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“Friday Night Fights” is Fine with Pavlik

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This Saturday night, the boxing world will be focused on the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s a high profile pay-per-view show that has generated plenty of attention and will be worth millions of dollars in revenue when it’s all said and done. The night before from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino down the strip from the MGM Grand, Kelly Pavlik will face Scott Sigmon as the main event on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.” Just a few years ago, Pavlik was on the sport’s biggest platforms, headlining his own pay-per-view cards and consistently showcased on HBO. Efforts to rebuild his career stalled last summer when he balked at a “ShoBox” date that would’ve paid him around $50,000 and could have led to a possible bout with then IBF super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute.


So does Pavlik have any problems with being on this stage, much less not even being on the Pacquiao undercard?
 
“Y’ know, with maturity and everything, I think it’s good,” said an upbeat Pavlik earlier this week. “It’s good exposure to be on ESPN the night before and would I have liked to be on the big card? Yeah, definitely, but I gotta go back out there and get back on the winning trail and make some noise that way and then we’ll start getting those big fights again.”
 
Remember those days when he commanded millions of dollars for facing the likes of Gary Lockett on HBO, while packing the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City with his rabid supporters from Youngstown, Ohio? Pavlik was destined to be one of boxing’s flagships, thought of as one of the game’s brightest stars heading into the prime of his life. “Oh, yeah, it was nice,” he said, recalling that time in his career, “but now, unfortunately, I did have a loss and then the inactivity but I have to start making that name again and that could be there again in a heartbeat. I’ll be back to being on top again and being on big shows, big fights, when I just keep winning. We’ll be right there again.”
 
Lot of athletes in all sports say it’s not about the money (when it’s absolutely all about that). In Pavlik’s case, with him making just a fraction of a fraction of what he did for fights against Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins, bouts against the Sigmons of the world aren’t about getting paid but part of a rebuilding process.
 
Pavlik says, “That’s definitely what it is; I could retire right now if I wanted to. I’ve been smart; I’ve had great handlers with me but I’m dedicated and committed. I got my wife and kids at home; I’m flying all the way out here [to Oxnard, California] to train. After the last fight, I was only home for two weeks; I was right back out here training. It shows I’m taking this serious. Granted, next training camp, my family will be able to come out, my daughter, she’s out from school. But that just shows the dedication and commitment.”
 
His mindset is a complete 180 from last year when his manager and promoter had to literally beg him to go out and train with Robert Garcia out west and leave the familiar surroundings of Youngstown and his longtime cornerman, Jack Loew. For much of 2011, Pavlik acted like an addict who didn’t realize he had a problem and needed help. But now, according to his manager, Cameron Dunkin, it’s been a “complete turnaround, complete opposite. He’s really ready to fight somebody I think after Friday night. But we wanted to get one more fight in before fighting a big name and hopefully he’ll get some rounds out of this.”
 
According to Dunkin, the key is the move out to Oxnard- which has worked out far beyond their expectations.
 
“Even Mike, his dad, is shocked because when I was in Oxnard…and y’ know, there’s not very many white guys and it’s a different environment and it was a real culture shock for him,” said Dunkin, chuckling. “But they’re such nice people and they’re just good people and he just fit right in, even better than I thought he would and I thought he’d fit in good because Robert’s a nice guy and all those guys have been great with me and I thought he would do well. But he’s done better than well; they’ve become his friends.”
 
Pavlik says that life in the 805 allows him to just “focus just on boxing.” He just sounds like a guy who is once again excited about the sport and his career. A guy who wants to do this, not someone just doing it because he’s expected to. When asked if he suffered boxing burnout in the past, he admitted, “There did come a little point but I think it was more or less a lot of things going on, the business part but nothing where I really wanted to quit. I was just really frustrated; let’s just put it that way. Now, yeah, I definitely got the hunger and it’s fun again. I was always ready for fights, no matter what, whether I was frustrated or not. I trained my heart out but now it’s more being out here; it’s more of a motivational training camp.”
 
He isn’t trying to rehabilitate his career but also his good name. Pavlik wants to be that fan favorite again that can be relied upon.
 
“I think that comes with the territory along with the career; I do believe so. That’s what I want to do. I just want to show the people,” he said. Pavlik looked more like his old self in blowing out Aaron Jaco in two rounds on March 31 in San Antonio. No, Jaco isn’t Tony Zale but he just looked like a much different guy than the one who struggled mightily versus Alfonso Lopez in May of last year.
 
“Yeah, he did,” said his promoter, Bob Arum, who has shown the patience of Job with Pavlik through the turbulent times. “Really, he’s got a great attitude. He looks like he’s in great shape; he’s very happy and we have high hopes for him. We’ll see on Friday night. It’s a step up; one step at a time. You can’t rush this thing but I think he’s gonna come good and then I think he’s ready to take on any super middleweight out there.” Dunkin also liked what he saw from his fighter. “The way he looked in San Antonio, I mean, he was fantastic. He looked as good as he ever looked, maybe better than he’s ever looked and if he does it again, then it wasn’t the opponent. It’s Kelly and his weight, his body, his strength, the way he feels, everything. And if he does it again, then he’s ready to go.”
 
For “The Ghost,” it was a measure of redemption in just feeling- and fighting- like his old self.
 
“My energy level was sky high; I had the bounce back in my step again,” he said. “I was able to box in and out; I wasn’t just coming in flat-footed, looking for a big bomb. And I showed people that I have a left hook. My left hook is a weapon too. It’s a lot of things we’ve been working on, me and Robert. People know I got a strong right hand but I also got a strong left hook. Now, I got two weapons.”
 
DURAN
 
Recently I’ve been watching “The 50 Greatest Moments of Madison Square Garden” on the MSG Network and one of the events that made this list was Roberto Duran’s bludgeoning of Davey Moore for the WBA junior middleweight belt on June 16th, 1983. It capped a remarkable turn of events that first saw “Manos de Piedra” become a pugilistic pariah after the infamous “No Mas” fight versus Ray Leonard. Subsequent losses and desultory outings made it seemed like his capitulation against Leonard was only the beginning of a freefall into the abyss. From late in 1980 to that point in 1983, Duran was basically written off as a serious threat.
 
But as you know, he fought for many more years and accomplished a multitude of great things in the second and third chapters of what was a legendary career. It got me thinking; do we give up on boxers too easily nowadays after a loss or two? While some have written off Pavlik, he’s still only 30 years old (and no, this is not a comparison of Pavlik and Duran) and there’s still plenty of time left for him to accomplish significant feats once again in this business.
 
The story of how Duran was taken from the scrap heap is remarkable.
 
“Well, y’ know what happened with the Duran thing,” said Arum, who promoted him as he went through his revival. “He fought some guy, some English black guy, Kirkland Laing, and he lost. He was being promoted by Don King and King gave him a release. Didn’t want anything to do with him. Then he came to us and we were doing [Alexis] Arguello and [Aaron] Pryor [at the Orange Bowl in November of 1982] so we put him on that card. He had so much pride; he said, ‘I want to be on the undercard; I’ll fight the last fight.’ So it was the walk-out fight; he was so f**king bad that everybody there walked out. I mean, really horrible”
 
Duran beat Jimmy Batten in a 10-rounder that night. But the question was, just where was Duran going?
 
“We didn’t know what to do with him, then [MSG matchmaker] Teddy Brenner came up with the idea, Pipino Cuevas against Duran and we did it at the Sports Arena in L.A. and sold it out and did closed-circuit in the Olympic Auditorium and sold that out. So then the winner of that fight was going to fight Davey Moore in South Africa. On that card was Ray Mancini and Kenny Bogner and Mancini broke his shoulder a week before the scheduled event and it was going to be a big thing. [Frank] Sinatra was going to sing, do a concert in conjunction with the two fights and we called it ‘The Chairman and the Champ.’ So when Mancini, his paisan, got hurt, Sinatra pulls out and, as a result, I’m left with the Duran-Moore fight and the only place I can figure to put it was in the Madison Square Garden. And Goddamn sold it out! And Duran not only beat Moore, he knocked him out.”
 
The rest, they say, is history.
 
So yes, there is hope for a guy like Pavlik. Bottom line is that everyone loves (and forgives) a winner.
 
“Look at what happened with Duran; he couldn’t go back to Panama after the second Sugar Ray Leonard fight and as soon as he ended up beating Davey Moore for the title, the guy who was the president of Panama, [Ruben Dario] Paredes, called us and sent a government plane to pick us up and fly us down to Panama and they did a parade in the streets and there were more people at that parade then there were when the Pope came to Panama a month before.”
 
There was life after “No Mas.”
 
UPSET
 
Well, at least one reader agrees with me that Bradley is a live dog against the “Pac-Man”...
 
Eerily familiar…
 
K9, do you recall back in January of 1994 when JC Superstar lost to Frankie Randall? At the time Chavez was a massive Mexican national idol, much like Pacquiao is in the Philippines. Chavez was pound-for-pound a monster, much like the Pac-Monster. But right before his fall to Randall, Chavez’ skill-set started to slip. JC Chavez struggled mightily with Pernell Whitaker and looked like he lost a step—nothing to be ashamed of there as he was out-classed by a better boxer. Similarly, Pacquiao struggled mightily with JM Marquez, for the third time. Both men were/have been more and more distracted outside of the ring—the cause of these distractions is more notorious than others, allegedly.  In any case, Pacquiao’s career trajectory is very similar to that of Chavez’.
 
I am coming to the conclusion that Tim Bradley may be Pacquiao’s Frankie Randall. Randall was hard as nails, so is Bradley. Randall was not afraid of the Chavez’ mystique, it does not appear that Bradley is much concerned about the Pacquiao aura. Bradley is starving for recognition just as Randall was.
 
Yep, to me, everything points to a massive upset. The clock is ticking on Pacquiao’s run, just as it did for JC Superstar.
 
Javier in The Great Northwest

Javier, you make some great points. I’m really intrigued to see this contest on Saturday night.

OXNARD FLURRIES

The final edition of “Pacquiao-Bradley 24/7” on HBO airs this Friday, June 8 (8:00-8:30 p.m., ET/PT)...Love hearing old stories of how big fights ended up in certain venues in the past. Today, the story is basically how they got a bunch of rooms and food vouchers from an Indian casino...A possible Game Seven between the Celtics and Heat would take place on Saturday night. So yeah, Top Rank is all Boston on Thursday night...“ShoBox” will have telecasts on July 13th (featuring Demetrius Andrade), August 24th (with Omar Figueroa) and Sept. 7th (with Tom Bob Anderson and Thomas Brad Dawson)...Speaking of Duran, just take a look at his career ledger and look at all the ups and downs (http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=80&cat=boxer)...If the Heat implode again, if I’m LeBron James, I go into hiding like Osama Bin Laden for the summer...Is Tom Coughlin in position to be the greatest head coach in New York Giants history?...The Jaguars might want to put in a designated driver clause in the contract of Justin Blackmon...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.



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