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Kelly Pavlik vs. Paul Williams in October?

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Last week, I wrote a piece here at The Sporting Blog called "Kelly Pavlik: A Man Without a Plan" about the startling demise of Pavlik’s Q rating from its high point in early 2008. In that piece, I cited the unappealing list of Pavlik’s potential opponents for a fall HBO fight, and mentioned the relentless, mobile style of multi-weight contender Paul “The Punisher” Williams. “I’d say Pavlik needs a bout with Paul Williams like he needs a hole in his head,” I wrote. “Like he needs a hundred holes in his head.” ↵

↵Well, it would appear that Pavlik has decided that he needs a hundred holes in his head. ↵

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↵Rumors floating around the boxing world this week have Pavlik defending his middleweight titles against Williams on October 3 in Atlantic City and televised on HBO’s World Championship Boxing. There has been no official announcement of this bout as yet, and word is that there are stumbling blocks in the negotiation, all of them predictably concerning the slicing of the cheddar. Fortunately for both sides, there is a nice block of cheese on the table, with HBO reportedly throwing down close to four million bucks for the event, a healthy improvement over the two mill they were willing to fork over for Pavlik to fight a highly unanticipated middleweight unification bout with WBA champ Felix Sturm. ↵

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↵Last week when I was writing about Pavlik, I was inclined to think that he should take the short money and fight Sturm, just to get his face back on HBO as a headliner. At that point, I admit that I didn’t think it was even a remote possibility that his team would consider a Williams fight for the “holes in the head” argument cited above. ↵

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↵If they’re willing to face Williams, though, in spite of the high risk involved, then kudos to them, and kudos to Pavlik. With the shadow of Pavlik’s loss to Bernard Hopkins last October still hanging over his career, choosing to fight Williams is a damn-the-torpedoes move of the highest order. On paper, Williams does not seem like an opponent that Pavlik is likely to beat. He’s anything but an easy target, maintains a frightening work rate round by round, has inexhaustible stamina and takes a hell of a punch. The two men are roughly the same size with Pavlik possibly having the edge in strength, although even that is debatable given Pavlik’s reputed problems with making the middleweight limit of 160 pounds. And given Williams recent domination of Winky Wright at middleweight, the evidence is that he is very strong at 60. ↵

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↵The one thing that Pavlik has (and always will have) in his pocket is that there is no disputing his knockout power. Williams is mobile and fights at a variety of angles, but he is not elusive in the manner of Hopkins. Pavlik barely laid a glove on BHop that night, but that should not be his plight with Williams. He’ll be able to catch PWill clean, and my take is that when he does, he’d better make it count by punishing the Punisher early. Given the fact that Williams thinks nothing of throwing a hundred or so punches a round, the exchange rate will not favor Pavlik in the slightest, and the longer the fight goes, the more Williams figures to seize commanding control of the proceedings. It’s hard to imagine Pavlik coming out of this fight with a victory on points. I tend to think it’s a stoppage or a loss for Kelly. ↵

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↵So … can Pavlik stop Williams? Given Pavlik’s sledgehammer of a right hand, it’s certainly possible. I tend to think that Pavlik can stop just about any man if he can hit him square, and as I said, I do believe he’ll get his licks in against Williams. ↵

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↵All in all, I think it would be a thrilling fight and I very much hope it gets made. I don’t think Williams has quite the boxing chops necessary to pull a Hopkins on Pavlik, nor do I think he’d want to. Eventually he’d go toe-to-toe with Pavlik, and then this fight would turn into one hell of a donnybrook. Both men would be facing unknown situations; Williams certainly has never faced a guy who hits as hard as Pavlik, while Pavlik has never faced a guy with as many weapons as Williams possesses. ↵

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↵In the end, I see Pavlik losing, and quite possibly getting stopped himself. But I still think it’s a better move for him to take this fight than to take a chance with Felix Sturm. After all, a fight with Sturm does absolutely nothing for him career-wise, and the thing is, Sturm can fight a little bit. It’s one thing to bide your time fighting Sturm on HBO if you win, but if you lose, it’s a disaster. ↵

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↵It’s still a huge setback for Pavlik if he loses to Williams, but at least it’s in a fight that will generate a lot of buzz amidst the sport’s faithful and should get him some crossover attention merely for the strong possibility of ultra-violence that the fight portends. There’s a reason why Paul Williams has come to be known as the most ducked fighter in boxing – he’s a freak of nature combined with a nightmare crossed with an octopus all wrapped up inside a gigantic puma. When you choose to go into the ring against a guy like that, you’re going all in. The deck is unquestionably stacked against Pavlik in this one, but at this stage of his career, if he’s prepared to push all his chips to the middle of the table and make such a bold statement that despite the embarrassing loss to Hopkins he still fears no man, well … what can you say but respect, mate. Mad respect. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.