ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — There are three noteworthy fights on the undercard of the middleweight Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez main event Saturday, although the best of them won’t be on HBO. That’s just for me and the people who decided to come to AC. Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-boo-boo. Here’s the rundown:
- Chris Arreola-Brian Minto. This heavyweight fight is on HBO, somehow. I’m all in favor of Arreola being back in the ring right away, and I’m all in favor of this exciting and charismatic man being back on HBO soon despite losing his last fight, a game but failed attempt at Vitali Klitschko. Arreola needs a confidence-building fight in the wake of that loss, his first. But Minto, by my read, has virtually no chance of winning. I like Minto; he’s a tough guy who’s been in some exciting fights himself. But he’s not in Arreola’s class. I’m not saying that this is a terrible undercard fight, per se — if it were a main event, I’d be bitching like crazy — but HBO has raised the bar high enough this year for what fights they’re willing to put on air that I’m not of the mind this reaches that level, especially when combined with a similar mismatch it aired a few weeks ago when junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo demolished Harry Joe Yorgey. Both Angulo-Yorgey and Arreola-Minto are borderline undercard fights. HBO has shown it is committed to airing fights of young boxers it believes have star potential, and that’s fine — I’d just prefer they do what they did with junior lightweight Robert Guerrero when, after a setback, he had to fight his soft touch on ESPN2 before taking another tough fight on HBO. Official prediction: Arreola wins by corner stoppage in a fight that goes on too long. (Anybody wanna play “guess Arreola’s weight” before Friday’s weigh-in, by the way? I’m going optimistic: 245.)
- Carlos Quintana-Jesse Feliciano. Quintana was going to fight Joshua Clottey on the undercard of Saturday’s original lineup, but when Kelly Pavlik pulled out of the Williams fight, Top Rank, promoter of Pavlik and Clottey was no longer involved in the card. That would have been a highly worthwhile undercard fight. Instead, we’re left with Quintana against a guy who’s really tough and determined but not much else. Feliciano is so bad on defense that his career has seen him take a ton of punches, and truthfully I thought he was retired — he’d lost his last two fights by knockout and last fought in April of 2008. Quintana’s been out of the ring for more than a year himself, but he’s the skilled guy, the guy with top-10-level talent in whatever division he’s in — he’s gone back and forth on whether he’s a welterweight or has moved on to junior middleweight. Quintana’s been sparring with Williams to get him ready, but it’s a long layoff. Even if Quintana’s rusty, Feliciano may not have enough left in the gas tank to give him trouble, but if he does, watch out. This one could heat up fast. Official prediction: A slightly rusty Quintana plays it safe and boxes to a one-sided decision.
- Tony Thompson-Chazz Witherspoon. Here’s the one I like. These are two American heavyweights on the outskirts of the division’s top-10, both pretty talented, but unable to beat the best foes of their career: Wladimir Klitschko for Thompson, Arreola for Witherspoon. They are both big guys — Thompson’s 6’5″, Witherspoon’s 6’4″ — who can box but aren’t afraid to mix it up, either. Arreola and Quintana are the bigger stars on the undercard, deservedly, but they’re not as evenly matched as Thompson and Witherspoon will be. This is the best fight on the undercard. Official prediction: Witherspoon fights a controlled fight against the older man and gets the decision.
I’ll touch on the rest of the undercard, less noteworthy, Friday.