Fighting Bernard Hopkins is a riddle that takes a lifetime to solve. Even the men who defeated Hopkins never really figured him out.
Kelly Pavlik wasn't able to figure out Hopkins when they met Oct. 18, 2008, and took a surprisingly one-sided defeat as a result. But when Pavlik climbs into the ring at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on Dec. 5, his task will be much clearer, if no less difficult.
He needs to find a way to limit Paul Williams' punch output or he won't be able to win when they meet for Pavlik's World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization middleweight title in an HBO-televised bout.
The punch output, compiled by CompuBox, in four of Williams' last six bouts is telling (I threw out his first-round knockout of Carlos Quintana in a rematch and his victory over Andy Kolle in a tune-up, since stats weren't kept for that one).
In the four fights that CompuBox has counted, Williams has thrown 1,256 punches in a win over Antonio Margarito; 799 in his only career loss to Quintana; 682 in an eight-round stoppage of Verno Phillips and 1,086 in a win over Ronald "Winky" Wright.
That equates to 86.9 punches per round in the four bouts. But it was an average of 94.5 punches a round in the three victories and 66.6 punches per round in the loss to Quintana.
That would suggest that Pavlik needs to find a way to smother Williams and limit his output. Pavlik appears to be a busy fighter himself, but in his last four outings (throwing out his fight against Gary Lockett, since it went just 2 1/2 rounds) Pavlik has averaged 52.6 punches a round. That's slightly under CompuBox's middleweight average of 56.5 punches a round.
Pavlik's output, though, isn't as significant as limiting Williams' ability to throw. Pavlik realizes it and he plans to try to use his power to slow Williams' pace.
"Paul throws a lot of punches, wears fighters down and comes from all angles," Pavlik said at a news conference last week at Giants Stadium. "My style is the same exact thing. If you've seen the fights with (Jermain) Taylor and the fight with (Edison) Miranda, I put the gear on and it's time for war. I train for every fight, whether the guy is 0-100 or 100-0.
"I train for 12 rounds, even though I have a high knockout ratio. I have four fights that went the distance. And those four fights, I had to be in tip-top shape because I throw a lot of punches every round, also. Paul is a great conditioned fighter and I'll need to wear him down and I'll need to break him down."
If he can wear Williams down and keep Williams from firing those fast combinations – which the usually defensively expert Wright was unable to do – Pavlik will likely win the fight. But if he can't, it's going to be another long night for Pavlik.
Let's dive now into the boxing mailbag, but as I do, I want to remind you to follow me on Twitter.
Jason, I think what you're seeing is that Oscar is a promoter and is trying to sell the fight. It's a lot harder to sell a fight if people believe it's a blowout and the opponent has no chance. Oscar was trying to build a case for Marquez. My problem is that he's using his editorial site to promote his events and not labeling them as promotion. I have no problem with how the writers employed by Ring, such as Michael Rosenthal and Doug Fischer, cover the fights. But Oscar's clearly got an agenda and he's using the magazine and the website as a promotional tool. I'm not going to fault him for making a bad prediction; lord knows I've made many of my own. But my bad predictions were my opinion. I think Oscar's were dictated by business concerns.
Johnston, R.I. Mora recently signed a contract with manager Cameron Dunkin, who is one of the elite managers in the game. His career will quickly take an upswing. He was simply mishandled by the Tournament of Contenders, his previous promoters. They made one mistake after another, which they've done with most of the fighters coming off the show. I think the men who put the show on felt that simply by virtue of the fact that fought in a reality show on NBC, the world would come begging for them. But they were B- and C-level fighters on the show and no one was in much of a hurry to overpay them, as the Tournament of Contenders people wanted. Dunkin will land Mora a good promoter and once that happens, I expect you'll see Mora get busy and back in the ring regularly.
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg and Top Rank's Bob Arum are your men, Ryan. Of course, Mayweather isn't signed with any promoter, though Golden Boy will likely promote his next outing, so you could lobby Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, too. Schaefer will face kind of an ethical tightrope, though, as he wades into that mix. He represents Mosley, who is a partner in Golden Boy and who desperately wants the Mayweather fight. If Schaefer goes full bore on behalf of Mosley for a Mayweather fight, might Mayweather opt not to rehire Golden Boy if Mayweather would prefer to face Pacquiao? And what would Schaefer say to Mosley if he goes all out to land a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight knowing how badly his guy wants his own crack? Negotiations for Mayweather's next fight are going to be cutthroat, with more twists than a soap opera.
It's the money, Ron. When boxers are young, many of them dream of winning a world title and for most of them, the thrill of winning the first exceeds the payday. But when they get to the point that Mayweather, Pacquiao, Mosley and Cotto are at, they care only about checks with a lot of zeroes. Consider that on Nov. 14, Pacquiao wasn't particularly interested in fighting for Cotto's WBO welterweight belt. Ultimately, Arum decided they'd fight for it, but neither man is crazy about paying the sanction fee when they're bigger than the belts. At this stage of their careers, guys like we're talking about give the belt prestige, not the other way around.
Wellington, New Zealand
Yes, it was so far off the radar it didn't matter. Outside of New Zealand, frankly, no one cared, Dustin. And though I like "The Tuaman" a tremendous amount personally, it would be a fraud if he were ever to set foot in the ring in a world championship match again.
- Kelly Pavlik
- Floyd Mayweather
- Paul Williams
- Bernard Hopkins
- Oscar De La Hoya