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Pavlik far from done

Story by Andreas Hale
Photo by Emily Harney

Boxing has always had a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Fans and journalists alike often neglect the accomplishments of any fighter should they lose a (God forbid) a fight or disappear from the spotlight for an extended period of time. Kelly Pavlik is the perfect example of this attitude.

Just three years ago, the kid from Youngstown, Ohio was being crowned as the sport’s next big star. His record of 34-0 with 30 knockouts had the boxing world talking. He dispatched of boxing’s previous golden child, Jermain Taylor in impressive fashion, claimed the WBO and WBC middleweight titles and seemed primed for greatness. But a devastating twelve round drubbing to Bernard Hopkins in late 2008, a bout with staph infection that knocked him out of a big fight with Paul Williams and a tough loss to Sergio Martinez last April had people writing “The Ghost” off just as quickly as they crowned him. A bigger potential knockout blow would come from Pavlik’s alcohol problems and the fact he had to check himself into rehab. For most, that would be enough to stay down for the ten count. But Kelly Pavlik is not like most.

Sober since November 1st, Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs) has overcome what is quite possibly the biggest battle of his life against the bottle. Rather than succumb to the pressure, Pavlik peeled himself off of life’s canvas and faced his problems head-on.

“It just got to the point where I got in the party mode and it kept escalating,” Pavlik says when discussing his turbulent past and rehab stint. “When things didn’t go my way I got mad and I kept doing what I was doing. That’s exactly what happened. I just needed to kick it in the ass before things started going bad – to where I started losing my money, to where I started losing my family, losing my house and things like that.”

And that’s exactly what Pavlik did. Rather than wait for the problems to become too far gone to fix, Pavlik decided to nip it in the bud. And it was a decision that was made by Pavlik and not anyone else.

“It was his decision to quit drinking. People have to realize that,” Pavlik’s trainer since 9-years-old, Jack Lowe explains. “We didn’t put a gun to his head and make him go to California. He did that. He’s trying to make himself a better person and I don’t think people are giving him as much credit as he deserves”

Since exiting rehab, Pavlik has been focused with getting his career back on track. With a new weight class and a new outlook on life, “The Ghost” is prepared to prove the naysayers wrong as he prepares for his May 7th super middleweight clash with undefeated Alfonso Lopez on the undercard of Shane Mosley vs. Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas, NV. It’s a second life for Pavlik and the chance to be impressive on the huge stage where the world will be watching.

“I’m excited to be back. Really excited,” Pavlik said. “I haven’t had this much energy in a long time. I’m ready to get back on track and ready to make noise again in the super middleweight division. Training camp is great and my weight is right on track.”

Pavlik’s struggles with weight have been well documented. Although he’s been a massive puncher at 160, what it took for him to get to that weight would have drained a lesser man to the point where they would be unable to get into the ring on fight night.

“Nobody can go through what we put him through, working him out so many different times a day,” Lowe explains. “What we put him, through there’s not an athlete out there that could have done that and it finally caught up to him.” Lowe cites that both of Pavlik’s losses to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez were byproducts of his weight issues. But quickly mentions that Pavlik lost to elite fighters and that it is unfair to write off a boxer who loses to a pound for pound great and a future hall-of-famer. But those issues are finally behind him and the 168 division is the new focus. The first hurdle he’ll have to overcome is not an easy one with Lopez (21-0, 16 KOs).

“The danger I see (with Lopez) is that he’s a hungry fighter and this is a golden opportunity for him,” Pavlik says. “He’s no spring chicken in the sport and he’s getting the opportunity of a lifetime. He has a very good record so I think right now he’s coming in hungry for this fight like it’s going to be his last chance. Anytime you get a fighter like that you always have to be on your toes and ready for him.”

Should Pavlik get past Lopez, the potential fight opportunities are endless. Everyone from the competitors of the Super 6 to Canadian stud Lucian Bute can provide an appealing contest for “The Ghost.” Pavlik is aware of what’s to come should he win on May 7th. But the one thing that “The Ghost’ wants everyone to be aware of is the fact that once the “Pavlik Express” gets going, there will be no room for bandwagoners who hopped off the train when the road was rocky.

“I’ve never done anything to offend anyone. I didn’t do anything for them to jump off the bandwagon,” Pavlik says about the naysayers and fair weather fans. “Fighters lose; even great, great champions have a lot of losses. As far as going back out there and trying to win people back, I’ll never do that again. When I get back on top, the ones that jumped off I don’t even want them back. I want the people who have been there and supported me and been with me through thick and thin. That’s the only ones that I’ll be fighting for on May 7 in Vegas.”


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