Kelly Pavlik scraps title bout with Paul Williams

Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik called off a title defense against Paul Williams set for Dec. 5 because of an infected left hand.

Pavlik was to fight Williams at Atlantic City in one of the year’s most anticipated bouts, but promoter Top Rank announced on Wednesday that Pavlik was unable to make a fist or punch with the injured hand.

Top Rank president Todd duBoef said Pavlik’s recovery has “not progressed as projected by Dr. Peter Evans at the Cleveland Clinic. Once Pavlik is cleared medically by Dr. Evans, we will pursue all avenues with regards to a future bout.”

Pavlik and Williams were supposed to fight in October, but the bout was postponed at the last minute because of the hand injury.

Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) believes the infection could date to last October, when he was pounded by Bernard Hopkins. Pavlik returned to stop contender Marco Antonio Rubio before a hometown crowd in Youngstown, Ohio, in February, but hasn’t fought since.

Top Rank blamed the hand injury for the postponement and cancellation of another fight against Sergio Mora for June 27, even though Pavlik publicly claimed he was healthy.

Williams promoter Dan Goossen said he won’t wait for Pavlik again and will look for a different opponent. Williams, one of the most feared fighters from welterweight to super middleweight, hasn’t fought since a lopsided decision over Winky Wright in April.

“These are the circumstances that you try to avoid and move past, and I’m not going to sit here and denigrate Pavlik or Top Rank,” Goossen told The Associated Press. “They all had their chance.”

Goossen declined to discuss possible opponents for Williams (37-1, 27 KOs), but HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said the show will go on. It was expected to be a doubleheader with the opening televised bout featuring welterweights Joshua Clottey and Carlos Quintana.

It was expected to be a doubleheader with the opening televised bout featuring welterweights Joshua Clottey and Carlos Quintana, but Top Rank spokesman Lee Samuels said that fight also was scrapped. Clottey is promoted by Top Rank.

“We are obviously very disappointed that the Paul Williams vs. Kelly Pavlik fight has been canceled,” Greenburg said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Dan Goossen has told us he is looking for the best opponent for Paul Williams to fight on Dec. 5. The show will go on, and we are looking forward to another solid night of boxing on HBO.”