No, the fame and fortune hasn’t gone to Kelly Pavlik’s head, not that we can see anyway. There he was, back at his familiar haunt, the Southside Boxing Club in Youngstown, Ohio on Tuesday, weighing in on his Feb. 16 rematch with Jermain Taylor in Las Vegas.
Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs), and his trainer Jack Loew hosted a media workout, and they shared their thoughts about Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KOs), and what they need to do to go 2-0 against JT.
Pavlik said he’s confident going in to the rematch, that he’s done his homework and that being the champ hasn’t dented his work ethic. “I know Taylor wants redemption, he's a competitor, but that may be his downfall,” said the 25-year-old hitter. “I can tell Taylor is more intent on beating me than on winning the fight and believe me, there is a difference in those philosophies. This fight is my sole focus.”
Pavlik isn’t content to rest on his last laurel, a TKO7 win over JT, which came on Sept. 29 in Atlantic City. “I've been watching more tape than I usually do,” he said. “Jack and I have been working on correcting the mistakes I made in the last fight — I won't be sticking my chin out in this fight. The rematch is going to be tough, but I think he has a lot more to correct than I do. I'm having my best training camp ever. Winning the title has added extra motivation to me. It has spurred me to raise my performance to another level…a level I have never experienced before.”
Trainer Loew is liking what he’s seeing from his fighter, and his eyes have been peeled, as he’s searching for behavior that might point to overconfidence, or lessened motivation that could arise after winning a belt. “I have been training Kelly since he was nine,” Loew said. “He's always been a hard worker in the gym, but since he's won the world title he's become a different fighter in the gym. He is more focused and you can tell he's working harder on his strength and conditioning because his punches are faster and more explosive than ever. He's been on weight for over a week and he's training like an animal. Kelly Pavlik, world champion, is a whole different cat from Kelly Pavlik, the contender. That's how much he has improved since winning the title in September. It's remarkable. So, all the notoriety, and increased adulation hasn’t detracted from his preparation? “Nothing has distracted him,” Loew said. “This is a big fight for Kelly from a money point of view. The money will be much bigger for Kelly when he beats Taylor again.”
So, can Taylor make some tweaks to his game, and finish the job this time? He had Pavlik in deep, dangerous water in the second round of their first fight. “Taylor didn't change in any of his fights and I doubt he'll change now,” Loew said. “Kelly's not going to be much different either. He's still going to come to fight and throw a million punches. But we'll have a few tricks up our sleeve.”
Loew, who has a sneaky ability to trash talk, maybe more than you’d expect from an unheralded coach who still paves driveways fulltime, touched on Taylor’s switch from Manny Steward to Ozell Nelson. “He's [Ozell Nelson] the guy who taught him [Jermain Taylor] all his bad habits, so I'm thankful Jermain brought him back,” Loew said. “Taylor has a lot more to correct than we do. We'll correct our mistakes; it's a matter of will he?”
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SPEEDBAG John Ruiz’ manager, attorney Tony Cardinale, promises that there will be a brand new Ruiz on display on March 8, when Ruiz meets 37-year-old Jameel McCline, in a last chance dance for two veteran heavies. This scrap is smack dab in the middle of a pretty tasty card: BA/BO/IBF lightweight champ and TSS fave Juan Diaz meets vet Nate Campbell; Sam Peter tangles with Oleg Maskaev for the WBC crown; and Jose Luis Castillo shows if he’s done when he gives up ‘n comer Timothy Bradley a crack. The Ruiz/McCline winner will probably get a title shot at the WBC strap, Cardinale said. So, does Ruiz, age 36, know that his chances are running out? “He knows this is it,” Cardinale said. “He’s a different fighter with Manny Siaca training him. He’s more dangerous.” Ruiz lost to Giant Valuev (MD) in Nov. 2005 and Ruslan Chagaev in Dec. 2006 (SD). He took out Otis Tisdale in the second round in his last outing in October, something a few other people have been able to do, but Cardinale swears the time with Siaca will do wonders for Ruiz. “It’s going to be a good fight,” he said. “The winner goes on, the loser goes home.”