The hero of Youngstown, the pride and joy. He became the middleweight champion of the world. Met the Cleveland Indians, Ohio State Buckeyes, met a U.S. presidential candidate. His boxing skills made him a sporting superstar with such celebrity fans as Ray Mancini, New York Giants Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora, among others. There were magazine covers, book offers, everyone wanted a piece of the champ.
Then the loss to Bernard Hopkins late last year upended his world. It was a brutal one sided defeat to a 40-something boxing legend. Pavlik scored a marginal comeback win against Rubio in Youngstown, but since then there were two canceled fights with Mora and Williams, hand injuries, staph infections. We’re getting lot of news out of Youngstown lately, and none of it has been good or positive. Sadly and unfortunately, all does not seem right with Kelly Pavlik, a good man, a nice likeable person, these days.
A source who has observed Pavlik in Youngstown tells me the boxing hero is not always living a life consistent with how a world class professional athlete should. Pavlik does not exactly follow a hi-tech nutrition plan, nor does he abstain from having a few adult beverages now and again, and again later.
But most alarming, the unnamed source says, are the nocturnal establishments the young American superstar elects to spend a fair amount of his leisure time, and the dangerous company these type of bars attract. We’re talking some of the seediest saloons on the wrong side of Youngstown, the part of town where “you could get shot at night for no reason at all.” Where a brawl can start in the blink of an eye, for no valid reason at all. Hard places in hard times where only hard, destitute people would dare to congregate.
Why would a millionaire star athlete, in his prime, continue to frequent and hang out in nightspots where nothing but troublesome, down-on-their-luck characters lurk? A fighter fights to get out of poverty, not to stay in it. Why wouldn’t the former champ pack up his wife and daughter and move somewhere befitting of his income and status, like Miami, Vegas or California? Why would Pavlik continue to conduct his training camps at home in and around the distractions of Youngstown? Will the poverty-stricken city of Youngstown end up being not only his ultimate inspiration but also, tragically, his inevitable downfall?
It’s not too late. But according to our friend in Youngstown, Kelly Pavlik “has to get out of here.”