Pavlik to prepare for tough defense

His trainer, Jack Loew, said the Oct. 3 bout with Paul Williams will be dangerous.


Vindicator sports staff

YOUNGSTOWN — Kelly Pavlik’s first middleweight title defense was a mismatch. His latest one is expected to be a classic.

The WBC and WBO champion will meet two-time welterweight champion Paul “The Punisher” Williams on Oct. 3 in Atlantic City in what is expected to be the most dangerous title defense of Pavlik’s career.

“People traveling to Atlantic City are going to see a very, very good matchup,” said Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew. “This is no Gary Lockett fight. This is a legitimate, real fight.

“It’s going to be a very dangerous fight.”

The 27-year-old Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) scored a TKO victory over Lockett in June of 2008 in his first title defense, then wore down Marco Antonio Rubio for a 10th-round TKO in February.

Those two were overmatched mandatory challengers, while the 6-foot-1 Williams is considered one of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world.

Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) is tall and rangy, but prefers to trade punches and use his power to overwhelm opponents, much like Pavlik. Williams’ lone loss was a 12-round unanimous decision against Carlos Quintana in February of 2008 in which he lost his WBO welterweight title. He regained it four months later in a rematch, winning by TKO over Quintana in the first round.

“He’s a good fighter,” said Loew. “He throws a bunch of punches and he can punch.”

With few options at 147 pounds, Williams jumped up to middleweight after that Quintana bout, beating Andy Kolle by first-round TKO. He then earned an eighth-round TKO over Verno Phillips at junior middleweight. His latest victory came against middleweight Ronald “Winky” Wright, a 12-round unanimous decision in April in Las Vegas.

“Paul Williams has huge [guts],” said Loew. “I give him all the credit in the world for jumping up in weight. There was nobody for him at 154 pounds and nobody but us at 160.

“But I don’t know how he’ll react when he’s in there against a legitimate, big-punching middleweight. He’s never fought that caliber of fighter, while we’ve fought much bigger people than Paul Williams.”

The fight has drawn raves from boxing writers across the country, although it almost didn’t happen. The two were set to fight each other last fall before talks broke down. Pavlik instead fought Bernard Hopkins, who handed him his first professional defeat. Afterward, Pavlik’s promoter, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, vowed Williams would never fight Pavlik, due in large part to acrid relations between Arum and Williams’ adviser, Al Haymon.

Arum removed himself from negotiations this time, turning to Top Rank president Todd duBoef. Negotiations stalled again in recent weeks when the Williams camp demanded a larger share of the purse than Pavlik. There was pressure from both sides to get the deal done, since HBO was only interested in the bout for Oct. 3.

When asked if he was worried the deal wouldn’t get done, Williams’ promoter Dan Goossen laughed and said, “After 20-some odd years in this business, I don’t know if I fear making a deal or not making it.”

Pavlik, who did not return calls seeking comment, told his handlers he wanted the fight, as did Williams.

“At lot has been said about why last year’s fight didn’t get made, but it’s water under the bridge,” said Goossen. “It’s a fight people have wanted for some time and it’s nice to deliver on the wishes of fighters.”

Fans can expect a fight with a lot of action, Goossen said.

“He [Williams] comes to fight and that’s Kelly’s mindset also,” said Goossen, who compared it to 1980s when fighters like Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran matched up at middleweight. “These are the types of fights we need for our sport, the big fights that attract attention and puts our sport where it should be — in the front of newspapers.”

The fight should also help Pavlik’s image in the boxing world, which has taken a hit since his loss to Hopkins. After emerging as one of boxing’s biggest talents in 2007-08, Pavlik has found himself in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent months (sometimes fairly, often not) and should benefit from having the focus turn to his boxing career rather than his personal life.

“People say different things about what he’s been in the paper for,” said Loew. “He’s not the only fighter to take seven months off. As soon as Kelly doesn’t attend one [charity] function, he gets a bad rap. If he doesn’t fight every three months he gets a bad rap.

“I think people are going to see a stronger, healthier Kelly Pavlik. He’s going to step up to the plate and take care of business.”

Ticket information will be announced at a later date. Tickets for Pavlik’s bouts typically go on sale two months before the fight, an impossibility for this bout. Tickets for the Feb. 21 Rubio fight did not go on sale until January 10.

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