COMMENTARY | One of the most anticipated bouts of 2013, Andre Ward-Kelly Pavlik, has been wiped off the schedule due to a Ward shoulder injury.
The undisputed super middleweight champion and former Olympic gold medalist, Ward, apparently injured the shoulder in sparring and will require surgery. The bout had already been rescheduled once, but is now completely cancelled with no make-up date in consideration.
Pavlik, the former undisputed middleweight world champ, was due to be a big underdog in the contest, but the match-up had sparked enough fan interest to sell the bout to HBO and to generate some solid internet buzz. The saleability of the bout was evident as all parties worked to salvage the bout right up until the very end.
Now, the task at hand for Pavlik's promoter, Top Rank, is to find a suitable replacement for their fighter, who has been in against exceedingly easy opposition since moving his base from Youngstown, Ohio to Robert Garcia's gym in Oxnard, California.
"I wasn't jumping up and down for the fight," Pavlik's manager, Cameron Dunkin told ESPN's Dan Rafael. "I wasn't excited for it, but it's something Kelly wanted and that is my job, to create opportunities for my clients. Kelly told me that fighting Ward was what he wanted to do. He said to get the fight done, so sometimes that's what you gotta do. And now we will look for something else."
Whether Pavlik felt that he could actually beat the pound-for-pound talent, Ward, or simply needed a big payday after nearly two years of relatively small-change fights remains to be seen. Pavlik is apparently singling out 2013 as a make or break year for his career-- either get fully on-track or simply cash out and go home.
Luckily for him, the heavy-handed "Ghost" is still a big enough name to generate publicity and, perhaps more importantly, perceived to be damaged goods after at least four years of up and down performances, injuries, and alcohol-related issues.
Already, other high-end, risk/reward-conscious super middleweights are lining up for a crack at knocking the last remaining stardust off the shoulders of Pavlik.
Lucian Bute's promoter, Jean Bedard of InterBox, has already made it clear that his fighter wants to be in the Pavlik business:
"Since Wednesday, we have been in contact with Pavlik's team," Bedard told Boxingscene. "If we do not face Froch in our next outing, Pavlik is a serious candidate. And we have been interested in him for a long time."
Also in the mix is former middleweight champ and current WBO super middleweight titlist, Arthur Abraham, who is tentatively scheduled to face former champ, Robert Stieglitz, in a world title rematch sometime in the Spring, but would apparently change things up if Pavlik became a possibility.
"Our promoters have been negotiating. If Pavlik agrees [to face me], our fight will take place. However, the exact date has not been set yet," Abraham told Armenia News.
So, with Bute and Abraham in the mix, it looks as though Kelly Pavlik will have his payday in 2013, after all, although he may have to take a flight to Montreal or Germany in order to pick up the check.
The good news for him is that Abraham and Bute are both infinitely more beatable than Ward and the money involved won't likely be too far off from what he would've made from the HBO date.
There was an implied rivalry between him and Abraham when both held versions of the world middleweight title, although no title unification efforts ever passed the rumor stage. So, Pavlik-Abraham would likely generate more buzz from fight fans. But, Bute, not too far removed from a five-round thrashing at the hands of Carl Froch, might be the more vulnerable of the two potential opponents right now.
Whether he fights Abraham, Bute, or someone else, Pavlik is an unusually old and battle-weary 30-year-old fighter and he seemingly recognizes that it's time for something big in 2013. If all things go well for him, fans could be treated to the return of one of boxing's more compelling fighters and endearing characters.
If things don't go well, the former world champ, who was once firmly on the road to super-stardom, could very well fall into the abyss of being a professional opponent.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Dan Rafael, Andre Ward-Kelly Pavlik fight is off, ESPN
Luke Furman, Team Bute on The Pavlik Negotiations, Carl Froch, Boxingscene
Boxingscene, Abraham Not Ruling Out Pavlik For a 2013 Defense