Andre Ward will defend his WBC and WBA super middleweight titles against Kelly Pavlik on January 26 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, home to USC Trojans basketball, with heavyweights Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne in a WBC eliminator as the co-feature.
Ward (26-0, 14 KO) and Pavlik (40-2, 34 KO) have been on a collision course, more or less, since Ward's September 8 win over Chad Dawson on HBO. With few notable names left at 168 pounds for the champion -- who has already beaten Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler, and Arthur Abraham, among others -- and Ward not looking to move up in weight, former middleweight champion Pavlik was the most lucrative option out there, and the biggest name fighter available.
The 30-year-old Pavlik has had a rebuilding year in 2012, working with new trainer Robert Garcia and winning fights against Aaron Jaco, Scott Sigmon, and Will Rosinsky. Ward is obviously an enormous step up in opposition for Pavlik, but the Youngstown native has been on this type of stage before, too. If he turns it up a notch for a fight like this, it could be surprisingly competitive, or at least that's the hope. Few are giving him any real chance at all to defeat Ward, a fighter some now feel may be the best in the world at age 28.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, promoter Don King has defaulted on the ludicrous $1.1 million purse bid he put down to win the rights to Arreola vs Stiverne. King allegedly attempted to put the fight in Venezuela, but when that fell through, the rights went to the second-highest bidder, Dan Goossen, who promotes Arreola and Ward. Goossen bid $550,000 for the fight.
Arreola (35-2, 30 KO) and Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KO) will be fighting a final eliminator to win a shot at the title held by Vitali Klitschko. If Klitschko were to retire, it's possible that the winner of this fight would face Johnathon Banks, who just upset Seth Mitchell in a semi-final eliminator.