By Johnny Walker
The newly svelte heavyweight contender Cristobal “The Nightmare” Arreola (32-2) continued his comeback on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights last night with a dominating win over a game Kendrick Releford (24-15-2).
Arreola — who last fought on May 14 in a non-televised bout on the undercard of Andre Ward vs. Arthur Abraham, stopping Nagy Aguilera in three rounds — came out energized from the opening bell against the journeyman Releford. Releford was able to remain competitive for the first couple of rounds, landing some sharp left jabs on Arreola’s chin, but the Mexican-American was undeterred, trapping his foe in the corners with some intense flurries and going hard to his body.
By round three, Arreola, who weighed in at 236 pounds, had taken control of the bout, and began to bust Releford up. Showing a greatly increased work rate in contrast to his days as a 250+ pound fighter, “The Nightmare” methodically broke down Releford with more hard body shots, and now began to land vicious left and right hand uppercuts as well. By round six, under Arreola’s relentless assault, Releford was forced to take a knee, but he gamely decided to continue and paid a heavy price for doing so.
In round seven, Arreola landed a rapid-fire series of left hands and then unleashed an uppercut that appeared to break Releford’s now bloody nose. Referee Russell Mora had seen enough, and called a halt to the action at 2:43 of the round, giving Arreola a TKO victory. Arreola will now look to move up and fight a bigger name in order to position himself for a second title shot (he was stopped by WBC heavyweight kingpin Vitali Klitschko in 2009).
Perhaps one future opponent Arreola might consider is another top American heavyweight, Tony “The Tiger” Thompson, who opened the show with a third-round TKO stoppage of a very disinterested Maurice Harris. Thompson (36-2) dominated the fight from the opening bell, but that was in part because Harris (24-15-2) was looking for the exits from the first Thompson punch onward, finally hitting the deck in comically slow motion in round two. Harris finally decided to hit the showers after again going down in round three, as Thompson was awarded a TKO stoppage in this farcical IBF title eliminator.