Sergio Martinez-Paul Williams II set
Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams will meet in a rematch of one of 2009's most exciting fights on Nov. 20 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., their promoters told ESPN.com on Monday.
The rematch, one of the most significant fights of the year, will be televised on HBO's "World Championship Boxing." A news conference to formally announce the bout is scheduled for Thursday in New York, months after the on-and-off negotiations began.
"It's nice to get it completed," Dan Goossen, Williams' promoter, said. "It's not a matter of whose fault it is [that the fight took so long to make], it's a matter that you have two of the most feared fighters in the world facing each other. It doesn't just get made overnight. There's a lot more to it. That's what took time."
Said Lou DiBella, Martinez's promoter, "Martinez is not afraid of anybody and we did the deal that HBO wanted us to do. My take on the fight it's the best f------ fight the rest of the year. Period. It's the best fight for fight fans and they don't have to fork over $60 to watch it on pay-per-view."
Although their first fight was contracted at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, the rematch, which will be for Martinez's world title, is contracted at a catch weight of 157 pounds, which is what Williams weighed for the first fight; Martinez came in at 159.
"It's at 157 because we didn't have a choice," DiBella said. "Williams wanted the catch weight. There was an issue on the weight and we gave on the weight."
The fight will take place in the Boardwalk Hall main arena, which will be configured for about 7,000.
When they met for the first time on Dec. 5 in the smaller arena upstairs at Boardwalk Hall, both fighters were knocked down in the first round of what turned out to be a rousing, slugfest and one of the most action-packed fights of the year. Williams won a heavily disputed majority decision in the nontitle bout.
The fight had taken place on short notice when Kelly Pavlik, then the middleweight champ, withdrew from a scheduled defense against Williams (39-1, 27 KOs) and was replaced by Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs).
In his first fight after the loss to Williams, Martinez outpointed Pavlik to win the middleweight title in April at Boardwalk Hall.
"The fight can't miss," DiBella said. "You saw the first fight but I thought my guy won the first fight and I think he'll win this one easier. I don't think you'll ever fight Paul Williams and have an easy fight, but I think this time he will win more clearly."
Martinez, a native of Argentina living in California, will be making his first title defense. Williams has also fought once since their initial meeting, winning a four-round technical decision against Kermit Cintron in a May junior middleweight bout.
One of the reasons it took so long to finalize Martinez-Williams II was because the Williams camp was not eager for the fight. Goossen and adviser Al Haymon hoped to line up a big fight for Williams at welterweight, where he used to hold a title, against an opponent such as Manny Pacquiao or Shane Mosley.
When that did not materialize, they put off making the Martinez rematch for as long as they could until they had run out of other lucrative options.
When HBO and DiBella ran out of patience waiting for the Williams side to accept the fight in mid-August, DiBella cut off talks and offered the fight -- with HBO's blessing -- to junior middleweight contender Alfredo "Perro" Angulo, a network staple in recent years. However, when Angulo turned down $750,000, a career-high purse by more than double, plus other perks, DiBella and HBO made another run at Williams and HBO worked closely with Haymon to get it done. The Williams camp's reluctance to finalize the deal forced HBO to move the fight from the intended date of Oct. 2 to Nov. 20, leaving the network with no fights in October.
DiBella said he was ready to make a deal months ago and he's been upset that Martinez was treated as a "second-class citizen" by HBO while Williams, because of his ties to Haymon, received preferential treatment.
"Sergio has just wanted to get back in the ring and wants to be treated like the middleweight champion," DiBella said. "He knows what this fight means. He knows it's the last time he will be bullied by anybody in a business sense. That won't happen again if he wins. If he can beat Paul Williams after what he did to Pavlik and the damage he and Williams did to each other in the first fight, people should give him his props and he should be considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world below Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Sergio can establish himself at that level if he can perform in this fight. This is the prime of his career. This fight is everything to him."
Now that the fight is made, the difficulties were brushed aside by Goossen.
"Paul is very excited about the fight, so is [trainer] George [Peterson]," Goossen said. "It's the type of fight boxing needs and wants and one that we're looking to deliver. When everything is said and done, this is the fight everyone wants. But we never made any bones about the fact that we were looking for a welterweight fight. It wasn't that we didn't want a Sergio Martinez fight. We were hoping for the big fight at 147 pounds. We didn't get it and therefore we went for the next biggest fight, and that was obviously against Sergio.
"The great thing about is it Paul will have more than three weeks to train for Martinez, which is what happened last time when Pavlik pulled out and we had to change opponents and train for a southpaw."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.