By Ryan Maquiñana
Super middleweight world champion Andre Ward will defend his title against Kelly Pavlik on Jan. 26 at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center in Los Angeles, according to Ward’s promoter, Dan Goossen.
“It’s a done deal,” Goossen told BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com. “I think this is the next step of Andre’s growth as a superstar to perform live in front of the Los Angeles audience. Los Angeles has been a hotbed of boxing for many, many years, and this is a new arena and a new forum for Andre to be able to show his greatness.”
The co-feature has heavyweights Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) and Bermane Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs) in a title eliminator. HBO will televise both bouts on their World Championship Boxing series.
“There’s a tremendous co-feature attached to it with Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne,” Goossen added. “I think they’re of the two best [heavyweights] out there today. They’re both big punchers, and it’s the type of fight that’s going to be a nailbiter ringside.”
In his last outing, Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) floored reigning light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson three times en route to a 10th round stoppage win. The landmark victory in September has propelled the Oakland, Calif., native into the upper echelon of the sport and into the discussion of who will take the torch from Floyd Mayweather one day as the face of American boxing.
The 30-year-old Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs), a former undisputed middleweight champion, has battled both alcoholism and inactivity following his title loss to Sergio Martinez in 2010. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, he has since moved training camp to Oxnard to work with respected cornerman Robert Garcia and is currently riding a four-bout winning streak.
“Andre is taking on his most well-known opponent in a former world champion in Kelly Pavlik,” Goossen said. “Kelly’s going to be at a whole different level than we’ve seen in the last few fights, because he’ll be up for the level of competition. In the last month or so that we’ve been discussing the fight with [Pavlik’s promoter] Top Rank, Kelly’s been getting ready to be in the best shape we’ve ever seen him.”
After cleaning out the super middleweight division by winning the Super Six tournament in 2011, the 28-year-old Ward has been in search of new challenges at 168 pounds. When asked about the difficulty of finding his fighter a suitable opponent after the dominant victory over Dawson, Goossen was not concerned.
“I really don’t look at things like that, because there’s always someone out there for you, who will resurface or surface,” Goossen said. “Certainly, you’ve seen some of Andre’s former formidable foes re-establish themselves, and you have younger fighters establishing themselves.
“There will always be someone. We just want to see his continued growth inside and outside the ring, and this fight with Pavlik is that next step toward doing it.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.