Pavlik, Martinez agree to April 17 bout
Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and junior middleweight titlist Sergio Martinez have agreed to terms for April 17 bout, the promoters for both fighters told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
The contracts are not signed, but both sides said that was a formality.
"We're waiting for Lou [DiBella, Martinez's promoter] to send back the contract, which he said there are no problems with," said Top Rank's Bob Arum, Pavlik's promoter. "Kelly is on board and we're planning a press conference in New York, but HBO wanted us to hold off until after the Olympics. But the fight is agreed to. We're good on our side and Lou tells me it's good to go on his side. We're putting off the press conference strictly because of the Olympics."
They'll meet at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., where Pavlik is a major draw -- his fans have regularly traveled there by the thousand from Youngstown, Ohio.
Martinez, a native of Argentina living in Spain, made his own fans at Boardwalk Hall in December, when he thrilled the crowd at the Hall's smaller Adrian Phillips Ballroom by duking it out with middleweight contender Paul Williams in a thrilling majority decision loss that took no luster away from Martinez.
"It's a great Atlantic City fight, especially with Williams-Martinez having just taken place there and Pavlik being the most proven attraction there in the post-[Arturo] Gatti era," DiBella said.
The bout will headline a major "World Championship Boxing" split-site doubleheader on HBO. Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute of Montreal will defend his 168-pound belt against Edison Miranda of Colombia at the Bell Centre in Montreal before the action shifts to Atlantic City for Pavlik's 160-pound title defense against Martinez.
Should Pavlik and Bute both win, it could lead to a potential Bute-Pavlik fight. Arum said there have been preliminary discussions about the bout between Top Rank and InterBox, Bute's promoter, and it's a fight that HBO has major interest in.
But first things first. Pavlik is in a serious fight, and his team knows it.
"It's a terrific fight and I think Kelly is going to win, but we know this is a very tough fight," Arum said. "But I think that Kelly has the firepower to come through and win the fight." Pavlik, who is 6-foot-2, is the naturally bigger and stronger fighter compared to the 5-11 Martinez, 34, who is a southpaw and faster.
"Sergio Martinez is the best 154-pound fighter in the world, but he simply could not turn down an opportunity to take on the true middleweight champion of the world," DiBella said. "While size is not his advantage, speed is, and sometimes David slays Goliath. We had to bite the bullet a little bit, but it's a great opportunity even though it is above the weight where Sergio prefers to fight. But he didn't do so badly at middleweight against Williams did he? We all know that a lot of people thought Sergio won that fight. At some point, he'd like to move down and fight in his own weight class, but this is a big opportunity for him."
Pavlik (36-1, 32 KOs), 27, will be making his fourth defense since scoring a dramatic seventh-round knockout against Jermain Taylor at Boardwalk Hall to win the title in September 2007. Pavlik has also fought a pair of nontitle bouts, outpointing Taylor in a super middleweight rematch and losing a lopsided decision at 170 pounds to Bernard Hopkins.
Pavlik is coming off a fifth-round knockout of overmatched Miguel Espino on Dec. 19, which followed a 10-month layoff. During that time, Pavlik was twice scheduled to defend against Williams, but each time the fight was called off because a problem Pavlik had with his hand stemming from a staph infection.
The second time the fight was called off, Williams instead faced Martinez (44-2-2, 24 KOs), who has yet to defend his 154-pound crown, on short notice in one of the most action-packed bouts of 2009.
The only open issue in the deal, according to DiBella, has nothing to do with the agreement between the promoters or fighters.
"There are no substantive issues on the paperwork between me and Arum," DiBella said. "The only issue that exists is that Kelly has had some health issues and I want to know that if Sergio trains for the fight and Kelly is forced to pull out for some reason that Sergio would able to fight another opponent we agree on in Montreal on the Bute undercard.
"If something happens and Kelly's staph infection comes back or he has another problem with his hand, we want to be able to fight somebody else on that date. My guy can't have another long layoff. But there is no issue about anything between me and Bob. I just need to get this worked out with HBO, but I don't think it is going to be an issue."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.