BOB ARUM: This card, the end of the year card, is truly an outstanding one. And we are going to do what we haven’t done before – a pay-per-view show from two different countries. The PPV telecast will start at 9 PM ET with two fights from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico. Two outstanding fights, WBC super featherweight champion Humberto Soto going up to lightweight to fight two-time world champion Jesus “El Matador” Chavez and also a WBA Interim bantamweight championship Alejandro Valdez who will be fighting in front of his hometown fans against undefeated interim champion Neomar Cermeño of Panama. That will start the telecast. The ring announcer in Ciudad Obregon will be Lupe Contreras who has done so many fights on Telefutura, he will then throw it to Youngstown, Ohio where Michael Buffer will be the ring announcer and the first fight to be seen on that portion of the telecast (3rd overall) will be a twelve-round NABF/NABO super welterweight championship between former US Olympian Vanes Martirosyan, 25 wins and no defeats from Glendale, CA against defending NABF champion Willie Lee of New Orleans. Then finally the main event of the evening, the eagerly anticipated middleweight championship of the world matching the challenger, No. 3 rated Miguel Espino against Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown, OH defending his WBC & WBO titles.
The people in Ciudad Obregon will have a full night of boxing, as will the people in Youngstown, OH. Mat Korobov, the young Russian fighter now fighting out of the United States and finally the young man from Campbell, OH, Chris Hazimihalis, who is trained by Jack Loew, who will be making his pro debut, so the people in Youngstown will see a great night of boxing as well as the televised fights that will be broadcast all over the world. I am very excited and very happy that Kelly is finally back in the ring.
Kelly had a terrible scare this year. A staph infection is something extremely serious. It is really a life-threatening experience and thank God everything is now OK and Kelly is going in against a top contender Miguel Espino and it should be something that will really be something exciting to see. The price for the pay-per-view card is $39.95 and the prices for the tickets are $200, $150 $100 and $50.
JOHN BRAY: We are working hard and we know we have a tough fight in December 19 against Kelly Pavlik, a good champion, a strong champion and well be well-prepared.
MIGUEL ESPINO: This is different because a lot of people looked at “The Contender” series as not real fighters and make believe and stuff like that. This is the real deal. The middleweight championship of the world, against a very good champion. I have followed him since his amateur days and to be fighting him is a great honor and I’m humbled and I’m going to go out there and I’m going to go out there and do it.
JACK LOEW: It is great to be back home, we were in Vegas for a few weeks and besides the weather it is always great o be here. The fans are really excited about the upcoming fight. Kelly’s hand is back to normal and like Bob said, he had a really bad scare there and it has not been a really good 2009 and we plan on going out with a real bang. Training camp is good, the weight is good and everything is falling into place as we hoped it would and we’re really looking forward to the 19th. We expect nothing but the best out of Miguel Espino – we are giving this kid an opportunity of a lifetime – a fight that could change his life like it did for us against Jermain. So we expect the best and we’re not taking this kid lightly. We are working extremely hard. We brought in some great sparring partners so we will be prepared.
KELLY PAVLIK: Coming back home is great. We fought a couple times at home before we won the world title. Getting back and defending in front of the hometown crowd is great. The pressure is not here (fighting in front of the home crowd), I fought Taylor twice, Miranda, Hopkins, Rubio and Locket so the pressure is not there, defending my title in front of the hometown crowd and it could be the last time, so there is a lot of excitement and there is always pressure. We have been training hard as hell and we are ready to roll.
PAVLIK: It has been crazy, the hand – we have worked through that and it’s in the past. The problem with the hand was time-consuming. People wanted to fight and everything was supposed to get done. After the first surgery we thought we would be ready to go. After I got the stitches out, it opened up again and the puss started coming out and they did a re-culture on it and an MRI and it got worse. Finally we were on a new antibiotic and that wasn’t doing the job so we went back in and did another surgery and after that everything was fine. The infection eventually went away with new antibiotics. After it went away we got a new reaction from the antibiotics. That put me in the hospital for four days with a very serious problem. At the end of the day we had two major surgeries within two months of each other and the tendons were coming out of the hand. So we had irritation and stiffness and I had therapy to get movement back in the finger. We wanted to fight, that is the main thing. We told the people to push the fight back. We had to hurry up a little bit, pile everything into five weeks and it is going great. We have great sparring partners that are throwing a lot of punches a round, which is the style of Espino.
The only thing with the hand right now is I can’t bend it the whole way, but I would say it is at 100%. We are sparring ten-rounds, eight-rounds with different sparring partners, mixing it up and bringing in fresh guys and the hand is fine. At first, we were wearing 18-ounce gloves just to make sure it would be safe and the last couple of times went down to the regular size. The hand is feeling good, there is no pain and everything is fine.
Some may think you were ducking Paul Williams…
PAVLIK: That doesn’t bother me because some people know absolutely nothing about boxing. They don’t know how the sport works or what goes on in the sport. It doesn’t bother me that much. The thing is, we had to fight, and against Espino, the kid has a great heart, a good chin and he’s always in great shape so you can’t overlook anyone like that. This will be his first shot at a world title and his only shot, so you know he’s going to make the best of it, so our thing was we were told we had to defend the title. We had to make that fight and our job was we had to make that fight so I wouldn’t get stripped of my title. So the people that said he is now fighting two weeks later, they don’t understand the story and have no idea what was behind it. I’ve got my own things I’ve got to worry about on the 19th and that’s where my focus is right now, on that fight.
Do you feel you have to dominate the fight to settle the talk?
PAVLIK: No matter the talk or not, I feel I have to go out there, especially after the layoff I feel we have to look good and that’s the reason our training camp has been the way it’s been. Espino is a great fighter. If there are critics now, there are going to be a lot more if I don’t dominate.
Do you need a stoppage?
PAVLIK: Just a dominant win.
Has it been more difficult since you have been champion?
PAVLIK: It is still fun. It is a sport that I love. I missed it from the layoff that I was in. It is still fun and you’ve always got goals. After you win the title your career is not over – there is more to do, more goals to accomplish. It is still fun to me.
Does the criticism surprise you?
PAVLIK: If it were any other fighter that wasn’t from the Midwest, there wouldn’t be anything said. I fought Rubio and GarY Lockett. So who else besides that haven’t I fought? Those two fights were mandatories –No. 1 contenders — which any other fighter takes. Some of these guys fight once or twice a year and nothing is said. I fight three times a year and then all the sudden I fight twice…I don’t let that bother me. I know deep down, I fought Miranda on the way up to get the titles, and I fought Jermain Taylor twice, back to back. I could have fought a tune-up in between. Then I fought Bernard Hopkins because the supposedly “Most Feared Fighter in Boxing” didn’t want to fight, so I ended up jumping up two weight classes to fight Hopkins. So if it were Mayweather or anybody else, those stories wouldn’t be out there. I am a Midwest fighter and I made it so people are going to say what they want to say. The main thing through all this is I’ve got to go out there and keep winning. That solves it. It happens in football and baseball and that’s what we’ve got to do.
It happens. It’s part of the business. It happens in boxing. I fought the guys I was supposed to fight. If I’m not going in there against the very top guys every fight then that’s what is going to happen.
Have you thought about the big stage on the night of the fight?
ESPINO: I’m going to be excited. I am fighting for the world title so there is nothing to be other than excited. I am at the gym right now, sparring is going great. Training is going great with John and all the sparring partners. I know they are going to be booing me being for Pavlik. The handful of Mexicans that are going to be there will be cheering for me. I’d rather fight him here but I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to fight for the world title.
Is it frustrating to hear things like “Pavlik didn’t want to fight Paul Williams?”
BOB ARUM: Well, it really makes me want to cry because people like that saying what they say – that they have absolutely no factual basis for what they are saying. We knew what Kelly went through physically and how close he was to not making it at all, not just to fight, but not making it at all, and to have those statements made. Like the genius that trains Williams, claiming that Kelly was faking the injury. When I hear that I feel so embarrassed for the sport. I’m 78 and I’ve put my whole life into this sport and to hear morons like that talk when they have no basis for what they are saying really makes me sad.
Are you concerned with what has transpired during the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations?
BOB ARUM: I don’t know if it’s trouble. I don’t know anything. But I do know, as a promoter, I have a fiduciary responsibility to a fighter. That is to get him the most possible from what comes out of the fight. If other people have other agendas, that is something that also saddens me greatly. That’s all I want to say about it.
PAVLIK: It didn’t really affect me. At the end of the day, I feel good. I know what I have accomplished. The people that know about the sport know the truth. It bugs my team and it bugs my family – they are the ones that get really worked up about it. They know the truth and there is nothing they can say. My wife and my dad say, well here is a doctor is Cleveland Clinic, one of the top five places in the country, who probably doesn’t make enough money to lie about a hand, so that’s what they get mad about. There is talk that goes on. My career has been in a little bit of limbo and I have this fight coming up on the 19th and there are plenty of big fights in the future. I had a setback like everyone has. Football players get staph infections all the time, I got one and I will still fight twice this year. I still stayed somewhat active in ’09. I know what we have planned for the future and know what track we are on.
Do you feel hungrier now?
PAVLIK: I definitely feel hungrier. I miss it. Boxing is what I’ve been doing since I was eight years old. When I take this time off that I have had off, I definitely got the hunger back and excited and anxious.
Who do you most compare Espino to?
PAVLIK: Zertuche, I would have to say him. A kid that comes to fight, comes forward and throws punches with a nice left hook that he brings real nice and that’s what we’ve been comparing him to. Guys like him and Zuniga; we watched films of our sparring with guys that are very similar to them. Espino has his own style but they are who he is similar to. He comes to fight. He’s not coming there to lose by decision just for a payday. He’s coming there to win the title. He’s got a shot and that’s what we are prepared for.
Miguel, can you compare any fight you have fought to Pavlik?
ESPINA: No, not that I’ve fought; no one who hits quite as hard as he does. I haven’t felt it yet but I’m sure I will on the 19th. But no matter what, I am ready, we have a couple days left of sparring then I’m off to Ohio. It is sunny here and cold there, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We can’t get anyone [to spar with] quite like Kelly, just like he can’t get anybody quite like me in sparring. You can never get sparring partners that fight exactly like your opponent because then the guy might box you differently. It is all relevant. You’ve got to be ready for anything and ready to go the full twelve-rounds.
Kelly, have you been subscribing to the strength training with the tires and sledgehammers?
PAVLIK: I actually climb mountains backwards now. That works (laughter). We do a lot of that still. We got away from the tire flipping. We do a lot of strength training that does not add muscle. We do core stuff and agility training. The place where I did that has agility classes and military days where there is other strength training. We have other gyms that I go to plus the boxing gym. We put everything together and add it to the sparring days.
What is it like training at Jack’s gym being the local hero?
PAVLIK: The gym is closed other than media days. Not even a sister or brother from the team can come in. There is no one in the gym besides sparring partners, and even days when we are not sparring; sparring partners come in at different times. Everything is isolated. There is no need to have other people in there talking and fooling around on fight night, so we don’t do that in the gym.
What did you think of the Williams fight last week?
PAVLIK: For boxing, it was an entertaining fight. I had the score a little different; I had it for Martinez by two or three rounds. They both came to fight and they both threw a lot of punches.
Did you picture yourself in the ring, as you may fight Williams next year?
PAVLIK: To be honest, if it was a scheduled fight, I would visualize it, but when I am fighting a guy that is not Paul Williams, I don’t put a lot into that fight. The only thing I paid attention to was that Williams is “the most feared fighter.” That was the only thing that irritated me. I just watched the fight as a boxing fan. When that fight was over, we popped in more film of Miguel to watch.
How as it been going from the big television show to where you are now?
ESPINO: I thought I was going to go to big fights after The Contender and TV fights but that wasn’t the case. I had to fight local fights and Mexico in little stadiums of 500 people. I kept working hard and look at me now. We are fighting for the middleweight championship of the world. My last fight was on Telemundo.
Was there a fight you look back on as a signature fight?
ESPINO: The Russian I fought was a very good fight. He came to fight. That was one of the fights that would get me ready for this. I just stayed active. Kelly had to fight Miranda, and I was cheering for him as a boxing fan. He was the real deal and he earned his way to become champion. I earned it a different way, but not as tough as he did, but we are both here and ready to fight.
How difficult is it for you to get up for a fight like this?
PAVLIK: You have to get up for every fight because they are coming at you. And the people in boxing know him. The average fan doesn’t know him and they don’t know a lot of fighters in the middleweight division, besides Sturm and me. You get up for any fight. I’ve seen his record and studied his films and I have to be prepared 100%. Even if you have 90 fights and 90 knockouts, you are not guaranteed a knockout in every fight because if it goes late in the rounds, you may be in deep water. Espino comes forward and is in great shape and throws a lot of punches so I need to be ready.
ESPINO: Any fighter that is in the ring has a shot. He is the champ, but do I have a shot? Absolutely. Am I going in there to win? Absolutely. I am not going in there just to receive the biggest payday of my career just to say I fought the world champion and gave him a tough fight. I wouldn’t be in this game if I were to do that. I am going to Ohio, give the best performance of my life and God willing I am going to come back with the belts and that’s what I am training for.
PAVLIK: We have to be focused, that’s why we went to Vegas for a couple of weeks to get our head straight. We got some good runs on the hills. We got back here and brought in more sparring partners. We go from morning to night, watching film and training all day in different gyms. The challenging part was getting better, not getting back to fight mode, to getting ourselves better and we did it. No one knew how long that was going to take, not even the doctors, there was no telling how long it was going take before the hand would close. Getting prepared mentally for the fight was not the problem. I am hungry and that’s easy.
The Pavlik vs. Espino world title tilt will takes place next Saturday, December 19, in the Beeghly Center at Youngstown State University. It headlines a two-country world championship doubleheader, produced and distributed live on pay-per-view by Top Rank.
RemainingTickets, priced at $208, $158, $108 and $58, including $8 processing fee, can be purchased online at www.Tickets.com. They can also be purchased at the Youngstown State University Athletic Ticket Office. For ticket information call (330) 941-1978.
The four-bout pay-per-view broadcast, beginning at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT,
will open from the Arena Itson in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico with WBC super featherweight champion HUMBERTO SOTO (49-7-2, 32 KOs), of Los Mochis, Mexico taking on two-time world champion JESUS CHAVEZ (44-6, 30 KOs), of Austin, Tex., in a 10-round lightweight bout, followed by a rumble between WBA interim bantamweight champion NEOMAR CERMEÑO (18-0, 10 KOs), of Anzoategui, Venezuela, defending his title against ALEJANDRO VALDEZ (22-3-2, 16 KOs), of Ciudad Obregon, Mexico. The pay-per-view action will shift to Youngstown where undefeated Top-10 super welterweight contender VANES MARTIROSYAN (25-0, 16 KOs), of Glendale, Calif., and trained by three-time Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach, will challenge NABF super welterweight champion WILLIE LEE (17-5, 10 KOs), of New Orleans, in a 12-round bout, followed by the main event, Pavlik vs. Espino.