Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik was out of action for 13 months after losing the title to Sergio Martinez, so naturally when he returned he looked a bit rusty.
But Pavlik, who spent two months of his time away from the ring in rehab for an alcohol problem, still won his fight, outpointing Alfonso Lopez on the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley undercard May 7.
Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs), who moved up to super middleweight, didn't turn in what anyone could call a bad performance, but neither was it anything to write home about. The rust was evident.
With Pavlik's big name, he could have easily walked into a big fight in the fall just off the lone victory against Lopez. However, Pavlik, his management and promoter Top Rank all believe he needs at least one more bout before a likely November fight with super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute.
So that is what Pavlik will get, in the form of an Aug. 6 fight on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said.
Arum said the fight (against an opponent to be determined) will take place at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, Pavlik's hometown.
"Kelly feels that he has to fight to keep the rust off. That's what [trainer] Jack Loew told me," Arum said. "So we want to give Kelly every chance to be competitive and beat Bute. I think a top Kelly Pavlik, without ring rust, is capable of beating Bute, who is an excellent fighter."
"Basically, the idea is for Kelly to knock off some more rust and get him sharper, and then he can start fighting the big fights," co-manager Cameron Dunkin said. "The thing I liked about his fight with Lopez is he looked better as it went on. Get him another fight and he'll get that much sharper."
A Pavlik tuneup fight makes sense for Showtime, too, which has Bute under contract. And getting a fighter with Pavlik's name value on its B series would be a coup.
"To get Kelly on 'ShoBox,' with the moderate fee they pay, is a real plus for Showtime and it will also be a big help so Kelly can get sharp," Arum said.
Bute (28-0, 23 KOs), a star in his adopted hometown of Montreal, would have to win a July 9 mandatory defense against Jean Paul Mendy, which will take place in Bute's native Romania. Showtime plans to air highlights of the bout during its live telecast that night featuring lightweight titlist Brandon Rios defending against Urbano Antillon.
Although Pavlik facing Bute is the most likely scenario, Arum said British promoter Frank Warren, a longtime friend of Arum's, called him to gauge the interest in a fall fight between Pavlik and James DeGale (10-1, 8 KOs), the 2008 Olympic gold medalist who suffered his first defeat via decision to rival George Groves in May.
"Frank was in touch with me about doing the fight with DeGale, and we'd consider it, but the preference is for Kelly to fight Bute," Arum said.
Dunkin said Pavlik is willing to go to England to face DeGale.
"Bute is a bigger fight, but they're offering really good money for DeGale," Dunkin said. "It's something you gotta look at. Frank Warren thinks he can sell it, so it would have to be over there. Kelly and [his father and co-manager] Mike [Pavlik] said they were fine with it."
To get Pavlik ready for Bute or DeGale -- both left-handers -- Top Rank's Carl Moretti said matchmaker Brad "Abdul" Goodman was on the hunt for a southpaw opponent for Pavlik's August fight.
"I think it's clearly a smart move on everybody's part for Kelly to get in the ring again and get active against a southpaw," Moretti said. "If we're thinking about Bute or DeGale, why fight a small right-handed guy? You want to fight a taller lefty."
Although Pavlik is on top of the list for Bute, Bute's people have also reached out to promoter Lou DiBella about matching Bute with former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson, who dropped to 168 pounds and advanced to the semifinals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic before losing to titlist Carl Froch on points in a competitive fight June 4.
Pacquiao-Marquez PPV deal
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum continues to negotiate with HBO and Showtime to see which one will land the coveted Nov. 12 pay-per-view fight between pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and rival Juan Manuel Marquez, who will meet for the third time.
Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division titleholder, had fought all of his most significant fights on HBO or HBO PPV until Arum took his May 7 fight with Shane Mosley to rival Showtime PPV after being promised that its sister network, CBS, would put its resources behind marketing and promoting the fight. Both networks would like Pacquiao-Marquez III.
Arum said he had dinner with Showtime chairman and CEO Matt Blank in Los Angeles on Wednesday night to discuss the fight. Arum said Top Rank president Todd duBoef would meet with Showtime executives in New York next week.
Arum said he was also expecting a proposal from HBO before the end of the week.
"We're moving along in our talks with both networks," Arum said. "There's an abundance of riches here. The one thing CBS has going for it is football. CBS has all this college football on Saturdays and pro football on Sundays, plus a college football [cable] network. Those are big assets that CBS brings to the table, where it can give the fight exposure. They have to be really innovative, HBO, to counter that."
One of the carrots in the deal is the rematch between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, who stopped Cotto in the 11th round in a sensational welterweight title bout in 2008.
Although the fight has not been finalized, Arum is planning a pay-per-view rematch Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden. HBO PPV put on the first fight, but Arum brought Cotto's March 12 fight against Ricardo Mayorga to Showtime PPV.
"Whoever does the Pacquiao-Marquez fight will also get the Cotto-Margarito pay-per-view," Arum said.
Marquez is scheduled to fight a tuneup in Mexico on July 16 against Likar Ramos. Although Marquez's own promotional company is putting on the fight, Arum controls the television rights outside of Mexico.
"Whoever is going to do the Pacquiao-Marquez pay-per-view will also do Marquez's July fight as part of the promotion. That's what we have asked of the networks," Arum said.
Super Six World Boxing final
The final of Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic is penciled in for Oct. 29, according to promoter Dan Goossen.
Goossen promotes super middleweight titlist Andre Ward of Oakland, Calif. Ward is scheduled to meet fellow titleholder Carl Froch of England in a unification bout that will conclude the two-year tournament that began with six top 168-pounders in the fall of 2009.
Along the way, three original members of the field withdrew, citing injuries: Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell and Mikkel Kessler. Arthur Abraham, another original participant, was eliminated by Ward in the semifinals in May. Glen Johnson and Allan Green found their way into the field as alternates.
But now the tournament is down to the final two. Goossen said there is no site set for the final, but he said potential host cities include Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Los Angeles and New York.
"I think everyone involved in the Super Six -- the fighters, Showtime, the promoters -- are anxious to get the final up and running," Goossen said. "But this is what the whole tournament was about -- getting down to the two best facing each other. The sooner we get the two fighters in the ring, the more momentum the winner will have.
"The way Froch and Andre have plowed through the tournament, they have earned their right, even if they come out on the losing end of the final, to further their careers."
Ward swept through the tournament, scarcely losing a round. Froch lost his second bout of the tournament on a tight decision to Kessler in Kessler's home country of Denmark before routing Abraham and then winning a competitive decision against Johnson in the semifinals in May.
"After all of the tweaks and things that happened in the tournament, it played out how it should have -- the remaining original guys at the top," Goossen said. "They both had to go through very tough battles to get there. I love the tournament format. This epitomizes what our sport is -- one tough fight after another and a loss not being the end of your career."
Tarver going for knockout against Green
Former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver said he is going for a knockout when he faces Australian star Danny Green on July 20 in Sydney.
Green (31-3) has never been stopped, but Tarver is aiming to change that.
"He's a good fighter. He's a very tough guy and he has a lot of power. I know he'll be trying to knock me out -- something that's never been done before -- and vice versa," Tarver said. "I'm going to try to knock him out, too, so I think with our personalities, it's like two locomotives heading on one course. We're looking to collide, and that's the type of fight that people are going to see."
After Tarver, 42, lost his second decision in a row to Chad Dawson in May 2009, he left the ring for 17 months before returning to earn a lopsided decision in against Nagy Aguilera in October.
But Tarver is coming down to cruiserweight to face Green, who knocked out a badly faded Roy Jones Jr. in the first round in December 2009. Tarver, of course, was the first to knock out Jones, crushing him in the second round of their 2004 rematch and then easily outpointing him in their 2005 rubber match.
"I know in the past, I've been an elusive boxer/puncher, counterpuncher, but I'm 42 years old, so right now I feel like this: I'm too old to be running," Tarver said. "I don't have time to be running around the ring and all that. I'm going to stand my ground. I'm going to punch with him. I know I'm an accurate sharpshooter. I'm looking to break him down to the body, hurt him to the body and really bust him up.
"I'm going to trust my defense, and if I get hit on the whiskers, I'm going to trust my chin. I've got to open him up. I'm not going to be playing around. I mean, I'm going to his backyard and that puts me in a situation where, to me, it's like I've got to do more. So I'm coming to fight. Danny Green: Look out, Antonio Tarver is coming."
• HBO has approved European middleweight champion Darren Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) as the Oct. 1 opponent for world champion Sergio Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs), promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. HBO took its time approving the fight, one which DiBella had already made a deal for, hoping DiBella would be able to line up a bigger name for Martinez to face. However, although Barker is approved, DiBella and HBO are still haggling over the license fee the network will pay.
• Middleweight titlist Daniel Geale (25-1, 15 KOs), who claimed his belt by outpointing Sebastian Sylvester on hostile turf in Germany on May 7, will return home to Australia for his first defense Aug. 31, promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com. Geale will face Miami-based Eromosele Albert (24-4-1, 12 KOs), 36, of Nigeria. Albert has won two bouts in a row but probably is best known to American fight fans for being knocked out in the first round by James Kirkland in a junior middleweight fight on HBO in 2008. Geale was pursued as an opponent for lineal champion Sergio Martinez's Oct. 1 HBO fight. However, Shaw, Geale's U.S. promoter, said they rejected the fight because "it was way too low money and we also felt like we wanted to build him in Australia some after he won his title. But he is willing to fight Martinez in the next fight, no problem."
• Top Rank's Bob Arum told ESPN.com that representatives for featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez turned down an offer to defend his belt against former titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa (20-0, 16 KOs) on Sept. 10 on HBO in Atlantic City. Arum said there were some other opponents being discussed for Gamboa, who has been stripped of two belts this year. They include Juan Carlos Burgos and former junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon, both of Mexico. Ponce De Leon is with Golden Boy Promotions, Top Rank's bitter rival, but Arum said making a deal would not be an issue now that there has been a thaw in their relations. "We will reach out to Golden Boy about Ponce De Leon," Arum said. "We said we would do deals. We'd pay them to deliver the fight. We are fine with that. On a really big fight, we would co-promote."
• Philadelphia welterweight contender Mike Jones (24-0, 18 KOs) will get back to work in his hometown for the first time in more than two years against Raul Munoz (21-13-1, 16 KOs) in a stay-busy fight on "Top Rank Live" Saturday night (Fox Deportes/FSN, 10 ET). Rather than wait for a premium cable date, co-promoters Russell Peltz and Arum wanted to keep Jones active. If you believe Arum, he said this week that Jones is now "on a list" of possible future opponents for pound-for-pound king and welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao. Jones would love a shot at Pacquiao. "I can get a call any day to fight a guy like Manny Pacquiao, so I gotta be in great shape all the time. As for me, I feel I can beat him because I got 100 percent confidence in myself. I feel as though I can beat anybody in the welterweight division. Pacquiao will bring far more than exposure. Anytime you fight a Manny Pacquiao, you're also going to see seven digits [purse], so that's gotta be a dream come true for me and my family." At the very least, Jones plans to follow in Pacquiao's footsteps in one regard against Munoz. "Like Manny always says, my goal Saturday is to entertain the fans, and that is what I plan to do," Jones said.
• Featherweight titlist Orlando Salido (35-11-2, 23 KOs) of Mexico -- who authored one of the upsets of the year (in a year filled with them) when he went to Puerto Rico and stopped Juan Manuel Lopez in the eighth round to win a belt in April -- will make his first defense against Mike Oliver (24-2, 8 KOs), promoters Top Rank and Zanfer announced. The fight is scheduled to take place in Ciudad Obregon, Salido's hometown, on July 23 and will be televised on "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes). "I'm thrilled that everything was finalized for the first defense of my crown before my people. With the support of my people, I will definitely emerge victorious and I'll provide a great show," Salido said. Oliver, of Hartford, Conn., has some business to attend to first. For the title opportunity to come to fruition, he needs to defeat (and avoid getting injured or cut against) Felipe Almanza (18-24-4, 9 KOs) in a tuneup six-rounder Saturday night in Philadelphia. After facing Oliver, the plan is for Salido to have a fall rematch with Lopez.
• The camps of junior featherweight titlist Akifumi Shimoda and challenger Rico Ramos reached an agreement with interim titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux to allow Shimoda's scheduled July 9 title defense against Ramos to go forward. Rigondeaux's camp tried to block the fight by appealing to the WBA, asserting that, as interim titlist, Rigondeaux was entitled to the next title fight with Shimoda. But the sides worked out an agreement, subject to WBA approval, that provides for Rigondeaux to get the next fight with the winner. Japan's Shimoda (23-2-1, 10 KOs) and Ramos (19-0, 10 KOs) will meet in Atlantic City in the opening HBO bout on the card headlined by the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara junior middleweight fight. Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs), a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, meanwhile, likely will fight a nontitle bout in Miami on Aug. 19 in the main event of the season finale of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
• Junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout of New Mexico has no problem going on the road to fight in hostile territory. He won his belt in Mexico in February and then returned there to make his first defense in a lopsided decision win against David Lopez on June 11. Now Trout (23-0, 13 KOs) is headed back on the road for his second defense. Trout is likely headed to Brisbane, Australia, to meet former super middleweight titlist Anthony Mundine (42-4, 25 KOs), who has dropped down in weight and has been fighting at middleweight and junior middleweight, on Aug. 24. Greg Cohen, Trout's promoter, said they were "about to sign" the deal to face Australia's Mundine with the hope that, with a victory, Trout's next bout would be picked up by one of the American premium networks.
• Light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (11-1, 7 KOs) plans to defend his title against Danny Santiago at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas on July 29. The bout headlines Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate." Shumenov, a 2004 Olympian from Kazakhstan who lives in Las Vegas, will be making his third defense. He is coming off a sixth-round knockout of former middleweight titlist William Joppy in Kazakhstan in January. Joppy took the fight a few days beforehand when then-titleholder Jürgen Brahmer pulled out of their unification fight. "I'm very excited to be fighting in my adopted hometown, Las Vegas, where I won the world title," Shumenov said. "I've lived in Las Vegas for a few years and I've wanted to defend my title belts here since I first won them. I have a lot of respect for my opponent, Danny Santiago, who has a lot of experience in big fights." Shumenov is embroiled in a lawsuit with promoter Dan Goossen but is moving ahead with the bout under the banner of his own promotional company, KZ Event Productions, which is being assisted by Golden Boy and Don Chargin. Santiago (31-4-1, 19 KOs), of Ocala, Fla., was knocked out on the two occasions he stepped up to world class competition. In 2007, then-titleholder Zsolt Erdei stopped him in the eighth round, and former champion Antonio Tarver knocked him out in the fourth round that same year.
• Flyweight titlist Hernan "Tyson" Marquez (30-2, 23 KOs), whose first title defense will be in Hermosillo, Mexico, on July 2 on "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes), has an opponent: Edrin Daupudong (22-3, 13 KOs) of the Philippines. Marquez was preparing to defend against another Filipino, former junior flyweight titlist Rodel Mayol, but Mayol suffered a hand injury, according to Zanfer Promotions. "I'll be ready for the challenger. Nobody will take away my title, which took years of effort to obtain for my people of Sonora," Marquez said. "Hopefully, the Filipino comes to fight like a warrior." Marquez certainly fought like one when he won his belt April 2 in an incredible rock 'em, sock 'em battle with Panama's Luis Concepcion in Panama. Marquez claimed the belt with an 11th-round knockout in a clear fight of the year candidate. "I know the champion. I saw his fight with Concepcion," Daupudong said. "He is tough, hard-hitting and very brave, but I also have many attributes. I'm a Filipino warrior and I have enough to knock out Tyson. I regret that I am going to spoil the party for the fans in his homeland."
• Mexico's Jorge Lacierva will travel to Billy Dib's native Australia to challenge him for a vacant featherweight belt July 29 at the Olympic Park Sports Centre in Homebush. The belt became vacant when Yuriorkis Gamboa was stripped for failing to appear at the IBF's mandated weight check on the morning of his March 26 fight against Jorge Solis. Dib was supposed to meet Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia for the vacant title, but when HBO declined to buy Garcia-Dib, Garcia gave up the shot at the belt in order to still appear on HBO on June 4, when he knocked out Rafael Guzman in the fourth round of a nontitle bout. Lacierva (39-7-6, 26 KOs) was the next available contender and took the opportunity offered to face Dib (31-1, 19 KOs), a defensive-minded fighter whose only defeat came in a featherweight title bout against Steven Luevano in 2008 in Atlantic City. This will be Lacierva's third crack at a world title. He lost a flyweight title bout to Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson in 1999 and a junior featherweight title bout to Celestino Caballero in 2007.
"If my managers tell me I have to fight the devil, I'll fight the devil."
-- Junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, after knocking out Ryan Rhodes in his first defense last Saturday
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.