Friday, January 28 in Temecula, CA (ESPN 2): Chris Arreola (29-2, 25 KOs) vs. Joey Abell (27-4, 26 KOs), heavyweights (201+ lb.)
Prediction: Arreola by KO
After getting a boxing lesson against Vitali Klitschko in September 2009 and then inexplicably undertraining for a close decision loss to Tomasz Adamek the following April, Arreola takes his second "Friday Night Fights" feature on his road back to contendership against Minnesota's Abell, who's never faced anyone of Arreola's level but has some background to at least make it somewhat interesting on paper.
First, there's the obvious knockout ratio. Though he's faced many club fighters, anyone with 26 KOs in 27 wins can hit. Also, he's fought almost a third of his bouts in the Blue Horizon or the Philadelphia area, so he's probably been in a good scrap or two.
Both seem to be taking this one seriously, coming in 10-15 pounds less than they have lately, Arreola at 249 and Abell at 236. Arreola has an excellent chin but sometimes foregoes defense because of it, so Abell will have his chance to test it. But, for all of the negativity about Arreola's conditioning - and rightly so - he remains one of the heavyweight division's best and hardest combination punchers, and that should win him most of the exchanges tonight and put Abell on the canvas more than once.
Mike Dallas, Jr. (17-0-1, 7 KOs) vs. Josesito Lopez (28-3, 16 KOs), junior welterweights (140 lb.)
Prediction: Dallas by decision
This should be the fight of the night, featuring a 24 year old undefeated former amateur standout against a veteran who's faced much tougher pro competition and won his last six straight - and Lopez is only 26. Part of you wants to pick the tough Lopez, who's defeated very good pros like Patrick Lopez, Marvin Cordova and Tyrone Harris. We'll fight out where Dallas is tonight; if Lopez can't take him out, though, he should pull out a points win.
Saturday, January 29 in Detroit (HBO):
Tim Bradley (26-0, 11 KOs) vs. Devon Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs), junior welterweights (140 lb.)
Prediction: Bradley by decision
We wait and wait for fights like these, way too few and far between, and still it has gotten some negative press within boxing circles this week, some warranted and some not. The deserved bad press: Detroit? And the Silverdome? That's just not smart, whatever the rationale. It's understandable that Gary Shaw is hesitant to take his fighter into Alexander's hometown, where he could potentially get shafted, but these two are not a draw in any other city in the world. The poor turnout will make both of the fighters and their promoters look bad and dampen some of the excitement from what could have been an electric crowd.
The few other negative comments have been utterly ridiculous and evidence writers that just don't get it: Some have written that this bout is happening too soon, that it hasn't been built up enough. Utter garbage. In an era where all we get is the building of bouts that never materialize, promoters and managers need to just make the damn fights. We all know which ones need to happen, and for junior welterweights, it's Bradley versus Alexander, the best two 140 pounders in the world.
While both can pop, neither is a knockout artist, and a combination of caution and defensive skill will make a stoppage an unlikelihood. While Bradley is the slight favorite, Alexander's probably a slightly better boxer, with straighter, more accurate punches. As a southpaw, he should see Bradley's best punch, the looping right, coming, and his straight left should find a home.
However, Bradley just seems stronger and more physical, and no one is in better condition than "The Desert Storm." Look for him to impose himself on Alexander in the second half of the fight and pull away in this can't miss championship fight.
Saturday, January 29 in Culiacan, Mexico (Fox Deportes):
Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (41-0-1, 30 KOs) vs. Billy Lyell (22-8, 4 KOs), middleweights (160 lb.)
Prediction: Chavez by decision
Yes, Chavez deserves favorite status, and a chance of a Lyell win is remote in Culiacan. But things could get interesting: Chavez is clearly an underachiever, having weight troubles, undertraining and illegally using dietary supplements to cut weight. Don't be surprised if he's a pound or two over this weekend.
Plus, with his entitlement attitude, he probably is overlooking Youngstown's Lyell, who's not afraid to mix it up with a kind of old school style of weaving and throwing combinations. It's almost as if Chavez is perfectly ripe for the upset - almost. Not in Culiacan.