Plans in works for Pavlik to fight Mora

Updated: March 12, 2009, 12:15 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik's third title defense will come against former junior middleweight titleholder Sergio Mora this summer, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Arum and Mora promoter Jeff Wald of Tournament of Contenders reached an agreement Tuesday night under which the fighters would meet in late June or July at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Pavlik has fought three of his last five fights there, drawing large crowds of loyal fans who traveled from his native Youngstown, Ohio.

However, Arum said the deal is contingent on him working out the particulars with Pavlik and his managers, Cameron Dunkin and Mike Pavlik, the champion's father. Wald told ESPN.com he had already reached agreement with Mora.

Dunkin said although he hasn't reached financial terms with Arum, he didn't expect any issues.

"I told Bob to go forward with it and talk to [Wald] and I would talk to Kelly and Mike. We're fine, but Bob and I still need to have a discussion about it. It's not done yet but we're not talking about anyone else. Bob says this is what he wants to do, so this is what we're planning to do."

Arum said there are three possible dates for the bout, June 20, July 18 or July 25.

Arum said the reason the deal hasn't been finalized with Pavlik is only because he is traveling. He was in Boston on Wednesday on personal business and is headed to England for a vacation. He said he would sit down with the Pavliks and Dunkin when he returns.

"When I get back, Kelly and his father and Cameron and I will meet and I will present them with the deal," he said. "We'll work it out and then we can announce it."

With HBO passing on the fight, as well as other opponents Top Rank presented, and Showtime also declining -- it was only interested in Pavlik-Vernon Forrest, which fell apart when the Forrest side asked for additional money than what had previously been agreed to -- Arum said he would present the fight on an independent pay-per-view card.

The card, Arum said, will be similar to the split-site pay-per-view telecast he promoted Feb. 21, when Pavlik stopped Marco Antonio Rubio in Youngstown while Miguel Cotto claimed a vacant welterweight belt against Michael Jennings on the New York portion of the show.

On the summer show, Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs), 26, will face Mora (21-1-1, 5 KOs), 28, in Atlantic City while the second half of the pay-per-view will come from Mexico and feature junior middleweight attraction Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who first headlines his own Top Rank PPV card March 28 against Luciano Cuello in Tijuana.

Although former welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito had his license revoked in California last month for attempting to use loaded hand wraps in his January knockout loss to Shane Mosley and is unable to box in the United States, Arum said he might put Margarito on the Mexican portion of the card. Mexican officials have said they would welcome Margarito there despite his license revocation in the U.S.

"We're definitely going to do the show from two sites," Arum said. "It'll be a big show from Mexico with Pavlik fighting in Atlantic City. Chavez Jr. will be on in Mexico, but Margarito is also possible."

Arum had hoped to put Pavlik's next defense in Cleveland, which is close to his hometown. However, he said he is going to Atlantic City because of what he deems to be excessive taxes to put on the event in Cleveland.

"I want to do a Pavlik fight in the city of Cleveland, but my problem is that I can't afford to do it when you have to pay an 8 percent city tax and a 5 percent tax to the state athletic commission," he said. "That's 13 percent of the gross. So unless I can get the city tax waived, I can't do it and I don't have enough time to work on getting it waived for a June or July fight. The taxes in Atlantic City are a lot less. I'm told that Cleveland could be talked about it, but I don't have time to do it for this fight."

Mora won the first season of the reality series "The Contender" and became the first fighter from the show to go on and win a world title when he defeated Forrest for a junior middleweight belt on a decision in June 2008.

After that victory, Arum and Wald attempted to put together a Pavlik-Mora fight for last fall. However, Forrest invoked his contractual right to an immediate rematch and outpointed a weight-drained Mora to reclaim the belt in September.

With Mora unavailable, Pavlik wound up moving up in weight to face Bernard Hopkins at 170 pounds and was soundly outpointed in the nontitle bout before returning to middleweight.

"Mora is a terrific fighter," Dunkin said. "It's a tough fight because he's tricky and he's clever. Nobody looks good against Sergio Mora. Kelly and Mike are fine with the fight. We all have a lot of respect for him. Kelly and Mora were in the same Olympic trials and he is an ex-world champion. He beat Forrest, which is no easy feat. We know it's a tough fight. They said I need to get Kelly really good sparring for this kind of guy."

Even though Mora is coming off a loss to Forrest, Wald said Mora would be ready. Fighting at 160 pounds instead of 154 would make all the difference in the world, he said.

"Sergio is prepared to go to camp for 10 weeks and there is no weight issues this time," Wald said. "We all know Pavlik is big and strong and can punch and his boxing has improved. These are two clean cut guys who will go out there and fight. Obviously, Sergio is more of a boxer and Pavlik is more of a puncher, so it's a classic style matchup and Sergio is dying to redeem himself for the Forrest rematch.

"Sergio liked having a belt and being a world champion and Pavlik is the man at middleweight. He wants to step up and fight the man and be champion again. Second place doesn't count in boxing. I'm glad I was able to make a deal with Bob and we expect he will be able to close with his fighter. We respect that the champion is the one who makes up his mind about what he's going to do."

Dan Rafael is the ESPN.com boxing writer.