The first truly exciting boxing card of 2013 has been set. On January 26th HBO’s World Championship Boxing will feature a thrilling main event as Kelly Pavlik challenges pound-for-pound contender Andre Ward for his Super Middleweight championship. Ward most recently devastated the formidable light heavyweight Chad Dawson to cement his place in the pound-for-pound rankings. Pavlik has been successful since his return to the ring after taking time off and suffering losses to Sergio Martinez and Bernard Hopkins, but his opposition has been of lower quality than his previous opponents, and he’s never faced a fighter like Ward. Clearly, Ward’s power translates well up through 175 pounds, and his speed, agility and accuracy are unmatched in both divisions. Pavlik has never fared well against slick, speedy fighters with good accuracy. His losses to both Martinez and Hopkins were due to just those factors when it looked as if his power might be too much for Martinez in the early rounds. Against Ward, Pavlik will have to face a combination of technical strengths and tools like none he has ever competed with in the past. I was still skeptical about Andre Ward’s versatility even after I saw him thoroughly dominate Carl Froch (who is on a rebound of his own) in Atlantic City for the SuperSix Middleweight Championship. Ward’s performance against Dawson, however, left no room for speculation. I don’t see anyone in either division being able to compete with his level of skill any time soon, as much as I would like to see Pavlik do well. At least Pavlik will be getting a highly-publicized fight and Ward will be getting top competition against whom he can further demonstrate his talents.
The undercard will be no disappointment either. The hopes for the American Heavyweights once rested with Cris Arreola, who has fought his way back to the top since his loss to Vitali Klitschko, gradually increasing his competition and looking very comfortable against mid-level opposition. His next opponent will be Bermane Stiverne who has only lost once and therefore , due to lack of legitimate competition, warrants a shot at the mandatory challenger spot to face Vitali Klitschko, who defeated Arreola by TKO in the 10th round in a September 2009 matchup. While Arreola’s prospects in a rematch are dismal, boxing fans would certainly rather see another competitive fight between the two behemoths than mismatching a “mandatory” challenger we’ve never heard of and will never hear of again. Good night of boxing all in all, check my Fight Predictions Page for my thoughts on the outcome.