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Welterweight titlist Williams to fight middleweight Kolle

9/3/2008 - Boxing

Two months ago, welterweight titleholder Paul Williams was heavily involved in negotiations to move up in weight to challenge world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Those talks stalled, but not Williams' desire to give the new weight class a try.

Williams (34-1, 25 KOs) will do just that when he moves from 147 to 160 pounds to face Andy Kolle in a 10-round bout Sept. 25 at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif.

Also on the card, heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola (24-0, 21 KOs) will face Israel "King Kong" Garcia (19-1, 11 KOs) in the 12-round co-feature.

The card will air on Versus, which, despite the expiration this summer of an exclusive deal to televise Top Rank-promoted fights and a new deal to televise the fourth season of "The Contender," will continue its live boxing coverage. The Sept. 25 card is the first of between four and six over the final few months of the year.

The second card of the revamped Versus "Fight Night" series is in the works for Oct. 23 from the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, Wash., a Spokane suburb. The Banner Promotions' show will feature Orlando Salido (31-9-2, 20 KOs) against Cristobal Cruz (36-11-1, 23 KOs), a pair of top-10-ranked featherweights who will fight for the title vacated by Robert Guerrero, who is moving up in weight.

Williams, who is a 6-foot-1 southpaw with an 82-inch reach, has the build to handle middleweight and, although he intends to have at least one more welterweight fight, promoter Dan Goossen said he was excited to be testing a new division.

"Anyone willing to get in the ring with Paul from 147 to 168 (super middleweight), he's willing to fight," Goossen said Tuesday. "Believe me, there are very few takers. This opportunity presented itself with Versus for him to go out there and show the world what he has in the middleweight division. This is a good fight to gauge it on. He'll look forward to going back to defend his welterweight title in November after a victory."

If Williams, 27, takes care of Kolle, he will return to welterweight for at least one fight, which would be a title defense against an opponent to be determined Nov. 29 on HBO. Arreola is also supposed to be on that televised undercard if he beats Garcia.

Williams said he has no problem shuttling between divisions if that is what is necessary.

"I'm top heavy, so it's easy for me to get down to 147 when I start training," he said. "I walk around about 160 so I can go up and down between 147 and 168. I just want to fight. I want to fight people who are on the same level with me or on a higher level than me in their mind. That's what boxing is all about, risk. My fans always tell me they love that about me."

Williams testing middleweight is part of the larger picture, Goossen said.

"We want 2009 to be a big year for Paul, the biggest fights," Goossen said. "Whoever is willing to fight him. If the biggest fight is at 147, that is where we will be. If it's at 154 or 160 or 168, that's where we will be. The only thing for sure is that Paul Williams will fight anyone, anywhere at virtually any weight."

Goossen had tried in recent weeks to make a rematch between Williams and fellow welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito, whom Williams defeated last summer. However, Margarito and promoter Top Rank rejected a $4 million offer.

Kolle (17-1, 12 KOs), a 26-year-old southpaw, is best known for giving 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward, a rising contender also promoted by Goossen, a tough fight before being stopped in the sixth round on HBO in April 2006. Kolle has won eight in a row since then.

"Kolle has had a lot of fights since the Andre Ward fight and he will be the first to tell you that he learned a lot from that fight," Goossen said. "He comes to fight, he'll put on a good show. I am anxious to see how Paul handles a true middleweight."

Goossen said he was also happy to be working with Versus.

"You've got two of the hottest stars in the business on the same show on Versus in Williams and Arreola," he said. "I think it's a great show for Versus. I know they're pleased with it. It would be a score for them if one or the other was on it, but it's nice to have both of them on."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.