Pavlik at weigh-in before last bout, against Scott Sigmon. His team is wise; they are putting him back in right away, not wasting time, helping to keep him focused on boxing, to minimize the possibility he drifts. (Chris farina-Top Rank)
Bias alert: I root for Kelly Pavlik. I identify with the kid, with some of the jackpots he’s been involved in, some of the choices he made to kill time, and numb emotions. So it is mildly worrying to hear the Youngstown native who has transplanted to California to re-start his life and boxing career become slightly defensive when asked the question that basically anyone who has followed his career, from prospect coming up the hard way, to middleweight champion, to sliding ex champ battling personal demons and Johnny Law wants an answer to: are you sober?
“Right now I am in training,” he said on a conference call to hype his July 7 bout against New Yorker Will Rosinsky, on the undercard of the Nonito Donaire-Jeffrey Mathebula in Las Vegas. “You see people mentioning the last couple incidents, but that is a three-year-old question. I will talk about my fight coming up and the opponent I am fighting.”
Fair enough. Man wants to concentrate on the task at hand. Actually, he deserves props for not giving in to the media pre-occupation with dirty laundry. Over the decades, we have lost a clear understanding on what is news, and what is gossip, and Pavlik is basically telling us, when he refuses to offer his sober date, that the answer is personal to him, and should be labeled gossip to us, and is thus none of our business. Fair enough. But whether Pavlik is heading out to bars, or sitting in his apartment sipping brews after training, or in between fights, does bear asking, I’d argue, because when he is in a place where he is sober, is understanding that booze does him no favors, and is not his friend, but is actually a demon disguised, Pavlik has a chance to get back to the top of the mountain. This time, he will try to do so at 168 pounds.
Now, I hear on the grapevine that Pavlik is indeed behaving himself, focusing on training fully, and it looked that way two weeks ago, when he busted up and stopped Scott Sigmon on ESPN.
Promoter Bob Arum was asked if the boxer can get back to his 2008 form. It’s probably no coincidence he used some rehab-speak in his answer. “He was on a roll in those days and it was one success after another,” Arum said. “We hope to replicate that now. Let’s see how he does in this fight – we expect him to do well and then we are going to step him up to a much bigger fight in his next fight in the fall. But it’s one step at a time.”
Manager Cameron Dunkin says he too is optimistic Pavlik can get back to where he was. “I agree, just take one fight at a time,” he said. “This presented itself and it really showed me a lot about Kelly and his character. He jumped right on this fight in five minutes. There wasn’t even a question whether he wanted this fight.” (Some will recall the fiasco from last summer, when Pavlik pulled out of a scheduled bout with Darryl Cunningham in the 11th hour, leaving Showtime, Top Rank and ticket-buyers on Ohio high-and-dry. It wasn’t clear then if the kid wanted to do the boxing thing, so Dunkin has to be happy his guy is re-committed.) “It’s just the drive he has in him and how much he wants this again and that was just like the old Kelly. Kelly would just say to me ‘make the fight, make the fight,’ whoever it was. ‘Let’s go and I’ll take care of it.’Let me tell you, his skills are better than they’ve ever been. The stuff he does with his jab now and his hands are up. I just see so many basic things that he is doing now that he’s never done in his career. I look to see a great Kelly Pavlik again – as good as or better than the first one so that is what I’m looking forward to.”
OK, the kid doesn’t want to reassure folks that he’s put a cork in the bottle, but he does seem to have his head on straight regarding his near future in the ring. “I am ready for the big fight now,” Pavlik (age 30; 39-2 with 34 KOs; fighting third fight under trainer Robert Garcia) said. “I have been pro for 12 years now. I have been in the ring with Taylor twice and Hopkins and Miranda and Martinez – we’ve got our fights in and it has to be after this fight the big fights. On July 7 we have a game kid in front of us so I can’t even think about that right now. We’ve got to take care of business Saturday or we won’t be worrying about any of that.” He singled out Carl Froch—good choice, I think, an action fight is guaranteed, and Froch isn’t someone a sniper with a massive hand and foot speed edge over Pavlik, who has probably slipped a bit in those departments—as someone he’d like to target. He also mentioned Lucian Bute, and I think that’d be a great comeback for Bute, to see if he can get his head screwed on straight after being mugged by Froch. Pavlik is also impressed with Andre Ward, and would like a crack at him, he said.
Readers, weigh in….Where do you see this Pavlik comeback going? Back to where he was in his heyday? Or has something been lost, never to be regained? Will he maintain his focus, or slide off the rails? Could he beat Froch, Bute and/or Ward? Go to the Forum, and discuss.
Remaining tickets for The Home Depot Center’s Donaire / Pavlik World Championship fight card, priced at $100, $50 and $25, can be purchased online at AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849 as well as The Home Depot Center Box Office (open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).Suites are available by calling 1-877-604-8777. For information of group discounts, please call 1-877-234-8425.