Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik's comeback starts with Brian Vera, but a win could lead to a super middleweight title fight against Lucian Bute in the fight after that.
Pavlik promoter Top Rank and his co-manager, Cameron Dunkin, are in talks with Bute promoter InterBox about a possible showdown between them in March.
After Bute knocked out Jesse Brinkley in a mandatory defense last week, InterBox promoter Jean Bedard talked about the possible fight with Pavlik at the post-fight news conference.
Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that he has spoken to Bedard three times about the fight and could talk to him again in more detail if Bedard comes to Dallas for the Nov. 13 card at Cowboys Stadium. Manny Pacquiao fights Antonio Margarito in the main event of the HBO PPV card, but Pavlik faces Brian Vera (17-5, 11 KOs) on the undercard in his first fight since losing the middleweight title via bloody decision to Sergio Martinez in April.
Pavlik meets Vera at 164 pounds and has not yet decided if he will return to middleweight or seek a super middleweight title shot.
"They want to see if we can put a Pavlik fight with Bute together for next year," Moretti said of InterBox. "But Pavlik still has to decide if he wants to stay at 160 or go to 168. But first we gotta win the fight Nov. 13 and see how Kelly feels, and then go from there. But if you're looking at 168, you're going to look at the best attraction and one of the biggest names out there in Bute."
For his part, Pavlik isn't looking past Vera.
"This is life and death for me as a fighter. I must win," Pavlik said. "The future is now."
If Bute-Pavlik happens, Moretti said Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs) wouldn't necessarily have to go to Montreal for the fight. Bute draws big crowds there and generates substantial money, but Moretti said Bedard told him "they want to fight in America and they'd consider fighting Kelly in America. I don't think the fight would have to go to Canada."
Venues in New York and Atlantic City, N.J., would be in play if Bute decided to come to the United States.
Dunkin called the fight "very doable," but acknowledged its danger.
"Bute is a good technician, he can really punch with that left hand to the body and he's very quick and very smart," Dunkin said. "He's a good fighter, man. Kelly would have to absolutely be at his best. I've been talking to [InterBox agent] Don Majeski about it and I've talked to Kelly and [co-manager and father] Mike [Pavlik] and [trainer] Jack Loew about it. Everybody is very open to the fight."
However, Dunkin said the fight is no guarantee if Pavlik beats Vera. He said Pavlik still very much wants to reclaim his middleweight title.
"I think in Kelly's heart he wants to be middleweight champion again," Dunkin said. "I think he feels like he let himself and everybody else down when he lost to Martinez. In his heart he feels he should have never lost that fight and I think he really wants that belt back. After that, he's very game to fight at 168. He really respects Bute and all the good guys up there."
Dunkin said the outcome of the Nov. 20 Martinez-Paul Williams rematch could have a big bearing on what Pavlik does next year.
"If Martinez beats Williams and it's another sensational fight don't you think HBO would buy the [Martinez-Pavlik] rematch, especially if Kelly looks good with Vera," he said. "And if Williams beats Martinez, Kelly would gladly fight Williams."
Pavlik-Williams was made and postponed multiple times before eventually being canceled.
"I definitely think Kelly wants Bute down the road, but I think he wants the middleweight championship again, but it's not up to him," Dunkin said. "It's up to the other fighters and the television network, but if he had his druthers I think definitely he would want to fight the winner of Martinez-Williams. If it's too hard to make, I know Kelly will say, 'let's go to 168 and fight Bute.' But those are the only fights, Bute and the winner [of Martinez-Williams II]."
Whomever Pavlik fights after Vera, Loew expects him to win another world title.
"No disrespect intended to the card because it's a terrific show to be associated with, but fighting on an undercard is not where we want to be," Loew said of the Nov. 13 card. "Kelly has been a headliner since he won the middleweight title three years ago. We dug this hole and now it's time to climb out of it and Brian Vera is not going to prevent Kelly from becoming a two-time world champion."
• Light heavyweight titleholders Beibut Shumenov (10-1, 6 KOs) and Jürgen Brähmer (36-2, 29 KOs) are close to finalizing a unification bout, promoters Dan Goossen and Universum told ESPN.com. "We're discussing it with them," said Goossen, who promotes Shumenov. "It's an intriguing fight anytime you have two champions fighting one another." Shumenov, 27, who now lives in Las Vegas, was a 2004 Olympian for Kazakhstan before turning pro in 2007. He claimed his belt with a controversial split decision against Gabriel Campillo in their January rematch in Las Vegas and defended it in July, surviving a first-round knockdown in a dominant decision against Vyacheslav Uzelkov. Brahmer, 32, of Germany, has made two title defenses. Goossen wouldn't say when the fight would take place -- other than that they were trying to get it done before the end of the year -- or where they wanted to stage the fight. Shumenov has moved very quickly as a pro and unifying titles in his 12th pro fight is just an extension of that aggressive schedule, Goossen said. "This ties into how Beibut started his career, doing things you didn't think possible by fighting fights people didn't think he should be fighting so soon," Goossen said. "This is just the next step. A victory puts him right there as the man to beat with two titles."
• Light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud (21-0, 18 KOs) continues training for his Dec. 17 title defense in Miami, but his handlers are still looking for an opponent after Otis Griffin declined the match, trainer Al Bonanni told ESPN.com. "Otis is out," he said. "We'll have an opponent shortly." Bonanni said his understanding was that Griffin would try to fight an eliminator for the No. 1 position to get a mandatory against Cloud. So why wouldn't Griffin just take the title bout now instead of having to win an eliminator to get the same match down the road? "He's gonna lose one way or the other and he'll get more money as the mandatory," Bonanni said. Bonanni said Yusaf Mack is also out as a possible opponent. Based on the IBF's rankings, Mack could wind up facing Griffin in the eliminator. Heavyweights Odlanier Solis and Ray Austin meet in the main event of the Don King-promoted card at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. The Solis-Austin winner gets a mandatory title shot against Vitali Klitschko.
• Featherweight titlist Chris John's twice-postponed defense against Argentina's Fernando Saucedo (38-4-3, 1 KO) is scheduled for Dec. 1 in Jakarta, Indonesia, John's home country after Sampson Lewkowicz, John's adviser, paid a visit to WBA headquarters in Panama City this week to make the request for the optional defense in person. The WBA, which granted the request, had ordered John, the organization's so-called "super champion" to begin negotiations with Yuriorkis Gamboa, who holds the "regular" title. However, John (43-0-2, 22 KOs) already had signed for the fight with Saucedo. It was postponed twice, first because John suffered a shoulder injury and then because of a rib injury, and the Dec. 1 date was inside the time frame in which the WBA wanted him to face Gamboa. As part of the deal for getting the OK for the optional defense, if John wins, he must begin immediate negotiations with Gamboa with the fight due to take place by April 19. If they can't make a deal a purse bid would be a 55-45 split in John's favor. John-Gamboa is a fight HBO and Showtime probably would be interested in and both sides are interested in making it. "Chris John would love to fight Gamboa," said Lewkowicz, who has a poor relationship with Ahmet Öner of Arena-Box, Gamboa's co-promoter with Top Rank. "It will be a tough negotiation. If we don't get a 55-45 then we are going to purse bid, and I would love take Gamboa to Indonesia for the fight." Top Rank's Carl Moretti said their side is also interested and he is talking to HBO about a date for Gamboa's next bout. If it's against John, great. "As long as it makes sense, we're interested," Moretti said. "But if Chris John wants the moon, he should ask NASA, not Top Rank."
• The IBF has ordered a four-man box-off to find the next mandatory challenger for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Initially, it called for Denis Boytsov to face Jean-Marc Mormeck in one semifinal and Alexander Dimitrenko to meet Jonathon Banks in the other semifinal. The winners would meet to earn a shot at Klitschko. However, Dimitrenko and Boytsov have declined to participate. The IBF went down its rankings and Eddie Chambers accepted the fight with Mormeck. A purse bid is scheduled for Tuesday, but Mormeck may also decline to participate because of a potential fight against former champ Hasim Rahman that is under. If Mormeck looks elsewhere, the IBF would go further down its rankings. Klitschko brutally knocked out Chambers in the 12th round in March in a mandatory fight.
• Lightweight Anthony Peterson has returned to the gym for the first time since his disappointing seventh-round disqualification loss to Brandon Rios on Sept. 11. Peterson (30-1, 20 KOs), who had been knocked down in the fifth round and was trailing widely on all three scorecards in a fight he was favored to win, was DQ'd by referee Russell Mora for repeated low blows in the title eliminator on HBO. Barry Hunter, Peterson's manager/trainer and father figure, still can't understand why Peterson continued to hit Rios below the belt. "Anthony just totally abandoned the plan in the second or third round," Hunter said. "Rios was mechanical and had no lateral movement. No disrespect to him, but it should have been an easy fight for Anthony with the plan we had." So what about the low blows, more than one of which appeared to be purposeful? "One of them could have been," Hunter said. "I think he got so caught up in the fight and that he had been knocked down that he pushed the panic button early. He was still in the fight and there was time to get back in it, but I think psychologically he just broke down. For whatever reason, I don't know. He said after he got hit, all the planning went out of the window. He said [the low blows] weren't intentional. For me personally, I was sitting right there, and I think one of them could have been intentional out of frustration."
• Super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez is taking his "ShoBox" main event against James McGirt Jr. so seriously that he's traveled halfway around the world to get ready. Rodriguez (16-0, 12 KOs) has been in Sydney, Australia, since last week working as a sparring partner for Daniel Geale (23-1, 14 KOs). Rodriguez is prepping for McGirt (22-2-1, 11 KOs) on Nov. 5 in Fargo, N.D., and Geale is getting ready for to fight former junior middleweight titlist Roman Karmazin in a middleweight title eliminator Oct. 31 in Sydney. "It's a real step up in class for Edwin," said Larry Army, Rodriguez's manager. "McGirt is a seasoned veteran whose list of 25 opponents features only three with losing records. We're thrilled to be fighting in the main event on 'ShoBox.' McGirt's tough but I don't know how long he'll be able to stand up to Edwin's vicious body attack. This fight makes perfect sense. There's a lot at stake for both fighters: James needs a big win, Edwin needs a defining victory. Edwin's being treated like a king in Australia. He told me that he's never been treated as well in his life. In addition to the valuable experience he's gained by sparring with Geale, Edwin working every day with two good southpaws will really help to get him ready for McGirt, too."
• Featherweight Mikey Garcia, one of Top Rank's top rising contenders, returns Dec. 11 to headline "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes) against an opponent to be determined in Mexico, manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com. Garcia (23-0, 19 KOs), 22, stopped Cornelius Lock in the 11th round in his last fight in August in a title elimination bout to become Yuriorkis Gamboa's mandatory challenger. But with a title fight still several months away at the earliest, Top Rank and Dunkin want to keep Garcia busy.
• Former junior welterweight title challenger Dmitriy Salita (31-1-1, 16 KO) faces former junior lightweight titlist Mike Anchondo (30-3, 19 KO) on Dec. 16 in New York. Salita, blown out in 76 seconds by 140-pound titlist Amir Khan in December, bounced back with an eight-round decision against Franklin Gonzalez on Sept. 1. Anchondo was knocked out in the fourth round by Freddy Hernandez on Sept. 17. Salita and trainer Nirmal Lorick have spent part of the training camp in Detroit working with Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. "Emanuel Steward's experience is providing me with a great deal of boxing education, while working with world champions and top prospects," Salita said.
"I don't see a legend in the ring. I see a piece of meat, and I'm a hungry dog. This is my time. I belong with the elite boxers. To be the best in the world, you have to face the best. Bernard Hopkins is a legend." -- light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal, during this week's media tour promoting his fight against former champ Bernard Hopkins on Dec. 18 (Showtime).
"I understand that this fight is win or go home for me. There's really no tomorrow for me unless I take this fight and I take it impressively and I take it aggressively. My career ends [if I lose]." -- former light heavyweight champ Hopkins, who is 45, on his title shot against Pascal.
"If the typhoon didn't get Manny, the 'Tornado' will." -- trainer Robert Garcia, comparing his man, Antonio Margarito, to the typhoon sweeping the Philippines as Manny Pacquiao is prepares for their fight on Nov. 13.