BoxingScene.com's Rick Reeno reports that talks have started to match middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik with Sergio Martinez in 2010. Top Rank's Bob Arum (Pavlik) and DiBella Entertainment's Lou DiBella (Martinez) have spoken about the possibility, but nothing more than that at the moment.
Pavlik (36-1, 32 KO) plowed through a game but hopelessly overmatched Miguel Espino in Youngstown on December 19, two weeks after the thrilling fight of the year contender that Martinez (44-2-2, 24 KO) lost to Paul Williams in Atlantic City. December 5 was supposed to host a fight between Pavlik and Williams, but Pavlik pulled out due to staph infection. Many eyebrows raised when he took such an off-the-radar opponent for a fight a mere two weeks later, but fact is Williams and his promoter Dan Goossen turned down that date after having twice had Pavlik back out on them in the last quarter of '09. Rightfully so, obviously, but it's simply not fair to just say Pavlik backed down.
What's going to trouble people with this news is also obvious. Why isn't he trying to fight Williams? Arum said they'd offer Williams the same deal they had on the table before, which was agreed to on both sides. But Williams raised his profile with another good win on December 5. Pavlik was on a small Top Rank PPV against an opponent with no credibility as a world championship challenger. It doesn't add up that Williams should accept the same deal that likely favored Pavlik pretty heavily.
I still think that neither of them make as much money or drum up as much interest with someone other than each other, but as far as "substitutes" go, Sergio Martinez is a pretty damn good one, and his style could be even tougher for Pavlik than Williams' would be. Martinez is slicker than Tall Paul for sure.
But either fight would be OK by me, truth be told. Pavlik NEEDS a suitable opponent, and either one of these men fit the bill. This isn't like Jermain Taylor plucking Cory Spinks and Kassim Ouma from the 154-pound ranks when he was middleweight champion. Pavlik has a dearth of quality challengers to pick from at 160, and both Williams and Martinez showed on December 5 they can fight at that weight.