(Chris Arreola, left; Tomasz Adamek, right; flames and stuff, all around them. Photo: Jan Sanders)
One potential Fight of the Year candidate this weekend isn’t enough. I’ll take two, please.
Showtime is airing the first and, I think, more compelling of the prospective FOY candidates Saturday. HBO is airing the other, a heavyweight brawl between Chris Arreola and Tomasz Adamek. It is the rarest of species these days — a heavyweight fight I’m hotly anticipating. Neither Arreola nor Adamek have demonstrated to this point they are in the league of the Klitschko brothers, but neither have ever been in a bad fight, and they are two of the better men in the division.
From the way Adamek is talking, and from his last fight, you might not expect this to be a FOY candidate. Adamek plans to move and box, not always the formula for furious trading of blows. And when he fought Jason Estrada in February, he wasn’t his usual destructive self (although the fight had drama because it was surprisingly close). I think circumstances for Arreola are, and for Estrada were, such that things turned out this way. Adamek can punch at heavyweight, as he demonstrated against the very old Andrew Golota, but he’s not the purer puncher against Arreola, so standing in front of the guy would be disaster. And the advantage Adamek would have over most heavyweights as a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight — speed — wasn’t as pronounced against Estrada, so it’s somewhat understandable why that fight would end up tougher than it originally looked on paper.
But even if Adamek does some running, I think his instinct is to stand and swap ’em at assorted junctures. Plus, Arreola demonstrated some relentlessness in his last fight against a runner, the surprisingly mobile Vitali Klitschko. I think Adamek is nowhere near as elusive as Vitali, which means Arreola will be able to go from “most action in a Klitschko fight in a while” to “plenty of action by any standard” against Adamek. One of the reasons? Adamek has this idea, always amusing to me, that he’s faster than everyone he fights before he fights them. He thought he would be faster than Steve Cunningham, and it wasn’t even close. I don’t think he was demonstrably faster (he was perhaps slower) than Estrada. And I think it’s a mixed verdict, the question of his speed vis-a-vis Arreola’s.
That’s because Adamek isn’t the only blown-up heavyweight in the fight. Arreola made his amateur bones at middleweight light heavyweight, and for such a lumbering fat-ass, his hands are surprisingly quick. He puts together combinations better than any current heavyweight, although it’ll be a peculiar kind of treat to see TWO heavyweight in the ring at once punching in sequence, since Adamek isn’t a bad combo puncher himself. While I think Adamek might have the slightly quicker hands, I think the only real tangible speed advantage for Adamek is in his feet. He can get around pretty well for a man of his size, and certainly compared to earlier phases of his career when he was the harder-hitting but slower light heavyweight in many cases. Arreola, instead, will be the far more powerful of the pair.
And we might as well take this moment to get out of the way the discussion about how much of a fat ass Arreola will be. It’s demonstrated that he’s a better fighter when he’s less of one. He has made the case he’ll be in the 230s for Adamek, since he’ll need to be to catch up to him. But just the other day, he said he was in the 250s, and for his last fight he gained weight late in the week prior to taking on Brian Minto. In other words, as usual, believe it when you see it. Either way, no matter what weight he’s at, he’ll also be the man with the better proven ability to take a punch. Adamek has a great chin, no doubt, but he’s been wobbled by lighter-hitting fighters like Cunningham, and Arreola will be multiples heavier-hitting than anyone Adamek has faced. Arreola, meanwhile, stood up to an avalanche of punches from Vitali, the man with the highest knockout ratio in the history of the heavyweight division. Both have shown good recuperative powers when buzzed, which I think speaks to their mental strength. Arreola also hasn’t fought the best competition in the heavyweight division other than Vitali, but it far exceeds Adamek’s two fights against Golota and Estrada.
While I usually tend to favor the straighter puncher in fights, and Adamek’s right cross comes more directly to its target than Arreola’s overhand right, I lean Arreola here in another toss-up fight. Adamek will be able to stay out of harm’s way for stretches, but not always. His body punching can do some damage to Arreola’s blubber, but I think if Adamek does too much of it Arreola will make him pay for dropping his hands down. Since neither man is going to inspire chants of “DEFENSE,” I think Arreola’s punches are going to do more harm than Adamek’s when they inevitably land.
The winner could soon be in a line for a shot at the other Klitschko brother, Wladimir, not that I’d give either of them a chance. This isn’t about a potential heavyweight champion successor, or anything much more than establishing superiority among the second tier of non-Klitschko heavies. It’s about a good fight between two action-oriented, more-nimble-than-most heavyweights. And I think Arreola gets the knockout win, although it might take a while to wear down the very game Adamek.
[TQBR Prediction Game 2.0 is in effect. Remember the rules.]