Former champion fights for second time after sobering up
By: Mike Sloan: It certainly has not been easy for Kelly Pavlik, who grew up in the financially strapped Youngstown,Ohio. Many of his peers in that once-flourishing city struggled to make ends meet and it seemed that in order to make something of oneself, it would be wise to exit stage left and find success in another city.
Pavlik eventually putYoungstownback on the map by tearing through the middleweight division and eventually becoming the undisputed world champion. His knockout of Jermain Taylor to capture the title vaunted him into stardom and his victory in their rematch solidified Pavlik as one of the best fighters on the planet, regardless of weight class.
Pavlik was on top of the world until he met Bernard Hopkins in the ring. Pavlik was a sizeable favorite but Old Man Hopkins turned back Father Time (in what became a habit of the Philadelphian) and trounced the champion in a non-title bout, ending his reign as a top fighter. Pavlik bounced back with a few wins but lost his world title to Sergio Martinez. From there it was downhill for Pavlik.
“The Ghost” turned to the bottle and battled alcoholism, entering rehab twice. It was a brutal duel that he appears to have won, but the lure of the booze is always there. Pavlik claims that he has completely cleaned up his personal life, eradicated the demons of alcoholism, and has rekindled his love for boxing. Pavlik leftYoungstownand moved toOxnard,California; he switched trainers from long-time coach Jack Loew to Robert Garcia.
Pavlik’s first fight with Garcia in his corner was back on March 31 where he slaughtered Aaron Jaco inside two rounds at super middleweight. Tonight inside the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel, the former champion will continue his journey through the 168 lb weight division by taking on Scott Sigmon (22-3, 12 KOs), a virtually unknown fighter from Virginia whose career has largely been against foes with near or sub-.500 records.
Pavlik is a huge betting favorite going into the contest, but there is the chance that Pavlik might still be distracted from his personal turmoil. Pavlik and his team dismissed that notion at the weigh-ins on Thursday, saying that he has a newfound vigor for both boxing and life in general.
Pavlik is set to make $30,000 for his fight tonight, which will headline the ESPN-televised Friday Night Fights telecast. It’s a far cry from the seven-figure purses he used to take home while on top of the world, but the lanky powerhouse understands that in order to make sure he handles his business properly, he essentially has to start from scratch.
Pavlik (38-2, 33 KOs) wasn’t present at Thursday’s Top Rank press conference that tied in with the main undercard fighters for Saturday’s Pacquiao-Bradley event. But those around him have said that his goal is to get back into top form and eventually land a world title shot against one of the champions at super middleweight.
Whether Pavlik eventually chips off the marble from his previous way of life and regains his world championship form remains to be seen. However, the prospect of a Kelly Pavlik firing on all cylinders and in the best shape of his life taking on the likes of Carl Froch, Lucian Bute or Andre Ward is an alluring one. The only way to get there is one step at a time and his next step is getting past Sigmon.
Also on the card tonight is young prospect and local favorite Jesse Magdaleno taking on Carlos Valcarcel (12-4-4, 5KOs) in a super bantamweight bout. Magdaleno has been ripping up the opposition thus far in his blossoming career and the buzz aroundLas Vegasis that he’ll eventually become a world champion. The local kid is starting to slowly gain some national exposure and fighting on ESPN doesn’t hurt, either.
“Tomorrow you guys are going to see a great night of fights,” Magdaleno (9-0, 6KOs) said Thursday at the final pre-fight press conference. “I’m ready to go and I’ve had a great training camp and I’m pumped to be fighting on ESPN.”
Another intriguing matchup is between undefeated cruiserweight prospect Mike Lee and opponent Eliseo Durazo (4-2, 1 KO). Lee, a former Notre Dame football player who hails fromChicago, has been marketed as the future of the sport, though only hardcore boxing fans know of him up to now. Like Magdaleno, he hopes the exposure on the biggest sports network in the country will become the catalyst toward stardom.
“I’m really excited to get this national exposure,” Lee said Thursday. “I’ve been working very hard down inHouston with my camp. I’m ready and (tonight) I’m going to put on a show.”
Tickets are still available at the Hard Rock box office for tonight’s card, though Top Rank expects the Joint to be filled. The first bout is scheduled to start at 5 pm sharp. The ESPN-televised portion of the card begins at 7.
You can also contact Mike Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19 or follow him on Twitter @mikesloan19
June 8, 2012