The 24-year-old middleweight will fight Jose Luis Zertuche Jan. 27.



The 24-year-old middleweight will fight Jose Luis Zertuche Jan. 27.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Undefeated Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik of Youngstown is taking another giant step toward what he hopes will be an eventual world middleweight boxing championship.
Pavlik (29-0, 26 KOs), the No. 2-ranked middleweight in the World Boxing Council, will take on No. 8-rated Mexican Jose Luis Zertuche (19-3-2, 14 KOs) of Leon, Mexico, in a scheduled 10-round middleweight contest Jan. 27, nationally televised by HBO.
The 10:15 p.m. fight will be the first half of the HBO Boxing After Dark doubleheader premiere series at The Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
In the main event, former two-division champion Jorge Arce (45-3-1, 35 KOs) from Los Mochis, Mexico, will meet Julio Ler (23-1, 14 KOs) from Cordoba, Argentina, in a scheduled 12-round super featherweight contest.
Zertuche, a member of the 2000 Mexican Olympic team who is known for his brawling style, is looking to upset Pavlik's march towards a middleweight title and enhance his own status in the WBC rankings.
Pavlik, 24, a Lowellville High graduate trained by Jack Loew of Southside Boxing and promoted by Top Rank, was promised the Jan. 27 HBO fight by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum Nov. 2 when Pavlik climbed to a new level in his six-year professional boxing career.
That's when Pavlik disposed of Haitian-born Lenord Pierre, 27, of Catskill, N.Y., on a fourth-round TKO in a super middleweight bout at the Chevrolet Centre before 4,416 hometown fans and a national television audience.
Stepping-stone fight
Pavlik would like to be fighting for a championship rather than in another stepping-stone bout, but it appears he will have to keeping paying his dues for "probably at least two more fights," said Loew before the Pavlik boxing team left for California Friday night. "Of course we would prefer to fight a belt-holder or someone ranked No. 1 or No. 2 and then get a mandatory title fight.
"But Zertuche stepped up to fight and I saw him fight several times, including twice against [Fulgencio] Zuniga, and he is a good fighter. He's definitely a solid opponent to give us a fight."
Zertuche fought to a 12-round draw with Zuniga in April 8, 2005, in a bout promoted by Top Rank.
But in a rematch on Sept. 14, 2006, Zertuche lost to Zuniga on a split decision in a 10-round bout that some veteran boxing observers and much of the crowd believe that Zertuche won because of his bigger punches that were fewer than Zuniga's volume of lighter blows.
Zuniga's voluminous punches tended to sway two judges in his favor by identical 95-94 scores, while the other judge voted in favor of Zertuche, 97-92.
"In fact, I thought that Zertuche won the fight. He dropped him," said Loew, noting that it could be a make-or-break fight for Zertuche.
"Zertuche has everything to gain. This is a do-or-die fight for him. This is a big fight for Zertuche. If he loses this one, his career will take a hit."
Loew is hoping that if Pavlik wins that he can get a title shot, but the trainer thinks if will take two more wins to do it.
"At the very most one more [after this one] but I'm hoping it could happen if we win this time," Loew said.
Height, reach advantage
Pavlik will have a distinct height (6-feet-2, 1/2-inch) and reach (75 inches) advantage over Zertuche (5-10, 70 inches), who is nine years older than Pavlik at 33.
Pavlik and Zertuche are ranked Nos. 2 and 8 behind champion Jermain Taylor and No. 1 contender Ronald "Winky" Wright in the WBC ratings. But while Pavlik is ranked in the top 10 of four other organizations, Zertuche is not.
Pavlik is ranked No. 3 in the WBA behind champion Mariano Carrera, No. 5 in the WBO behind Taylor and No. 8 in the IBF behind champion Arthur Abraham, and No. 9 by Fight News behind champion Taylor.
Arum, who founded Top Rank in 1966, made the Pavlik-HBO announcement on Nov. 2 after Pavlik defeated Pierre. Just a few days earlier, Arum had negotiated a deal in New York with Ross Greenberg, president of HBO Sports, which in effect made Pavlik an HBO fighter.
Arum said at the time that he considered HBO "the flagship of boxing."
Arum's rationale, timetable
Arum also said then that Pavlik probably will have to win at least two HBO fights in 2007 in order to get a shot for the WBC championship about midway through the year against either Taylor or Wright.
"We probably could get a title fight after his first HBO fight [Jan. 27], but we probably couldn't satisfy the money that we want," said Arum Nov. 2.
"Pavlik's too good to fight for small money when he fights for the title. We would prefer two HBO exposures to maximize the money he would get for a title fight.
"We want to make sure that he gets the money that he deserves and also the other guy [his opponent] wants money for the risk he will be taking," added Arum.
kovach@vindy.com

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