By Ryan Maquiñana
It’s not a done deal, but talks between the camps of Andre Ward and Kelly Pavlik for a Jan. 26 bout on HBO have sizzled to the point that the super middleweight champion went on the record with his take on the potential matchup.
Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs), the former undisputed middleweight champion from Youngstown, Ohio, has battled alcoholism and inactivity following his title loss to Sergio Martinez in 2010 to post four straight victories over the past year and a half.
“I feel good,” Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) said in an interview with this writer for BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com. “It’s another opportunity for me to get on HBO, get on a world-class stage, and just perform.”
“It’s like, Kelly Pavlik, some people may balk about the fight and say, ‘He’s finished,’ but I know better than that. [Top Rank CEO] Bob Arum has done a great job of keeping Kelly busy, just keeping him busy until something like this came aboard, and you can believe that a former world champion like Kelly Pavlik, with him getting another shot at the title, he’s going to be prime and ready. We’re going to be ready, and it’s going to be a tremendous show.”
In his last outing four months ago, Pavlik floored Will Rosinsky with his signature power but was tagged several times en route to a unanimous decision win. Ward, on the other hand, turned in his most impressive performance yet in front of his hometown fans of Oakland, Calif., decking Chad Dawson three times in a 10th round September stoppage victory.
“I briefly remember the Rosinsky fight, you know, but I think it was the same Kelly,” Ward opined. “Kelly’s always kind of gotten hit, but he’s always worn guys down and either caught them or just kind of, you know, did enough to get the win. So, I don’t think it was any worse Kelly than I’ve seen before. It’s the same Kelly. You know what Kelly’s going to bring, and that’s that.
“But from my standpoint, the encouraging thing about me is even though I’m two-time world champion, fought some great fighters, I’m not at my best yet. I’m still growing. I’m still getting better, and that win against Chad Dawson took me to another level.”
Dan Goossen, who co-promotes Ward with Antonio Leonard, brought up the possibility of staging Ward-Pavlik in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall or New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
“Man, both of those [venues] are great,” Ward said. “I think Atlantic City would be good because the Boardwalk Hall was a tremendous place to fight in when I fought Carl Froch. Great crowd. Everybody showed us a lot of love.
“[I’ve] never fought in New York. MSG is obviously a boxing mecca along with Las Vegas, so either venue would be good. I think it would be good to fight in Atlantic City because Kelly would have a lot of fans there, and he would be motivated, so really, either opportunity would be something I would be O.K. with.”
Regardless of whoever it is Ward faces next, when he formally commences training camp with longtime cornerman Virgil Hunter, he’ll see a few more faces in their private Hayward, Calif., gym than usual. Since Ward’s landmark triumph over Dawson, Hunter has added Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo, and Fernando Guerrero to a stable that already includes Karim Mayfield, Brandon Gonzales, Mike Dallas Jr., and Stan Martyniouk.
“I’ve seen Angulo briefly,” Ward shared. “I haven’t seen him work yet. I’ve seen Khan work, and he looked good. I think Virgil’s a good fit for him. I’m not just saying that because he’s my coach. I just think ‘Virge’ is a teacher.
“Khan is one of the best offensive fighters that I think we have in the sport of boxing right now, and I think that ‘Virge’ can practically give him a concept of defense suited for his style. So I think once they get a couple camps under their belt and a few fights, Khan is going to improve.”
Ward, a basketball fan of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, has to wonder if there will be enough shots to go around to placate new acquisitions Dwight Howard and Steve Nash this season. On the same token, given the various newcomers to Hunter’s Bay Area camp, will the teacher-to-student ratio still be sufficient to maximize Ward’s future preparation, or will the coveted coach be spread too thin?
“No, I don’t think so,” Ward answered. “I think, you know, those fighters, and ‘Virge’ knows, [that] there’s a pecking order, and I’m the top fighter in our stable. I mean, that’s just the way it is. But that being said, ‘Virge’ is serious about his work, and there’s not going to be any overlapping, in terms of training ‘this’ guy while I’m training.
“These guys are getting their work in. They got their fights, and I’m staying out of their way working on my own right now, and when it’s my time, I expect the same respect. So, it’s a lot that [Hunter] has on his plate, but I think he can handle that. I think everything’s going to be fine.”
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.