The negotiations to match middleweight world champion Kelly Pavlik and pound-for-pound contender Paul Williams look to be getting more serious, with HBO playing deal-maker or deal-breaker, depending on how it turns out.
Rick Reeno at BoxingScene.com says that while the talks have improved, there are still major financial issues at hand. HBO's offer of $3.75 million for the fight is a big improvement on the $2 million they offered for Pavlik-Felix Sturm, but Top Rank is trying to hold their line to make sure Kelly makes a lot more money than Williams does. HBO would give $1.75 million to Pavlik and $1.55 million to Williams, with Top Rank getting $500,000. Top Rank doesn't want to share any of the live gate with Williams and his promoter Dan Goossen, or any of the sponsorship money, which is a pretty penny put together to be sure.
The same thing has been said here and a lot of other places before, but you have to admit that Top Rank has their points. Pavlik is the draw in Atlantic City, Williams has no fanbase anywhere. Williams has gotten to where he is on pure talent, good wins and the support of HBO. He's never been a draw and isn't close to becoming one. Pavlik might not be a national draw, but he does bring fans to Boardwalk Hall, and that crowd is knowledgeable enough to see that Pavlik-Williams is a really big, legitimate championship fight.
Reeno also says that HBO is playing hardball of their own. If this fight doesn't come off, Williams will fight on October 3 on their network, perhaps against 154-pound titlist Sergei Dzinziruk. Pavlik has lost some traction with the network and would have no guarantee he could get on the network again in 2009. His last fight with HBO came on pay-per-view in October 2008, and that fight with Bernard Hopkins did an awful buyrate, which followed terrible ratings for his bout with Gary Lockett earlier last year. Since then he's fought just once, on a Top Rank-produced PPV in February.