LIVE PLAY BY PLAY HERE FEBRUARY 16TH APROX AT 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST.
LAS VEGAS, NEV. -- The storied middleweight division has been rife with legendary rivalries. In the '40s Rocky Graziano had Tony Zale, in the '50s Sugar Ray Robinson, Carmen Basilio, and Gene Fullmer had each other and in the '60s Nino Benvenuti had Emile Griffith. However, for the past 40 years the middleweight division has endured a void -- great champions without great championship rivalries.
Boxing's two best middleweights -- undefeated world champion KELLY "THE GHOST" PAVLIK and once-defeated former world champion JERMAIN "BAD INTENTIONS" TAYLOR -- will resume their ring-war hostilities, this time at 166 pounds, when they face-off in a battle of epic proportions. Boasting a combined record of 59-1-1 (46 KOs) -- a sterling winning percentage approaching 97% and victory by knockout ratio of 78% -- the Pavlik vs. Taylor collision explodes Saturday, February 16, at MGM Grand. Promoted by Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment, the 12-round Pavlik vs.Taylor rumble will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View, beginning at 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST.
"I have made a career out of fighting and beating the best and this fight is no exception," said Pavlik. "Just because I beat Jermain before doesn't take away from the fact that he is still the best contender out there. I dedicated my entire being to training to take away his title when we fought the first time and I will do no less to make sure I win this time because that's what it will take to beat him again."
"You can over hype this fight, if you want, call it a career defining fight, because that's exactly what this fight is for me," said Taylor. "This is the most important fight of my career. I'm putting it in my trainer's hands (Ozell Nelson), but I'm putting it in mine also, because I know exactly what I have to do. Ozell has been with me from the beginning, he knows the buttons to push with me that made me a world champion. We are ready to go back to work like we used to do it."
"J.D. Power and Associates couldn't rate a fight more dangerous than this one," exclaimed Pavlik's promoter Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank. "Kelly Pavlik is Youngstown's real-life John Henry -- a steel-drivin' man with hammers for fists. Only Kelly's not folklore, he's the real McCoy. He has captured the imagination of sports fans and media worldwide. Anyone who gets into the ring not only fights Kelly, but all of Youngstown. Their first fight was a classic and boxing fans can expect no less this time."
"Taylor-Pavlik was one of the great middleweight fights in memory and a fight that truly deserves a second go, said Lou DiBella, CEO of DiBella Entertainment, Taylor's promoter. "I am proud to be co-promoting the rematch and I'm confident that Jermain can reverse the first result."
Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs), from Youngstown, Ohio, joins former lightweight champions Harry Arroyo and Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini as hometown world champions. He returns to the ring after a "Fighter of the Year" performance, knocking out Jose Luis Zertuche (19-3-2, 14 KOs) and Edison Miranda (28-1, 24 KOs), in world title elimination bouts, earning him the right to become Taylor's mandatory challenger. All told, Pavlik Ghost wrote a career year against three of the best, who boasted a combined record of 74-4-3 (55 KOs) when he faced them. Pavlik's stoppage of Taylor extended his two-year victory by knockout streak to nine bouts.
Taylor, (27-1-1, 17 KOs), from Little Rock, Arkansas, the 2000 U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist, captured the undisputed middleweight title in 2005 when he dethroned Bernard Hopkins, ending the defending champion's record run of consecutive title defenses at 20 -- a run that left world champions Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, and Glen Johnson in his wake, among others. Taylor ruled the division for nearly two years, successfully defending his title four times, all against former world champions, including Hopkins again, Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks.