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Pavlik hopes he's on the road back to the summit, with Loew driving
Jack Loew and Kelly Pavlik
are ready to make a run at 168

Saturday night, while the entire boxing world waits to get another look at its most compelling fighter, Manny Pacquiao, Kelly Pavlik will be attempting to grab some eyes himself.  He’s been on the shelf for a year after losing the middleweight title to Sergio Martinez and checking into rehab.  For Pavlik, his fight Saturday night against Alfonso Lopez represents a new chapter in his career.  He’s at a new weight class that is stock full of excellent fighters, albeit one lacking a true superstar. 


Aside from Lucian Bute, Pavlik may be the most popular fighter in the division.  His task is to win Saturday, and win big.  Pavlik knows that even though he’s on the undercard, the pressure to look good is enormous.  I spoke with Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, earlier this week.  He knows as well as anyone how crucial the fight is.  Lopez is undefeated, but has fought absolutely no one of note.  Still, Loew says they aren’t taking him lightly.


“The thing about a kid like this is that he’s hungry, and we’re giving him the opportunity of a lifetime.  We’re going to come out and actually box this kid.  We’re going to let him make some mistakes.  He’s never been on this kind of stage, and we’re going to see how he adapts when Kelly hits him.”


The most common result when Pavlik hits his opponent is either unconsciousness or an immediate wish to not be hit again.  His power has carried him to the pinnacle of the sport.  He’s scored knockouts in 32 of his 38 fights, including a sensational one-punch drilling of then undefeated champion Jermain Taylor.  His only two losses came to Bernard Hopkins at 170 and then Martinez. 


  The knock on Pavlik is the claim that he can’t deal well with “movers,” guys who can box well with good footwork.

“Lopez is going to try and box and move because Hopkins and Martinez were able to do it, but there’s a difference between them and Lopez.  We’re ready for whatever he wants to do.  I expect Kelly to set up his big shots and knock him out.”


      Pavlik fought Bernard Hopkins at a 170 pound catch weight, but he looked lethargic from the opening bell.  I asked Loew if there was any concern that Kelly would look the same way at 168.


    “I did not like the Hopkins fight, not that I was worried, but because I thought either way it would do more harm than good.  If we won, we were beating an old man, and if we lose, we’re going to get shredded.  Kelly was sick, he had bronchitis, which is all documented, but we went ahead with the fight anyway.  We were in a no-win situation.”


What’s the difference between then and now?

“Well we knew we were coming back to 160.  We went up and we fought, and we made a boat-load of money.  Now, we know where we’re at, and we’ve gotten there in a little different way.  He’s got so much energy now.  Everything he’s done, he’s done the right way this time.”


 Pavlik spent time this winter at the Betty Ford clinic battling an alcohol problem.  This wasn’t his first stint in rehab.  In fact, he was there shortly before the Martinez fight, which isn’t the best way to prepare for a guy who looks like he’d dance around Godzilla before beating his ass.  I wanted to know if Loew saw any difference in Pavlik since his return this time around.


    “The thing is, even when he was drinking, when he came to the gym he always gave me his all.  It was just after he left the gym… I’m sure when he was going through what he was going through, in the back of his mind, he thought about it.  Now, he’s 100 percent healthy.”


   I’ve gone over how stacked the super middleweight division is in previous articles.  The Super Six tournament boasts a couple of excellent fighters, and outside of that, Lucian Bute and former Super Six participants Mikkel Kessler and Andre Dirrell loom.  Loew feels that Pavlik is one or two fights away from being right at the center of the storm.


      “There are some great fighters here, but none of them can really draw, other than Bute.  So these guys are a couple fights away from needing us.  Kelly can fight in Atlantic City and put 10,000 people in the stands.  Andre Ward is struggling to put 3,500 people in the stands.  So I think Kelly coming to 168 pounds is doing a whole lot of people a favor.”


The Super Six tournament started out as a seemingly excellent idea, but it quickly devolved into a revolving door of participants while dragging on for what feels like a decade.  Loew agreed that it has lost some luster.


“You know I think they dragged it out too long.  Guys kept getting injured and it started to fall apart and when it did, it took away a lot of the excitement.  Don’t get me wrong it was a great idea, and it had great matchups, but it took too long.  People don’t even know when these guys are fighting.”


 Kelly Pavlik has a couple of tough tasks ahead of him Saturday night.  For one, he has to shake off the rust from being off for a year.  The other is to not only get the victory, but to do it in such a way that will demand respect from boxing critics.  If Pavlik can put a beating on Lopez and make it look easy, the already crowded 168 pound division will have to squeeze in for one more member.  Fans of boxing may reap the rewards if Pavlik does put on an excellent show Saturday. 


     The idea of Pavlik/Froch, Pavlik/Kessler, or Pavlik/Bute is enough to get anyone excited, but Kelly has to do his part first this weekend.  The hard part for him was walking in and out of the Betty Ford clinic.  If he can keep the demons away, Pavlik may find redemption in phase two of his career.  One thing is certain; Jack Loew will be in his corner for the entire ride.




More columns
by Lou Catalano

Dannie Williams plans to bash his way to the top

Sugarless: Can a faded Mosley shock boxing?

Nobody is safe: Marquez latest victim of crazy 2011

Enough is rarely enough for proud fighters like Morales

Lucian Bute might be the best of the super middleweights

Kelly Pavlik re-emerges






Image by FlamingText.com

Lou Catalano was born in Buffalo, NY. 

He graduated from SUNY Fredonia with a bachelors degree in English.


He is a Bills and Sabres fan, born and raised, and fell in love with boxing as a teenager

after watching Roy Jones wail on poor Vinny Paz.


Lou currently lives outside of Buffalo

with his wife and two sons, and his hobbies include playing sports (Madden and NHL included) and hainging out wiht family and friends.

CLICK HERE to contact Lou Catalano


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