It has the sound of a trial balloon, but Robert Morales reports that Top Rank boss Bob Arum has reached an agreement with Sergio Mora’s team for a fight with middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in June or July. And what of Pavlik’s team?
Arum, who promotes Pavlik, said that he still has to meet with the fighter and his team before an accord can be reached. Arum said he would be meeting with Team Pavlik next week in Las Vegas in hopes of finalizing the deal.
There are some missing details in the story, like whether the fight would be on HBO or pay-per-view. But the missing Pavlik signature makes me wonder whether Arum’s testing this one out to see how it flies with fans.
I give it a great big “meh.” I’ve never been crazy about Mora, a former winner of The Contender TV tournament, partially because I find his personality grating but mainly because he bores me most of the time. Less so than he used to, on both scores. Competitively speaking, I do think Mora could offer Pavlik up some trouble in the very specific way he’s proven not to like. Mora resembles a smaller, less powerful Bernard Hopkins, who pulverized Pavlik in late 2008 with quickness and tricksy movement, and when Mora-Pavlik was under discussion before, Mora was very much liking his chances. He said, “…stylistically, Kelly Pavlik is someone I can beat. He doesn’t have the athleticism or the speed or the head movement. He has great, great power, but you can offset that power with speed, movement and angles.” All of which remains true, even if Pavlik looked a bit better on defense in his last outing against Marco Antonio Rubio (although some of that may have had something to do with the fact that Rubio is no Hopkins). And of course, Hopkins’ size and power were a considerable part of the reason he beat Pavlik.
A fight with Arthur Abraham remains my preference for Pavlik, but it’s true that fight may not sell very well for the time being, whether or not I suspect Arum of wanting to keep his man away from the most dangerous middleweight challenger. Short of that, a fight with the winner of Paul Williams-Winky Wright in April would have been my second choice, and a bout with Felix Sturm my third. None of those, though, were on the table. It was going to be Mora, John Duddy or Vernon Forrest, Arum decided very quickly after Pavlik beat Rubio. I think Forrest — who beat Mora definitively last time out — was the best choice of the three, then Mora, then Duddy, so it could be worse. And I’m guessing Mora might still have some crossover appeal from having won The Contender tournament when it was still on NBC, so it might be defensible from the standpoint of whether Mora brings the most money to the table. (Ultimately, Pavlik vs. anyone in Ohio sells gangbusters, which is why the “fight won’t sell” argument for not making Pavlik-Abraham only goes so far.) I’m just saying it doesn’t fill my brain with the dancing sugar plums of a particularly exciting fight, from a style standpoint or significance standpoint.
Forgive me if I don’t sound very enthused. I don’t dislike this one enough to aim my shotgun at it, but I am half-heartedly throwing rocks at this trial balloon.
UPDATE: ESPN has additional details. HBO and Showtime turned down a shot at broadcasting the fight, Showtime because it wanted Pavlik-Forrest instead and Forrest was a no go because Arum said Forrest agreed to one deal then requested more money. So it’s a pay-per-view, split site, like in February for the Pavlik/Miguel Cotto show. Here’s one rub: Arum wants to put Pavlik in Atlantic City and junior middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. on the card out of Mexico, which doesn’t excite me. What excites me even less is that Arum is talking about putting disgraced welterweight Antonio Margarito on the Mexico card. This ppv immediately gets harder for me to want to watch if Arum throws a guy into the lineup who got caught with loaded gloves.