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October 1, 2009

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Pavlik set for title defense

KELLY Pavlik will defend his WBO and WBC middleweight titles against Paul Williams in December in a fight originally scheduled for October before a stubborn staph infection on Pavlik's left hand flared up.

It took two operations, but Pavlik said on Tuesday his hand was feeling better. It's his pride that was still bruised. "I still have a lot to prove," Pavlik said at the New York Giants' practice facility, where the fight was officially announced. "Even after the Williams fight, a dominant performance, there still would be a lot to prove."

Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) is routinely lampooned for sticking with hometown trainer Jack Loew, rather than finding someone with a bigger reputation, and for refusing to leave Youngstown, Ohio, for camp. Two underwhelming title defenses, against Marco Antonio Rubio and Gary Lockett, left many fans unsatisfied, and Pavlik was beaten soundly by Bernard Hopkins.

The unassuming 27-year-old champion is generous to a fault, signing autographs and posing for pictures. He chats with fans and answers questions with candid honesty.

Then he turns around to find himself defending everything he's accomplished.

"Critics come in boxing all the time, no matter what you do," Pavlik said, leaning forward and sounding exasperated. "If I go in there and dominate Williams, people will probably say he's a welterweight, blown-up junior middleweight."

The December 5 in New Jersey bout came together after months of contentious negotiations, then weathered the postponement caused by Pavlik's staph infection.

Williams (37-1, 27 KOs) was hoping to fight before December and his promoter, Dan Goossen, considered other options. Then he ran into the same problem that has been hampering Williams for the past several years: Nobody wants to fight him.


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