Ward books January defence against Pavlik
Super middleweight champion Andre Ward was limited to only one fight in 2012 because of a hand injury, but will get an early start to his 2013 campaign when he defends his unified titles against former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik on January 26 in Los Angeles.
The American stars will meet in the main event of a doubleheader on the first boxing card to be held at the Galen Center, the home arena for the University of Southern California basketball and volleyball teams.
The co-feature is a significant heavyweight bout that will pit Cristobal Arreola against Bermane Stiverne in a title elimination bout that will make the winner the mandatory challenger for titleholder Vitali Klitschko.
Dan Goossen, Ward's promoter, and Top Rank's Bob Arum, Pavlik's promoter, began negotiating the fight in mid-October, but it took time to work out the details, Goossen said.
"It's never easy making fights like this," Goossen said on Tuesday. "But the key thing here was everyone involved wanted to get it made. There was never a point where we doubted it would get finalized. I believed we had a deal in October, but we just had to get the particulars together."
Ward, one of boxing's elite pound-for-pound fighters, will be making his sixth title defense.
The 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, who won the Super Six World Boxing Classic in December by easily outpointing Carl Froch to unify two of the 168-pound belts in the tournament final, is coming off a devastating performance in September. He destroyed light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, another pound-for-pound caliber fighter. Dawson dropped down in weight for the fight and Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) routed him, scoring three knockdowns en route to a 10th-round knockout.
"Andre Ward's a hell of a world champ," Pavlik said. "He's the super middleweight king right now. He went through a tough tournament and proved where he's at. He beat everybody that he was supposed to fight and he's top dog. When I was (middleweight) champ, I was the one being pursued. Now he's (super middleweight) champ and I'm in hot pursuit."
Many view Pavlik as an easier assignment for Ward than Dawson or some of his Super Six opponents, such as Froch and Mikkel Kessler, because he has not had a significant win in a few years and has had outside the ring issues.
"Pavlik is a big name but he is also a formidable former world champion whose only losses have been to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez in 12-round decisions," Goossen said. "It's the Pavliks of the world who have been to the top and want to get back there who are dangerous.
"You don't take anything for granted and I know Andre isn't. He doesn't underestimate the challenge from Pavlik."
This article first appeared on ESPN.com