A reporter asked promoter Bob Arum what advice he gave Kelly Pavlik after the pride of Youngstown beat Jermain Taylor and took his middleweight belt from him back in September.
None, answered Arum, still on a high from his NY Giants' takedown of the hated Patriots.
That, the ace dealmaker stated, would be like giving advice to Eli Manning after he finished out-Bradying Tom Brady on Sunday.
Youngstown's homegrown hero of a hitter gets a chance on Feb. 16 to show any holdouts that his resolve, and the pop that he showed against Taylor, as he willed his legs to stay sturdy beneath him as he ate hellacious shots in the second round, weren't flukes.
You will get a chance to see for yourself, in Las Vegas, or a suggested retail price of $50 on pay per view.
Perhaps the primary storyline attached to the fight, aside from Taylor's trainer switcheroo, from Emanuel Steward, back to his old guru, Ozell Nelson, is the press preoccupation with Pavlik's rise to stardom. (Maybe you saw SI this week; they ran feature on the kid, focusing on his humble roots and throwback training methods.)
Specifically, we've been honing in on how he's dealing with the adulation, the hunger for his attention, from fans and organizations and family and friends, and the influx of money.
Will he get chewed up by the transition, and lose focus, and lose his belt, and his way? Or will he stay on message, separate the stardom process from the fight business, and do what he needs to do on Feb. 16 to elongate his stay on the magic mountain of professional athletic supremacy?
Judging by his words, and we all know we'll only get this question answered on Feb. 16, I'm guessing that Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) has dealt with his fame and fortune immersion pretty damn well, and that he hasn't let the acclaim affect his brain.
There have been no hasty purchases of “Bentleys, Mercedes' or mansions,” he told us during a Wednesday conference call.
No, he admitted, he doesn't dig the constant requests for interviews, and pleas to appear at this dinner and that. But his stardom hasn't reached the level of “Oscar De La Hoya, or Britney Spears,” he told us, so he's still able to be a regular dude much of the time.
He takes what he likes of the process and ignores the stuff he doesn't love, he said. Thus, he's able to concentrate on winning, which is now harder to pull off, because the bullseye target is now on him, he admitted.
The humble angle that is played up in stories about Pavlik and his trainer, driveway sealer Jack Loew, doesn't seem like your boilerplate “press looking for easy angle to play up” to me.
These two say all the right things, the things you want to hear if you are rooting for Pavlik to be more than a one-hit wonder who blazes on the scene and then flames out as he enjoys the lifestyle a bit too much.
But just to be sure, I asked Pavlik if he sometimes didn't feel like Spears, who as most of you know is just out of the nuthouse, having let the fame and adulation build to toxic levels in regards to her sanity.
No, Pavlik said, there are no parallels between he and Spears.
“No pills,” he promised us.
On the topic of saying the right thing, Pavlik said that he isn't looking past his promoter's plan for his first middleweight title defense, which is likely to be against Irishman John Duddy in the summer. The rematch with Taylor will be fought at 166 pounds or under, for those who don't know, as Taylor has outgrown the 160 pound class.
But after the Taylor rematch, Pavlik said he is looking to fight again at 160, perhaps several times, to defend that middleweight title that his promoter holds in such high regard.
Arum also holds Pavlik in high regard, and actually went out on a limb to say that at the end of the day, he thinks the Ohioan could be better than Hagler, Monzon, Rodrigo Valdes and Hearns. “If he continues on this path, he will be recognized as the greatest middleweight (of the Arum era),” the promoter said.
Pavlik fielded that compliment gracefully, with the pre-advertised humility… but that doesn't mean he, and his trainer, can't talk a little smack.
Loew told the listeners that he thinks he and Pavlik are in Taylor's head, calling them copycats for nicking their training techniques.
Pavlik slyly planted seeds of doubt when he wondered aloud how Taylor will look in round one on Feb, 16, and speculated whether his mind will be freed from the self doubt inflicted by the stoppage loss.
Pavlik wondered aloud if Taylor will ever find the right trainer, and “there's a reason why he didn't keep Ozell, and now he's back with him.” I know this was a shadowboxing session, but a judge had to say Pavlik was piling on the points in the hype/psychological pre-fight countdown period.
The fighter seems pleased as punch to be fighting at a higher class, and is overjoyed that he's able to eat real meals after punishing workouts, rather than nibbling on lighter fare as he has to at 160. And since he's taller than Taylor, he said, this weight bump should help him more than Bad Intentions.
“I'm 166 now, and eating like crazy,” he said.
Pavlik also planted seeds for the officials, as he accused Taylor of hitting him and hurting him with illegal behind-the-head blows in their first tussle.
Also, he wondered if Taylor could really be in better condition than ever come Feb. 16, reminding callers that Emanuel Steward had proclaimed Taylor's September camp his best ever.
Loew, who I'm certain could hook on with a political squad, with his sneaky way of planting seeds, assured us that there was no lingering hostility with Team Taylor. But “I wish Steward would have shook hands (after the September fight),” he said. “I wish he could have given me props, but I got no hard feelings.”
Hey, I think there's a place available on the Team Clinton squad–the man is slick, as slick as those driveways he smooths out so painstakingly.
Still, it wasn't all mind games for the fighter, who turns 26 in April. He said that he knows Taylor will be geared up to the max, because after beating masters like Hopkins, and Spinks, and handling Ouma and drawing with Wright, Taylor will be fired up to get back on top.
Sorry if I come off as being a little pro Pavlik here, I try to be as objective as I can without being numbingly balanced, but I was again impressed with his acumen when he talked about the pros and cons of being a city's favorite son.
“It's good but there's a lot of pressure too,” he said. “If I let them down, you are the worst person in Youngstown.”
This is no wide eyed simpleton here; it seems like Pavlik has considered all the angles of his situation, his upcoming fight, and his career path.
Not sure if he'll ever be considered in the same league as Hagler and those other studs, but I am guessing he will enjoy the fruits of his labors for a while longer.