Maybe Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez did more damage to Kelly Pavlik than anyone suspected? Or maybe it was his friends Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker and Jose Cuervo who left him so dazed and confused that he no longer knows who he is.
What other conclusions can one arrive at after Pavlik’s rambling interviews this week following his decision to pull out of Saturday night’s “ShoBox: The Next Generation’’ main event against journeyman Darryl Cunningham?
The fact that the former middleweight champion found himself headlining a cable television show dedicated to developing fighters of the future rather than on some grand stage in Las Vegas or New York should have been a clue to how far he’d fallen. But when you have no clue, you end up reacting to events more like Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes and that is exactly what Pavlik did.
Railing at his promoter, Bob Arum, and his manager, Cameron Dunkin, Pavlik said he was “tired of being a puppet’’ and was “still one of the biggest names in boxing.’’ Maybe in Youngstown he is but in boxing Kelly Pavlik, through his own fault to great extent, has become yesterday’s news since being badly beaten by Sergio Martinez and then disappearing for 13 months after repeatedly pulling out of a fight with Paul Williams because of a staph infection before finally entering rehab to combat a battle with alcohol, a battle which maybe isn’t going so well.
His return in May resulted in a lack luster win on points over Alfonso Lopez and led to scheduling another tune-up fight against a 36-year-old journeyman southpaw in an attempt to prepare Pavlik for a proposed November super middleweight title fight in Canada with rising star Lucian Bute, for which Pavlik would be paid $1.35 million plus $25,000 in training expenses.
When Pavlik learned the economic details of those two fights it led him to conclude Arum was trying to “cash in’’ on him, putting him in a fight with Bute that would be difficult to win for half what he alleged former super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler had been offered.
Pavlik then listed past purses of $2.5 million for journeyman middleweight title challenger Gary Lockett and $3 million for Bernard Hopkins, comparing them unfavorably with the projected $1.35 million for Bute and said, “How does that happen?’’
Well, Kelly, one way it happens is to let a then 44-year-old man like Hopkins slap you silly in a catch-weight fight above the middleweight limit while embarrassing you by exposing just how primitive your skills really were.
Another way is to follow that up a year and a half later by being beaten to a bloody pulp in a middleweight title unification bout against Martinez in which Pavlik looked like he hadn’t learned a thing from his lopsided loss to Hopkins.
A third way is to make one excuse after another for pulling out of an oft-scheduled but never contested fight with Paul Williams, as Pavlik did by claiming a staph infection in his hand had become all but incurable and then see Martinez destroy Williams with one punch.
The last way is to follow the Martinez loss with a 13-month layoff punctuated by a well-publicized drift into alcohol abuse that ended up sending the former champion into rehab.
“How does that happen?’’ Pavlik asked about the downward drift of his purses. Well, now you know.
Arum denied Inter-Box, who promotes Kessler, ever offered the Dane $3 million to fight Bute or that his promotional company was looking to cash out on a former champion who had become damaged goods at 29. Whether they were or not however was immaterial because all Pavlik had to do is what one of the biggest names in boxing should do in such a circumstance. All he had to do was win those fights and the money would be there.
Big money for rematches with Martinez or Hopkins, if he wanted to try and avenge either loss, or with the winner of SHOWTIME’S Super 6 tournament final between Andre Ward and Carl Froch. The kind of money he grew used to making when he was a big though somewhat manufactured name.
Seldom has anyone gained more for beating up two guys who have since proven to be suspect fighters whose talents were vastly overrated by the public: Jermain Taylor and Edison Miranda. Pavlik stopped them both four years ago and became an instant star but that star quickly went into nova after Hopkins exposed his shortcomings a year later and nothing seems to have been quite right with him since.
The downward slide of Kelly Pavlik’s career finally hit bottom this week when he pulled out of a $50,000 fight with Cunningham in his hometown of Youngstown, an act that judging by comments on the website of the Youngstown Vindicator did not set too well with the struggling local populace.
Youngstown is one of those Rust Belt towns the world forgot. Its manufacturing-based economy has been broken for years and is showing no signs of rallying. Yet the people there had adopted Pavlik as a symbol of the fight that’s still in them and a shining example that no matter how often you get hit if you just keep on fighting, your hand will be raised.
People in such circumstances don’t want to hear a native son say, “I’m not going to fight a southpaw for peanuts,’’ as Pavlik told WFMJ-TV this week. To such people, $50,000 isn’t peanuts. It’s a life raft.
Worse, Pavlik said in another interview that he would fight Bute for $1.1 million in Atlantic City “but I got to put the guy on a stretcher to win the fight in Canada…it’s kind of like Top Rank is cashing in on me.’’
So he’s willing to fight Bute for less money in the U.S. than he’d get in Canada but he’s not willing to take a title shot against him across the border in Bute’s hometown because he doubts he’ll get a fair shake? Most people in Youngstown would walk through fire in their shorts for $50,000, never mind $1.35 million.
“I don’t need to fight no more,’’ Pavlik said, and maybe he doesn’t. Then again, maybe he doesn’t have much fight left in him after losing his aura of invincibility to Hopkins and Martinez, losing his way to an alcohol problem he recently said he wasn’t sure was really a problem and losing his mind if he doesn’t think a $1.35 million payday for a fighter in his dwindling circumstances is an opportunity.
Arum was surprisingly calm about the decision, saying “If he doesn’t want to fight why push him?’’ But his trainer, Jack Loew, was critical of Dunkin, with whom he has often quarreled, claiming it was only after Dunkin explained to Pavlik the financial details of the two fights that his fighter walked away from.
Reportedly, Pavlik did not show up to run or to train at Loew’s Southside Boxing Club after speaking with Dunkin and three days later issued his public manifesto. After he did, SHOWTIME quickly cancelled the show, Arum moved on, Bute’s promoters began seeking another opponent and no one in boxing seemed remotely surprised at anything but the obvious fact that the one guy who doesn’t know any more who Kelly Pavlik is Kelly Pavlik.