him before Shane Mosley took the challenge and lost twice to Wright. Since the second Mosley win in November 2004, Wright has fought just five times, though, going 3-1-1. He's beaten and embarrassed Tito Trinidad, beaten Sam Soliman, drawn with Jermain Taylor, beaten an old Ike Quartey and lost to Bernard Hopkins. Nothing to be ashamed of with the loss and the draw -- B-Hop is a legend and Taylor was middleweight champion of hte world -- but those are really his three wins since November 2004. Blown-up Tito, journeyman Soliman, and washed-up Bazooka Quartey.

Williams has turned into half a damn barnstormer since emphatically knocking the crap out of Quintana to avenge his one pro loss, fighting Andy Kolle at middleweight and Verno Phillips at 154 pounds because he couldn't get anyone else to fight him.

As always, Williams' 82" reach is going to be a big deal. It's not even that Williams uses it as effectively as he could; he's just as good if not better fighting in close than he is at a distance. It's just that the other guy always has to take it into account. If Williams starts firing a long jab, you have to be prepared for it, or he keeps guys at bay all night long in theory. The longest guy Winky's ever fought was Taylor (78" reach), followed by Bernard (75" reach). He had trouble with both of them, which I'm only noting because it's true, not becaue they're at all similar to Williams.

Williams, on the other hand, has never looked comfortable fighting fellow southpaws. Carlos Quintana gave him hell in their first fight but Williams was able to get him out quick in the rematch. That big ferocious assault in the second fight was no coincidence, I don't think. Williams knew he couldn't let Quintana get his timing down again or it'd be another long night.

Since we've been talking chins lately, Winky's has never shown any issue. He also just doesn't get hit clean very often. His guard is exceptionally tight, even famously so. He'll block all night long. Block and jab, block and jab, the Winky Wright formula. Wink's idea will be to slow Williams down, same as it's been in almost all of his other big fights. Williams has to break right, which is a tall order.

I feel like writing a Bill Plaschke column with this fight. "In one locker room, the young champion, confident, poised, loose, dreaming of bigger days to come. In the other locker room, the old fighter, stoic, focused, remembering bigger days past." And then the young / old thing goes on for several more alleged paragraphs.

I have no idea about this fight, because Winky Wright's been gone so long it's half a mystery how he'll look, how he'll fight, what sort of shape he's in, what kind of gas tank he has left, if he really wants it anymore, and so on. With that on my head, I have to side with youth. But it won't be easy. Williams SD-12

Chris Arreola v. Jamee McCline (Heavyweights, 12 Rounds)

To further illustrate just how long Williams is, Jameel McCline is a 6'6", 270ish-pound man. His reach is exactly the same as P-Will's.

This is a fight between a couple of fellas who -- all due respect on both sides -- don't exactly go around missing meals in camp. "Big Time" McCline is 38 years old and coming off of a 12-round decision win over knockaround guy Mike Mollo last November in one of the WBC's countless eliminator fights. He hasn't been a legit contender in years and it doesn't figure he'll ever be one again.

Arreola, 28, really needs to be impressive this time out. He showed some chinks in the armor against enthusiastic slugger Travis Walker in his last fight, going down in the second round under a furious assault from Walker before storming back to end it mightily in the third frame. If Arreola has problems with the big man this Saturday, I can't really foresee him ever being a heavyweight force.

Dedication has been his main issue so far. He's got real power, he sits down on punches fairly well when he puts the effort in, and he's shown he knows how to finish a fight. He also has a legit amateur background; the guy can box a little. But his weight has fluctuated wildly. At 6'4", he started his career around 235-240 pounds. He got down to a career-low 229 in 2006 when he fought Damian Wills. The last two fights he's been a sloppy-looking 258 1/2 and 254 pounds. That 258 is a 30-pound jump from the Wills fight. If he got himself down to 230-235, he could be really dangerous. But he admittedly slacks off.

I don't think he'll have much trouble with McCline, yet another in a string of hand-picked showcase opponents. HBO is invested in his short-term future at the very least. Jameel, pretty likeable guy that he is, is just there to make the younger guy look good. He probably hasn't been told that, though. Arreola TKO-6, but I do think McCline will have some moments that make Arreola really turn it on

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