- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola will stay busy with his fourth fight of the year -- and third since mid-May -- when he fights July 9 in Atlantic City, N.J., promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com Monday night.
Arreola will face Las Vegas-based Nigeria native Friday Ahunanya (24-7-3, 13 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout. It will take place on the undercard of the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara junior middleweight bout, which headlines an HBO "Boxing After Dark" card.
Goossen said HBO, although not televising Arreola's bout, will show highlights. The opening fight of the HBO doubleheader will be junior featherweight titlist Akifumi Shimoda (23-2-1, 10 KOs) of Japan in a mandatory defense against California's Rico Ramos (19-0, 10 KOs).
Arreola (32-2, 28 KOs), 30, of Riverside, Calif., fought twice in the span of 13 days last month. First, he knocked out Nagy Aguilera in the third round May 14 on the undercard of the Andre Ward-Arthur Abraham Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
On May 27, he returned to stop Kendrick Releford in the seventh round in an ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" main event in Reno, Nev.
"The best thing for any fighter is to be active, and he seems to thrive on being active at this stage of his career," Goossen said of Arreola. "That is one of the things that made James Toney a great fighter, that he stayed so active during his younger years."
Arreola, who also scored a first-round knockout of Joey Abell in a January ESPN2 main event, seems to be taking his career more seriously these days. The former title challenger, who was stopped by Vitali Klitschko in the 10th round in 2009, weighed 236 and 234 pounds for his past two fights, respectively. That's about 20 pounds less than he had weighed for many of his recent fights.
"There's something to be said about staying in the gym and staying in shape like Arreola is doing," Goossen said. "Since he's staying in shape and staying in the gym, getting in a real fight where you earn money and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor in the gym by being in front a television camera and a crowd is a lot better than doing all of the same things to prepare in the seclusion of the gym and not getting to fight for real."
Said Henry Ramirez, Arreola's trainer: "He's excited about being back so soon and excited about being on an HBO undercard, so the HBO people will be there to see and a lot of media will also be there. So he'll be in good fighting shape, around 235, 237, and then go out there and perform the way he has lately."
Ahunanya, 39, has lost two fights in a row, but is experienced against top opponents and been stopped only once -- in the fifth round by Lance Whitaker in 2004.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it went the distance, but if we can get a stoppage, great," Ramirez said. "We're just happy to stay busy. If all goes well, we're looking to have Cris fight two more times this year."
Among the notable opponents Ahunanya has faced: David Tua, Alexander Povetkin, former heavyweight titleholders Sergei Liakhovich and Sultan Ibragimov, and Dominick Guinn, against whom he fought to a draw.
"Friday has spoiled contenders and up-and-comers and he's been around," Goossen said. "He understands what's at stake here. He knows beating a top world contender catapults him to the top. He obviously isn't somebody that is getting to fight for the world championship, but he's a real fighter who will come to fight."
Ahunanya got the fight over other candidates, including Mike Mollo, Rich Power, Nicolai Firtha and Travis Walker, who already fought Arreola in 2008 and was stopped in the third round.
"Friday's a durable, experienced veteran," Ramirez said. "Obviously, he's toward the end of his career, but he's a name people in the boxing industry know and a step above a Kendrick Releford."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
Heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola will stay busy with his fourth fight of the year -- and third since mid-May -- when he fights again July 9 in Atlantic City, N.J., promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com Monday night.