There are four distinct possible opponents for the WBC and WBO middleweight champion.
By JOE SCALZO
Vindicator sports staff
YOUNGSTOWN — Kelly Pavlik could finally be headed back to the ring.
Pavlik’s promoters have narrowed a list of his possible opponents to four, and will spend the next few days trying to finalize a fall bout on HBO.
There are three possibilities at 160 pounds — WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm, former light middleweight champion Winky Wright and WBC junior middleweight champion Sergio Martinez — and one at 168 pounds, WBO super middleweight champ Karoly Balzsay.
Pavlik’s promotion company, Top Rank Boxing, held staff meetings this week to discuss Pavlik’s future and got clearance from HBO for all four fighters. HBO is the premier cable network for boxing and has aired most of Pavlik’s major fights.
“Kelly is committed to HBO and HBO is committed to Kelly,” said Top Rank spokesman Lee Samuels.
A few weeks ago, HBO “lowballed” a Pavlik-Sturm bout with a $2 million offer, due in part to the German’s low profile in the U.S. Since then, Showtime unveiled its upcoming super middleweight tournament, eliminating several possibilities for Pavlik — and HBO.
One other name to remember at middleweight is Paul Williams, although Pavlik’s co-manager, Cameron Dunkin, said he is not being considered at this time.
Pavlik was supposed to fight Williams last summer but talks broke down between Williams’ manager, Al Haymon, and Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. Afterward, Arum vowed he would never let Williams fight Pavlik.
Pavlik’s expressed preference is Sturm, since he would like to eventually unify the middleweight titles. Pavlik holds the WBC and WBO belts, and Arthur Abraham recently vacated the IBF belt to move up in weight and fight in the Showtime tournament. Sturm, however, just fought last weekend and may want more time before his next bout.
“I think we’ve always liked Sturm for Kelly,” said Dunkin. “Not because he’s an easy guy — he’s not — but because he has the WBA title.
“But Felix Sturm is obviously kind of banged up. He may not be ready. That may delay that fight until a later date.”
Top Rank is expected to move quickly to secure an opponent. Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, said he would prefer an Oct. 3 fight to one in late September, since it gives them more time to prepare after the layoff. Pavlik has not fought since a 10th-round knockout of Marco Antonio Rubio in mid-February in Youngstown.
Top Rank will also consider later dates in October and would rather not wait until November.
Although no one expected Pavlik to spend this much time out of the ring — a late-June bout with Sergio Mora was initially postponed, then canceled — Dunkin said it could be a blessing in disguise.
“It’s probably a good thing,” he said. “He hasn’t been off in awhile and he had some nagging injuries in his back and his elbow and his foot, like fighters always do. Even if you go three months between fights, you’re only off for 28 days and you’re right back in training.
“So, I think it’s a good thing. He’ll come back stronger. At least I hope he will. I know he’s eager to get back in the ring.”