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Jackie Kallen on Boxing: Kelly Pavlik on Comeback Trail


By Jackie Kallen

Everyone pulls for the underdog and loves a successful comeback. So, for that reason alone, I am hoping that Kelly Pavlik has an easy night on March 31. He will be in San Antonio, facing off against lightly-regarded Aaron Jaco.


Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank

From Sarasota, FL, Jaco is a smaller version of his father, David Jaco, who fought heavyweight from 1981-1994. A journeyman who retired with a 24-25-1 record, David was a stepping stone for many up-and-coming fighters. With a record of 15-2, Aaron is not exactly a career opponent, but he is not likely to win a world title any time soon.

This is the kind of fight that Pavlik needs right now. He has only had one fight in the past two years. After losing his title to Sergio Martinez in April, 2010, he has fought only once. A rib injury in late 2010 derailed his slated bout again Brian Vera. In May 2011 he won a decision against Alfonso Lopez (22-3) on the undercard of Pacquiao/Mosley. He weighed 170 pounds. One judge, however, saw it as a draw, so Pavlik knew he’d have to do better if he was ever going to regain a title.

He has had two stints in rehab and one arrest for a DUI charge. And then he had a meltdown of sorts in August and pulled out of a Showtime fight because he claimed he didn’t like the deal. His promoter, Top Rank, was understandably pissed off and that ended Pavlik’s chance at a Lucian Bute fight for last November. He has not made the wisest decisions, to say the least.

It appears, though, that Pavlik has turned over a new leaf and is trying to put his life back on track. He will be 30 on April 5 and has moved from his home in Youngstown, Ohio to start anew in Oxnard, CA. He left long-time trainer Jack Loew and is now working with Robert Garcia, who also trains Brandon Rios and Nonito Donaire.

His career started off with a bang as he racked up 34 wins in eight years. He was regarded as one of boxing brightest stars and also one the hardest hitters in the sport. 31 of his 34 wins came by way of knockout. Then he ran into boxing icon Bernard Hopkins in October 2008. The two fought at a catch weight of 170 and although there was no title on the line, Hopkins clearly and easily beat him. With judges scores of 117/109, 119/106 and 118/108–it was Pavlik’s first taste of defeat.

He came back to win two fights in 2009, against Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Espino. Pavlik was originally set to fight Paul Williams in spring, 2010, but Pavlik had a tough bout with a staph infection that stemmed from a basketball injury to one of his knuckles. It turned out that he was allergic to the antibiotics they gave him and he almost died. When he recovered, he signed to fight Martinez.

The aftermath of the Martinez fight was not a pretty sight. Pavlik’s face looked like raw hamburger meat and he seemed depressed and dejected. He had a bad cut over his right eye and another on his left eye. He needed dozens of stitches and had weight issues on top of everything else.

So this fight is pivotal. Should he win (and he should), he is set to fight again in June and then pick up the level of competition again in the fall. No longer a middleweight, he will most likely campaign as a super-middleweight. Whether or not he can beat the likes of Andre Ward or Lucian Bute remains to be seen. I wish him well, as do his many fans.

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

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