by Johnny Walker
Super Six tournament winner and super middleweight world champion Andre “Son of God” Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) is set to face off in a title tilt with former undisputed middleweight champ Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs) on January 26 at the Galen center in Los Angeles.
Also on the bill is a co-feature that pits American heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) against Canadian power puncher Bermane Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs) in a WBC semi-final eliminator.
Ward moved up in weight recently to fight light-heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, who he dismantled in a lopsided stoppage win. Pavlik looked considerably less impressive in his last outing, a points victory over Will Rosinsky in which “The Ghost” got tagged far more than he should have.
Nevertheless, Pavlik, a slugger who has had some well-publicized battles with alcoholism over the last few years, probably comes into this fight as the more well-known entity. Ward, who seldom fights outside of California, has found it difficult to generate a large following, perhaps because of his style, which includes a lot of “ugly” infighting that many boxing fans find tedious.
“I’ve heard all the talk about Kelly Pavlik, but I know better than that. He’s beaten plenty of the big names,” Ward says.
“Bob Arum has done a great job of keeping Kelly busy until an opportunity like this came along. You can bet that a former world champion like Kelly Pavlik, being afforded another title shot…he’s going to be primed and ready. We are going to be ready too and it’s going to be a tremendous show.”
“Andre Ward’s a hell of a world champ,” says Pavlik. “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 champ, I was the one being pursued. Now he’s champ and I’m in hot pursuit.”
Cristobal Arreola has been forgotten recently amidst the hype over American hopefuls Seth Mitchell and Deontay Wilder. His last fight was in February, a one-round destruction of Eric Molina.
“I’m excited to be back on HBO and fighting someone worthy and good in Stiverne,” says Arreola. “He’s a tough fighter, but my will and strength will break him down. I’m not going to let anyone stand in my way!”
Like Arreola, Bermane Stiverne has only fought once in 2012, an 8-round UD win over an undistinguished opponent named Willie Herring.
“I don’t know what he’s been doing besides running from me,” Stiverne says of his American opponent. “I’m looking forward to the fight. He is a tough customer, but nothing that I can’t deal with. I’ll get the job done. I’m not concerned about a knockout. We have a plan that we want to execute. If the knockout comes, it comes.”
Both heavyweights will be looking toward fighting the winner of this Saturday’s semi-final eliminator in Belfast between Tyson Fury and Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson.
Should reigning WBC champion Vitali Klitschko–who stopped Arreola back in 2009–decide to retire, that bout could be for the world title.