- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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There were times during the past few weeks that it didn't look good for a proposed showdown between middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and top contender Paul Williams. That was until Tuesday night, when the sides came to terms for one of the year's biggest fights.
Pavlik and Williams will meet for the middleweight championship Oct. 3 on HBO at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef, Pavlik's promoter, and Dan Goossen, Williams' promoter, had been in heavy negotiations for the past few weeks. More than once, the talks stalled over how they would divide HBO's $3.75 million license fee and the live gate, which could be around $2 million.
However, the talks came to a head because HBO had given the sides a deadline and would not commit to giving either fighter a date in the fall to fight another opponent. Top Rank had also begun to explore other options for Pavlik, most prominently former undisputed junior middleweight champ Winky Wright and former "Contender" star and super middleweight world title challenger Peter Manfredo Jr.
Finally, duBoef and Goossen made a deal with the Williams side due to receive a package of just under $2 million. Pavlik will also have a rematch clause at his option in the event he loses, one of the points of contention during the negotiations.
"Goossen and I have agreed to all terms and we are going to contract for the fight," duBoef told ESPN.com. "We look forward to a formal announcement."
Said Goossen, "I'm just happy that we've finally come to terms and gotten this resolved. Now we can move forward."
A news conference is being planned for next Tuesday in New York.
Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) will be making the third defense of his unified titles, which he won via dramatic seventh-round knockout against Jermain Taylor in September 2007. He also outpointed Taylor in a rematch and lost a decision to Bernard Hopkins in nontitle bouts since becoming champion.
In his two defenses, Pavlik, 27, scored easy knockout victories against Gary Lockett in June 2008 and Marco Antonio Rubio in February.
Williams (37-1, 27 KOs), 28, a former two-time welterweight titlist who holds an interim junior middleweight belt, presents a much bigger challenge.
Williams, a southpaw with long arms and a strong chin, and his handlers call him the most feared man in boxing; he has been willing to fight at middleweight, junior middleweight and welterweight in an effort to land major fights. He has fought in all three divisions over the past year, including making a big statement in April when he outclassed Wright to win a lopsided decision.
"Paul Williams, as we have said over and over, will fight anyone at virtually any weight," Goossen said. "This is an other example of him willing to take on the best. He wants to take over the 160-pound division."
The fight was made with almost no hands-on input from Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who didn't want to deal with making a fight with Williams because he is managed by Al Haymon. Arum and Haymon have a bitter relationship, and the fight had fallen apart once before last year.
DuBoef was happy to finally get the deal done.
"I think it's an interesting matchup," he said. "It's a fight that Kelly wants and he's highly motivated for this fight. People have said there is no real opposition in the 160-pound division, but this fight can bring a lot of interest to a division with a rich history."
"Paul Williams is a terrific fighter and so is my guy," Pavlik co-manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com. "It's a terrific match and it's good for boxing. It's a fight people are going to want to watch. Williams comes to fight and Kelly definitely comes to fight. It's going to be a really fun fight to watch with lots of lots of punches and lots of action."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.
Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams agreed to terms Tuesday night for an Oct. 3 fight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.com.