It's been a tough year for current Middleweight Champion Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik. Following his lopsided decision loss to Bernard Hopkins in a Light Heavyweight bout late last year, Pavlik has only entered the ring once when he disposed of Marco Antonio Rubio in a mostly one-sided beating last February.
Originally, Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) was to have taken on The Contender: Season One winner and former Jr. Middleweight title holder Sergio Mora on June 27. The fight would eventually be called off days before it was to be officially announced as Pavlik got news that he had contracted a staph infection in one of his hands.
Little did he know that this staph infection would be the bane of his year.
A couple of months after the Mora fight fell through it was announced that Pavlik would defend his titles against Paul "The Punisher" Williams in October. That proposed date as well as the rescheduled Dec. 5 date were both called off due to lingering issues with The Champion's hand.
Pavlik and his team wanted to move the Williams fight back a couple more weeks to let the hand fully heal. Williams and Goossen-Tutor elected to keep the Dec. 5 date and take on Sergio Martinez.
Facing the possibility of being stripped of his title, Pavlik decided to make a defense against The Contender alum Miguel Espino (20-2-1, 9 KOs).
Many have questioned how much the hand had to do with the postponements or whether Pavlik simply didn't want to step into the squared circle with Williams. Pavlik tries not to pay the doubters much attention.
"That doesn’t bother me because some people know absolutely nothing about boxing. They don’t know how the sport works or what goes on in the sport" said The Champion.
Pavlik would go on to state, "We had to make that fight and our job was we had to make that fight so I wouldn’t get stripped of my title. So the people that said he is now fighting two weeks later, they don’t understand the story and have no idea what was behind it. I’ve got my own things I’ve got to worry about on the 19th and that’s where my focus is right now, on that fight."
While the blue-collar fighting pride of Youngstown, Ohio keeps his mind clear of everything except for Miguel Espino, his promoter, Bob Arum, doesn't take to his critics as kindly.
"Well, it really makes me want to cry because people like that saying what they say—that they have absolutely no factual basis for what they are saying. We knew what Kelly went through physically and how close he was to not making it at all, not just to fight, but not making it at all, and to have those statements made. Like the genius that trains Williams, claiming that Kelly was faking the injury. When I hear that I feel so embarrassed for the sport. I’m 78 and I’ve put my whole life into this sport and to hear morons like that talk when they have no basis for what they are saying really makes me sad."
Still, Pavlik and trainer Jack Loew, are just looking forward to getting on with his second consecutive fight on their home-turf of Youngstown.
"It is great to be back home, we were in Vegas for a few weeks and besides the weather it is always great o be here. The fans are really excited about the upcoming fight. Kelly’s hand is back to normal and like Bob said, he had a really bad scare there and it has not been a really good 2009 and we plan on going out with a real bang," Loew stated recently in a conference call with the media.
He would go on to add that, "training camp is good, the weight is good and everything is falling into place as we hoped it would and we’re really looking forward to the 19th. We expect nothing but the best out of Miguel Espino—we are giving this kid an opportunity of a lifetime—a fight that could change his life like it did for us against Jermain. So we expect the best and we’re not taking this kid lightly. We are working extremely hard. We brought in some great sparring partners so we will be prepared."
They recognize that Espino has been preparing for the fight of his life, just months after the staph infection in his hand had Pavlik, literally, fighting for his.
Now the time has finally come for him to step into the ring and let his hands do the talking.
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