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Pavlik: 'I'm Tired Of Being The Puppet'
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By Alec Kohut: As the news spread of Kelly Pavlik’s abrupt pullout from both Saturday’s “ShoBox” fight in Youngstown and the proposed November bout in Canada with Lucian Bute, the internet went abuzz with rumors of drinking, harsh criticism, and even one ridiculous claim that Pavlik’s action was “a cry for help.”
Just before 10 PM EST last night, Pavlik called us on the Maxboxing East Coast Boxing Report Internet show to give his side of the story.
“I’m tired of being the puppet.” Pavlik said. “I had not known until a week ago the amount of money I was getting paid for this fight in Youngstown and the amount of money I was getting paid to fight Bute in Canada. If I was fighting Bute in Atlantic City, I would fight him for $1.1 million. But [in Canada], I have to put the guy on a stretcher to win the fight. So for me to go over there is kind of like Top Rank is cashing in on me. We’re going to make our money on him and we’re done with him and that’s it.”
Much of Pavlik’s ire is due to reports that Mikkel Kessler was offered $3 million to fight Bute and Pavlik believes his value is at least on par with Kessler. “If I pick my nose at a red light everybody talks about it. Kelly Pavlik is still one of the biggest names in boxing.” Pavlik told Maxboxing. While today reports are confirming that the $3 million figure was inaccurate, it was widely believed in June to be the offer made to Kessler.
However, the issue at hand is not what Kessler was offered or even if Top Rank is in fact making their best, honest offer to Pavlik. The issue is what Pavlik feels, that he is not being dealt with fairly by Top Rank and others. A line from the movie “Hoffa” explains it perfectly:
“If a guy’s close to you, you can’t slight ’im. You can’t slight that guy. A real grievance can be resolved; differences can be resolved. But an imaginary hurt, a slight - that motherf**ker gonna hate you ’til the day he dies.”
Kelly Pavlik feels slighted.
“I’m a week out and I still haven’t got a fight contract. Now my agent is going to send a contract over and tell me you have 20 hours to turn it back in. If you don’t turn it back in in 20 hours, the fight’s off. So my attorney and my accountant don’t have time to look at the contract and this is what happens all the time in my career. So I’m tired of it; I’m not playing the game anymore.”
“Some of my handlers, when they’re getting $130,000 dollars, they’re happy with that; they’re good. Me, I look at the big picture, look at the bigger money and everything else. I don’t need the money that bad to sell my career and my soul short.”
Another major issue was Pavlik’s timing. Everyone knows fights fall though and fighters pull out for a multitude of reasons…but the week of the fight?
“That’s Top Rank and my agent Cameron Dunkin’s fault. If they would have told me two weeks ago or three weeks ago the amount of money and what they’re paying me, then I would said, ‘I’m going to cancel the fight,’ but you’re gonna let me know a week before because what they’re thinking is, ‘We’ll tell him a week before and there’s nothing he can do about it. He won’t cancel the fight.’ Well, bullsh*t. I call bullsh*t on that. I will cancel the fight and you know what? Top Rank should come out and make a clearer statement.”
Right or wrong, Pavlik felt blindsided by both the offer he felt was low and the timing of being told the offer. While it’s clear Pavlik is not the draw he once was, he and members of his team were led to believe that the offer in the works was going to be closer to the reported $3 million Kessler was supposedly offered than the final offer not received until last week.
In June, when the fight was first being discussed, trainer Jack Loew did not think $3 million would be offered but was very confident by what he was told that it would be somewhere in that ballpark. We do know that Pavlik himself had not been given reliable information on the size of the purses until very, very late. Today, Loew confirmed that higher figures for the Bute fight had been mentioned to them.
Pavlik also believes that the extra money was available to pay him the $2-to-2.5 million he felt he deserved for the fight, leading him to feel that Top Rank was looking to cash in on him. “How are you going to pay me $2.5 [million] to fight Gary Lockett in Atlantic City with 8,000 people? $2.5 million for a title fight against a low-name fighter. How are you going to pay me $3 million to fight Bernard Hopkins with 9,000 in the arena for a non-title fight and turn back around where there are going to be 20,000 people filling the arena and tell me the money is not there to give me $2.5? You offer Mikkel Kessler $3 million. You’re telling me $1 million isn’t there? How does that happen?
“What they’re trying to do is cash out. They’re saving money. They want to pay me $1.1 [million]. $3 million is there but that’s what they’re cashing out on. They’re going to say, ‘You know what? We’re going to pocket $2 million; he’s going to lose the fight and we’re done with him.’ And that’s it. That’s how it works.”
It’s interesting today that Top Rank is working hard today to discredit the $3 million figure that reportedly offered to Kessler. However, Top Rank today was far less enthusiastic about discussing the revenue that a Bute-Pavlik fight would generate. It’s not hard to believe that there would in fact be more than enough money necessary to offer Pavlik an additional million. Today, when asked what the Showtime fee was for the fight, a high ranking Top Rank executive replied in text, “Not at liberty to say.”
So given the Showtime fee, plus the gate, plus the Canadian PPV sales, plus the European (Romanian) TV rights, the possible revenues could be quite high. However, another high ranking Top Rank executive refused to answer today when asked about the expected revenue from those sources, replying with an e-mail stating, “Greetings from Top Rank; we sent you a statement yesterday.”
Throughout the interview, Pavlik remained insistent that he doesn’t need to make any more money, “I don’t need the money. I don’t. I’ve made enough money in my career. I’m smart; I’m not like any other yahoo. I don’t go blow it on jewelry and clothes and cars. I’m living happily ever after right now. I’d rather retire before I sell my career short.”
But it’s still hard for fans to understand passing up a seven-figure payday and not question Pavlik’s heart and desire to be a champion, especially in Youngstown, where economic hard times have been a reality for decades. “It’s not about fighting for Youngstown; it’s about me. Like anyone who works a regular job, my job is to get punched in the face and train for a living and get beat up.” He later added, “I would retire before I get smacked in the face. It ain’t like I go to and sit behind a desk and type on a computer or go and put shingles on a roof. I go get punched in the face for a living. Every day of my life, I get beat up for a living. So if I don’t get paid what I think I deserve, I’m not going to do it.”
While that answer will likely not win back the support of jilted fans, Pavlik’s frustration and feeling of being used by others is evident in his voice.
There’s also the nagging of issue of how Pavlik did what he did. In addition to alienating a large segment of fans, Pavlik has all but put his boxing career in a state of limbo. While he emphatically states he will fight again, he says Top Rank has made it clear to him they have no issues in sitting him out for a year until his contract expires. “Well then, sit me. My contract is up in a year. I’m not hurt. I’m not injured, so you really can’t put it on me. I don’t want to sit but if that’s what they’re going to do, that’s what they’re going to do. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Loew disagrees, believing that a year away from the ring, after everything Pavlik has faced in the past two years, would likely end his career. He hopes Pavlik will buy a plane ticket and have a face-to-face meeting with Bob Arum. At this point, that might be the only thing that can give him a reasonable shot of him ever having the same opportunity as the one he just passed up.
While Loew said he advised Pavlik to go ahead with this weekend’s fight and then worry about the Bute negotiations, Pavlik was adamant about pulling out of both fights. But Loew told Maxboxing he remains firmly in his fighter’s corner. “I’m still 100% behind Kelly but he’s going to have to live with the consequences of his actions.”
As of now Pavlik remains defiant, “A lot of people that are real close to me- and good people- have supported me 100 percent. I actually have one guy- and I’ll throw his name out there- we call him “The Tank.” He worked with [Ray] Mancini and he told me, ‘Kelly, it’d be asinine for you to take this fight.’ When he found out I pulled out of the fight today, he sent me a text and said, ‘That was the smartest thing you ever did with your career. You’re finally making a stand in your career. It’s about time.’ I got people telling me that. I got support from the people that matter to me the most.”
But “The Tank” is wrong. Boxing is entertainment and image matters. With the already existing image problems Pavlik had, a perceived snub of your hometown fans over money won’t help. In this business, image has a lot to do with how much you’re worth. So now Pavlik, in addition to figuring out his next steps in his boxing career, must deal with an even further tainted image. Taking a stand after beating Darryl Cunningham would hardly have put his career in the danger it is in now.
The strain that being in the bright spotlight of a small city and the toll it has taken was evident, as Pavlik vented, “It does beat you down. It’s not my favorite cup of tea; I’ll tell you that but there’s nothing you can do about it. I just gotta take one day at a time and move on. If the only thing in Youngstown there is to talk about is me and my brother Michael getting in a shoving match, then I think the city of Youngstown has more to worry about than anything else. If that’s the top headline, than there’s a big problem here. Maybe if they focused more on the crime rate, the homicides, the robberies, the break-ins, the foreclosures, the bankruptcies, maybe Youngstown would get off their ass a little more instead worrying about Kelly Pavlik and every move I make. But at the end of the day, Kelly Pavlik is a story and that’s what The Vindicator has to write about.”
It’s anyone guess what happens now. Perhaps Pavlik and Arum will work things out and will be smiling together on a podium soon to announce a new big fight or maybe we’ve seen the last of Pavlik on the big stage. At this point, it would hard to be surprised by anything that happens in the life of Kelly Pavlik. To quote the Grateful Dead, what a long strange trip it’s been.
Questions or comments can be directed to email@example.com. Please visit Alec at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1255732257&ref=ts or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/alecmaxboxing. You can also tune in to Alec’s new weekly online show every Tuesday at 9:00 PM EST at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/search/aleckohut/
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