The rumored April 17 middleweight championship fight between Kelly Pavlik and Sergio Martinez is all but complete, with just the contracts left to be signed. The two have agreed in principle, and a press conference to make it official is expected after the Olympics conclude.
Middleweight champ Pavlik (36-1, 32 KO) is coming off of something of a "lost year" in 2009. Though he did fight twice, the first was against overwhelmed fringe contender Marco Antonio Rubio, and the second came in December against Miguel Espino, a fighter not even on the fringes of contention, or anywhere particularly close.
In between those fights came two bouts that were cast aside. First, a June date with former junior middleweight titlist and "Contender" winner Sergio Mora was scrapped due to Pavlik's injured hand and/or a contract dispute with Top Rank, and then later in the year, dates in October and December both feel through with Paul Williams, as Pavlik cited a supposedly near-fatal battle with staph infection in his hand as the reason. Many doubted him, many didn't, and either way the fight didn't happen. Pavlik-Williams was to be one of the marquee events of boxing's big last quarter in '09, and it even managed to push other fights (Mosley-Clottey, for instance) off the grid, then didn't even happen.
There were also all the rumors coming out of Youngstown about Pavlik having a drinking problem, getting into bar fights (in one instance he and trainer Jack Loew were sued in what seemed to be a completely ridiculous case), and all that noise.
Really, though, that's all it is. Noise. Forget about it.
And while I would agree with the complaint that Sergio Martinez is not Paul Williams, and that Pavlik-Williams is the fight to be made, realistically I have to accept that Pavlik-Williams isn't happening right now, and to be honest neither side is making a massive stink about it. Williams fought Martinez in a brutal battle in December, with Martinez replacing Pavlik on pretty short notice. It was a close fight and a lot of folks thought Martinez deserved the nod. So though Martinez is coming off of a loss to Williams, I don't see this as a bad fight in any way.
It's easily the best fight Pavlik has taken since his loss to Bernard Hopkins back in October 2008, which will be an 18-month span by the time Pavlik and Martinez lace 'em up in April. Pavlik was able to walk through Rubio last year, as Rubio really presented no resistance and looked tiny next to the middleweight champ. And then he was able to bulldoze Miguel Espino, another smaller guy who can't punch, even though Pavlik was clearly not in his best shape physically and won that fight on pure power and size.
Pavlik's about 6'3" and will be much taller than Martinez (5'11"), but Sergio has long arms (76" reach, compared to Pavlik's 75"), is a southpaw, is very slick when he wants to be, and has some sneaky pop. His KO rate (44-2-2, 24 KO) isn't particularly impressive, and the best win on his resume is Alex Bunema, but Martinez is a huge threat. I have him ranked as the best 154-pound fighter in the world (and he's at least one of the two best, if you have Williams ranked at 154 instead of 160). He's shown a good chin, a lot of skills, and some real fire. For a long time he looked like an empty record from Argentina. He's proven to be a legit contender.
The fight will take place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Pavlik's home away from home and the host of Williams-Martinez, and HBO will televise this bout alongside Lucian Bute's 168-pound title defense against Edison Miranda from Montreal.