Andre Ward is widely considered to be the world's No. 3 pound-for-pound… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )
Unbeaten super-middleweight champion Andre Ward will defend his two belts Jan. 26 against former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in the first boxing match at USC’s Galen Center.
Oakland’s Ward (26-0, 14 knockouts) is ranked by most experts as the world’s No. 3 pound-for-pound boxer behind Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
He’s coming off a 10th-round technical knockout of former world light-heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in September. Ward, who holds the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. super-middleweight belts, previously won the Super Six super-middleweight tournament.
In Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs), he’ll be facing a strong puncher who has battled alcohol abuse after losses to Bernard Hopkins (in 2008) and Sergio Martinez (2010). Pavlik has defeated his last four anonymous foes with two decisions and two technical knockouts.
“His credentials are ... that he’s a former world champion,” Ward promoter Dan Goossen said. “People in this crazy business might say, ‘Oh, he's got one or two losses, he may not be what he once was,’ but you saw how someone like Miguel Cotto has come back from a defeat.
“Pavlik has that desire and will to beat the best. And losing a decision to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez is not a concern. He’s a very dangerous opponent who understands what’s at stake for him with a victory – and being a strong puncher adds a dimension to allow him to do what he believes he can do.”
HBO will televise the bout, and Riverside heavyweight Chris Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs) will fight Bermane Stiverne (22-1-1, 20 KOs) in a World Boxing Council eliminator that should give the winner a shot at champion Vitali Klitschko.
Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, said in a prepared statement that he embraces the challenge of taking on a 30-year-old ex-champion at a career crossroads.
“He’s going to be primed and ready,” Ward said.
Goossen said, “Andre Ward will tell you Kelly Pavlik brings as much danger as anyone in the past. He doesn’t underestimate anyone. You have to understand the mind-set of a champion. Andre will prepare for Kelly to be at his best.
“He’s not going in there just for a pay day. He’s thinking Kelly’s trying to upset the apple cart, and let’s face it, Pavlik is the one with everything to gain here.”
Goossen said he was lured to stage the fight at the palatial Galen Center, home of USC men’s basketball, because, “there’s nothing more special than opening a building with an event of this stature.”
Arreola will be seeking a second shot at Klitschko after losing to him after 10 rounds in 2009 at Staples Center.
“Arreola’s in shape now, he’s been under 250 pounds this whole year, and he’s got the mind-set 2013 is the year for him,” Goossen said.