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Witherspoon-Arreola, Berto-Rodriguez Battle Tomorrow Night

Andre Berto Chazz Witherspoon Chris ArreolaBy Jason Kim: HBO’s Boxing After Dark will show two of the best fights this year on Saturday evening with undefeated heavyweight prospects Chris Arreola (23-0, 21 KOs) and Chazz Witherspoon (23-0, 15 KOs) go head to head in an important heavyweight bout for the two young prospects. In the main event, the number #1 and #2 top challengers for the WBC welterweight title Andre Berto (21-0, 18 KOs) and Miguel Angel Rodriguez (29-2, 23 KOs) fight for the now vacant title.

Witherspoon, 26, will be testing his boxing ability against the all out slugging style of Arreola, in a fight of complete opposites. Witherspoon, 6’4″ 226 lbs, is a fighter in the mold of Wladimir Klitschko, whom he sometimes spars with. Witherspoon has shown a tremendous amount of progress in his short four-year boxing career, especially recently with his training with Klitschko. His style of fighting is very technical, consisting of a lot of jabs, left hooks, uppercuts and straight right hands. He’s a rare type of fighter that can do everything well, whether that be fighting at a distance or on the inside. In fact, Witherspoon is even more dangerous on the inside, where he often nails his opponents with big uppercuts, although if you were to put the question to him I’m fairly certain that he’d say that he prefers fighting on the outside where he can utilize his long jab and left hook.

This Saturday’s bout is especially important for Witherspoon, because if he can win the fight it would give a huge jump up in the heavyweight ratings, possibly enough to put him in the top 10.

Arreola, is also around 6’4″, though he doesn’t fight anywhere near identical to Witherspoon. Instead of using his jab or any kind of real tactical strategy, Arreola tends to go after his opponents with both hands flying aimed with knockout intentions. His power enables him to get away with both defensive and offensive defects, as he often out-slugs his opponents in the early rounds before they can take advantage of his lack of defensive skills and his crude-looking offense.

He’s not much to look at when you see him fight, a fighter going all out in a wide open offensive attack, but it’s been working well for him up to this time, enabling him to knockout 21 of his 23 opponents. He doesn’t look like that big of a puncher on the surface, given his slow hand speed, but due to the constant heavy shots he rains down on his opponents, he often clubs them into submission rather than scoring a one-punch knockout like Mike Tyson, for instance.

In a lot of ways, Arreola reminds me a lot of George Foreman in the second half of his career, when he was more of a plodding clubber compared to his explosive form in the early portion of his career. Arreola is difficult to box against and keep on the outside, because he often walks right through jabs and big shots, getting close enough to land his power shots.

Though he’s 6’4″ and has a long reach, he generally likes to fight at medium to a short distance away from his opponents, allowing him to thrown one sweeping hook after another. He ends up kind of smothering the life out of his opponents, who once they have him on top of them, they can’t extricate themselves to escape his big mauling shots. It’s like being cornered by a big bear that’s pounding you with one big sweeping paw after another.

You might be able to take a number of the shots for a short while, but sooner or later the bears going to take you apart with one of them. That’s pretty much what Arreola does to his opponents. It will be interesting to see if Witherspoon has the wherewithal to avoid getting cornered like this, because if he does, he’s going to have some major problems.

In the main event, top WBC welterweight contender Andre Berto, 24, will be trying to capture Floyd Mayweather Jr’s old title, and along with it some attention by boxing fans and writers. At 24, he’s been thrust into a title shot without having faced too many top fighters. Perhaps the best opponent of his career, David Estrada, gave Berto a stern test, hitting him often before fading under the constant bombardment from Berto and losing by a 11th round TKO in September 2007.

The fight was impressive, in that Berto showed that he had the courage to battle through adversity, but it also indicated that Berto’s defense has a lot of problems that need working out. Ir’s unclear whether Berto has fixed his defensive liabilities because in his next fight, against German Michael Trabant, he blew him out in six easy rounds without getting many punches thrown at him.

As for Berto’s opponent for this Saturday, the 29 year-old Rodriguez, he is still somewhat of a mystery. He’s rated number #2, although it’s unclear why he’s rated so highly. He’s beaten mostly 3rd tier opponents in his career, and lost in the one time that he tried to step it up against a top level fighter (Carlos Baldomir). Normally, when a fighter is ranked as high as he is, they’ve beaten some good fighters along the way, at least one good top level fighter. In his case, I can’t see anyone close to being a top level fighter or even a B-level fighter on his record.

For this reason, I see him getting beaten even easier than Berto’s last opponent. I expect Berto to be making it a point to look good on Saturday, wanting to make a good impression on the many boxing fans that will be tuning into watch the fight. I’d suggest not getting up to go to the bathroom while Berto’s bout is taking place, because you’ll probably miss the fight, which will be over within a wink of an eye.

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