By Jackie Kallen
I have always been a fan of Kelly Pavlik’s, so it was great to see him looking so sharp and strong as he totally trashed Scott Sigmon at the Hard Rock Casino in Vegas. He looked confident and invincible.
I first saw Pavlik fight in Las Vegas back in 2002 when he scored an impressive 1st round KO against a guy named Eric Olds at the Orleans Casino. Pavlik’s height and strength stood out as he totally dominated the ring from the second he climbed through the ropes.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
From Youngstown, Ohio, the Slavic fighter turned pro at 18 and immediately made his mark as a puncher by KOing the first 14 men he faced. He fought my former champion Bronco McKart in 2006 and dismantled the southpaw in the 6th round. It was apparent that Pavlik was the real deal.
When he faced Jermain Taylor in 2007 and stopped him in seven rounds to win the WBO and WBC Middleweight titles, the world took note. This win put Pavlik in the elite upper echelon of pugilists. They rematched five months later and Pavlik clearly beat him again in a 12-round decision. He defended it again a few months later against Gary Lockett and stopped him in three rounds.
It was right after this that Pavlik’s luck started turning south. People whispered that the fame got to him. He fought Bernard Hopkins in 2008 and lost badly. It wasn’t even close. Pavlik got sick a few days before the fight, but soldiered through and refused to cancel the bout. He paid dearly for that decision. His record was now flawed and he had his first taste of defeat.
Pavlik fought (and stopped) Marco Antonio Rubio four months later and was set to face Paul Williams when he ran into another road block. He got a cortisone injection on a knuckle and developed a nasty staph infection. He was playing baseball with some friends when the knuckle split open and a colorless ooze poured out. Doctors prescribed antibiotics but they didn’t work and he needed surgery.
Despite the operation, Pavlik’s staph infection worsened. The medications weren’t doing their job and as they tried new ones, Pavlik had an allergic reaction. His temperature soared above 104 and he landed in the hospital. After all this drama, he felt he wasn’t in any shape to face Williams. Gone went the super-sized payday.
Miguel Espino was a much safer opponent and Pavlik easily stopped him in the fifth round. Things seemed to be back on track. He headed into 2010 with a good attitude and high hopes. But the good times ground to a halt again when he faced Sergio Martinez in April. The Argentinian gave him a beating and took his titles. Pavlik did not take the setback well. He ended up at Betty Ford Clinic.
Pavlik was scheduled to fight Brian Vera on the undercard of Pacquaio/Margarito when he suddenly pulled out. The rumors that he was still drinking had been circulating for awhile, but the buzz got deafening. Soon it was announced that he would be entering the Betty Ford Clinic again and may retire from boxing entirely.
Two months and a lot of soul-searching later, Pavlik walked out of the Rancho Mirage facility a new man. He renewed his dedication to boxing and on May 7, 2011 he beat tough warrior Alfonso Gomez to show the boxing world that he was back. He headed to Oxnard, CA to train with Robert Garcia and turned over a new leaf.
He squared off against Aaron Jaco in Texas a couple of months ago and squashed him in two rounds. It was a mismatch to begin with, but it was a confidence-builder and it put Pavlik back in contention. His refreshed enthusiasm for the sport was obvious and he seemed happy and healthy.
The win against Sigmon is another small step up the ladder toward another world title. He looked like a giant against his bloodied but gutty opponent and seemed comfortable at Super Middleweight. It was admittedly not much of a test for Pavlik but one can only surmise that he will look even better as he faces more solid competition.
On the future hit list would be names like Andre Ward, Lucian Bute and Carl Froch. Even Dirrell or Abraham could be interesting. The main thing is that Pavlik is on the comeback trail and seems focused. His many fans are rooting for him.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen