Add another huge fight to the fall ledger, and Compubox employees better make sure they have their backup punch-counting machines ready in case of overload: Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik will defend his Ring magazine belt Oct. 3 in Atlantic City against Paul Williams. Both long, tall powerful boxers thrive on overwhelming their opponents with volume, so we’re talking a serious leather swap meet here.
But it won’t only be fun for people who like watching non-stop punching. Williams and Pavlik are consensus top-10 boxers in the world (I have Williams #5 and Pavlik #9), not just the middleweight division, so this is a fall fight that joins other fall elite versus elite match-ups like Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto at 145 pounds in November (Pacquiao #1, Cotto #6) and Floyd Mayweather’s unretirement fight at 144 pounds in September against Juan Manuel Marquez (Mayweather #1 pre-retirement, Marquez #2).
All praise due to Pavlik promoter Top Rank, Williams promoter Goossen Tutor and HBO for getting this together. It hasn’t been easy. Top Rank boss Bob Arum and Williams manager Al Haymon have a history of bad blood; Pavlik has been seeking more money from HBO than he probably warranted against opponents who didn’t excite; and Williams had been asking for money he didn’t deserve from Pavlik, who is the real draw, given his Ohio and New Jersey fan bases. Some egos had to be set aside, and money may have been the lubricant. HBO put some serious millions on the line for this fight, and while you can question whether that had to do with their curious allegiance to Haymon, ultimately, the network footing the bill for this fight is the right thing to do.
It’s the best fight not only for the fans, but for both men. Pavlik wants to stay at middleweight where he’s at his best, but all the biggest money fights were at super middleweight, and most of those guys are tied up with the super middleweight tournament over on Showtime. What’s more, he unfairly lost some of his burgeoning star power (summarized: white dude, loyal Midwestern audience, great story, total knockout artist) after a totally defensible loss at 170 pounds to boxing master Bernard Hopkins last fall, and beating an elite opponent like Williams would really restore some of his cache. Williams has the potential to be the pound-for-pound king who ought to have a bigger fan base than he does given how good and exciting he is, so he’s been chasing everyone from welterweight to middleweight in search of a fight that can secure him the stature and cash he deserves, and beating a headliner like Pavlik would boost both his profile and his resume.
I won’t share my opinion on who will win (in part because I’m not so sure) but you can make a case for either man: Williams’ all-around skill and talent, and his speed and movement in particular, spell trouble for Pavlik; but for the first time, Williams will be fighting someone who comes close to his almost comical height and reach, and Williams’ fantastic chin has never met fists that will be thrown with the kind of power Pavlik’s have. The only problem I have with this fight is that I would prefer it was tomorrow. It should be a good one.