Irish trio vying for shot at Pavlik title
THE race is on between Ireland's three top middleweights to get a world title shot -- with Matthew Macklin and John Duddy leading the charge and Andy Lee in third spot.
Their target is the American Kelly Pavlik, who holds the WBC and WBO belts and is generally considered the best in the division.
A hard hitter with both gloves, the Ohio fighter, known as 'The Ghost', has lost only one of his 37 fights, with 32 wins either by count-outs or stoppages.
Bob Arum, New York's leading promoter and arguably the world's No 1, is prepared to consider all three Irish hopefuls, as long as they continue to impress. He knows that an Irish challenger would be a big draw, especially in New York with its strong Irish population.
Duddy, 'the Derry Destroyer', would appear to be the best bet, but Arum wants him to first meet the Mexican hitter Julio Cesar Chavez Junior, who is working out a seven-month suspension for taking the illegal drug furosemide -- his ban will be over in late June. When a Duddy-Chavez fight could then take place is anybody's guess.
Arum told Macklin's promoter Ricky Hatton last month that he would consider a Pavlik defence against the Birmingham-born son of Irish parents.
Macklin, though, will be out of action for some time with a nose injury sustained last weekend against a Russian in Freddie Roach's gym in Los Angeles -- where he has been working out since January.
It also means a cancellation of his European title defence against the former champion Khoren Gevor, an Armenian based in Hamburg, which was scheduled to take place on April 16 in Birmingham. The fight has now been put back indefinitely.
Lee, with 20 wins and one loss, has been keeping quiet of late, and has not been in the ring since November when he out-pointed the European Union champion Affif Belghecham in a 10-rounder in Limerick. He won well but almost came unstuck in the last two rounds when the rugged Frenchman had him on the run and continually backed him onto the ropes under sustained attacks.
"I just lost my concentration," admitted Lee after the fight.
While four months' inactivity will not help Lee, the Limerick southpaw has been working out in the gym in New York, where he is now based, having moved from Detroit. However, he is still with top coach Emanuel Steward, despite reports that they had split.
Steward is talking about putting Lee in with the unbeaten New Yorker Danny Jacobs next month, although no contracts have yet been signed or any date or venue named.
"Jacobs is an up-and-comer and has won all his 18 fights so he would be a good test for Andy," said Steward.
"A good win over Jacobs -- and I'm convinced that Andy could achieve that -- would set him up nicely for a world title shot at Pavlik in the summer.
"I'm convinced that Andy will win the world title, and I also know that Bob Arum is keen to put him in with Pavlik. Tell your readers that we haven't yet seen the best of Andy Lee. Mark my words.
"I think Pavlik's style is made for Andy. It's boxer Lee against fighter Pavlik, and it's the boxer who usually wins. And remember, victory for Andy would mean he would naturally defend his title in Ireland, and that would be the biggest fight in Ireland for many years."
One important fact which would wreck all plans for an Irish challenge would be for Pavlik to lose his title when he defends it against Sergio Gabriel Martinez, an Argentinian based in Madrid, in Atlantic City on April 17. Martinez has won 36 of his 37 fights but it is very unlikely he can beat the in-form Pavlik.
Meanwhile, Belfast featherweight Martin Lindsay, a convincing points winner over former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jamie Arthur in Lancashire last weekend, could emulate Bernard Dunne and win a world title inside 18 months, according to his London manager, Frank Maloney.
"Martin can box and fight, and is hugely popular with the fans," Maloney said. "He has now won all his 16 fights and is continually improving."