The month of April has quite a bit to offer heavyweight boxing fans, but most of the matchups leave something to be desired. Here are the top five fights of the month in chronological order:
- April 3rd: #5 David Haye (23-1) vs. #59 John Ruiz (44-8-1)
Let's face it, if Ruiz wins it's terrible for heavyweight boxing. Ruiz is somehow once again fighting for the WBA title; despite going 3-3 over the last five years (with another loss turned into a No Contest) he keeps getting ranked at the top.
Haye has only three heavyweight fights under his belt but the cruiserweight champ did the HW world a big favor by beating Nicolay Valuev, and he can do it another by beating Ruiz. Ruiz is tough for anyone to fight and Haye will further prove himself as a heavyweight if he can beat him, especially if it's by stoppage. But I think it's most likely that this one goes the distance, and like Ruiz's last several title fights, he loses a decision that he'll dispute.
Even if it's a close fight, though, it will be a unanimous decision for Haye. The fight's in the UK, and the judges aren't going to give Ruiz the nod unless he dominates. Which is fine by me; the WBA needs to get rid of Ruiz and Valuev (and Kali Meehan) from the top of their rankings.
- April 9th: #55 Audley Harrison (26-4) vs. #247 Michael Sprott (32-14)
Harrison's up and down career is currently on a very slight "up" after winning the latest heavyweight Prizefighter tournament, but he's facing the last guy to knock him out. Now 38, the Olympic gold medalist reached the top 10 in 2005 before losing to Danny Williams and Dominick Guinn back-to-back. He KO'd Williams to move back into the top 25 before losing to Sprott. Losing to Martin Rogan in December 2008 knocked him clean out of the SportsRatings Top 100, but the Prizefighter tourney win has him back near the top 50.
Sprott, however, has fallen on hard times. His career's ups and downs make Harrison's look like smooth sailing. After beating Harrison and, just prior, then-undefeated Rene Detweiller, Sprott was 30-10 but ranked in the top 50. Since then he's 2-4, with losses to #173 Matt Skelton, #115 Taras Bidenko, #151 Lamon Brewster, and #32 Alexander Ustinov and wins over #149 Zack Page and unrated Werner Kreiskott. Sprott's been a gatekeeper his whole career but he could turn Harrison into one, too, with a win.
This is Harrison's last stand and he needs a win. Sprott's been so bad lately I think Audley will get the win. He'll probably have to go the distance, though, as Sprott generally doesn't get stopped.
- April 10th: #157 Evander Holyfield (42-10-2) vs. #170 Frans Botha (47-4-3)
A sad spectacle in a way, both 40+ fighters are still going, and not ranked too poorly considering their advanced years. But Holyfield is coming off two straight losses, to Sultan Ibragimov and the pathetic fight with Valuev, while Botha's most recent effort was a draw with #154 Pedro Carrion.
Hard to pick this one. Botha has youth (relatively; he's 41) on his side and beat Timo Hoffman recently, while Holyfield doesn't have a win since 2007. But Holyfield is undoubtedly the more skilled. Pretty much everyone loses with this fight.
- April 16th: #11 Tony Thompson (33-2) vs. #294 Owen Beck (29-4)
Klitschko victim Thompson continues to make his way back into the title shot mix. Originally his opponent was supposed to be #131 Jason Estrada. Either way he just stays busy, as he's beaten scores of fighters of either level. Beating Beck might or might not get him back in the top ten, but either way given that he's had his chance and is 39, he might not get another unless he beats some bigger names.
- April 24th: #8 Chris Arreola (28-1) vs. #27 Tomasz Adamek (40-1)
This is probably the best matchup of the month. Will Adamek exploit Arreola's lack of defense and win a decision? Or will Arreola's size overpower the former light heavyweight/cruiserweight? Those are the general-consensus outcomes.
Both fighters have a lot to gain with a win. Adamek can erase any doubts that he belongs in the HW division; beating a busted Golota and winning unconvincingly against Jason Estrada didn't prove that much. But beating Arreola would show he could beat a bigger, highly-ranked fighter who can punch hard and take a punch himself.
Arreola beat two other fighters who were just inside the top 30 at the time: Chazz Witherspoon and Brian Minto. Adamek combines Witherspoon's skills and Minto's toughness, and a lot more people would respect Arreola if he won. He hasn't fought anyone better than the two mentioned other than Vitali Klitschko, and he lost badly in that one. But if he beats Adamek people will question the Polish fighter, not give Arreola accolades. He still needs to fight a real, legit top 20 or top 10 before the prospect of facing another Klitschko can come up again. I'm hoping for a good fight out of this one, whatever happens.