Thirteen months ago Kelly Pavlik was the "next big thing" in boxing. He was white. He was from blue-collar Youngstown, Ohio, and he had beaten a very good opponent in Jermaine Taylor.
Boxing is always looking for the next Great White Hope and Pavlik fit the bill. He was humble. He lived in the same neighborhood he grew up in as a child. He trained at the same gym he had started with. He even stayed with the same trainer he's had since the beginning of his boxing days.
Pavlik understood and appreciated roots.
He was being groomed for massive PPV draws. As a natural middleweight, he could have had fights with Paul Williams, Joe Calzaghe, Mikel Kessler, or even Roy Jones Jr.
The world was, indeed, his oyster.
Then, he ran into Bernard Hopkins. The cagey veteran. The pugilistic virtuoso who exposed Pavlik. He held him. He countered to Pavlik's right hand with a vicious left hook. He was more active than Pavlik. Pavlik was creamed on the scorecards. The fight wasn't even that close.
After the fight, Pavlik sat on his stool with the look of a defeated man. Not defeated in a fight sense, defeated in a psychological sense.
It's been 13 months since that loss. He's fought two times against two classic journeymen. First Marco Antonio Rubio and then Miguel Espino (the latter of Contender fame). Neither fight was really that close.
He was scheduled to fight Sergio Mora (also of Contender fame) but pulled out twice from that fight due to "staph" infections. He was scheduled to fight Paul Williams on December 4 but pulled out of that fight because of abrasions on his arm.
What's going on?
Pavlik, at this point, should not be fighting at Youngstown College against palookas like Espino and Rubio. He should be featured on HBO and fighting the biggest names in the business at the MGM
He's regressing, not progressing.
He looks afraid of losing. Afraid of getting in there with someone of his caliber.
There are also whispers of personal demons. That he has a drinking problem is well-known in Youngstown. There's rumors that he put his hand through a window and required 108 stitches (the reason for the Williams bailout). He's admitted to seeing a sports psychologist.
Maybe he's just laying low and gathering his confidence? I was a little surprised he didn't take place in Showtimes Super Six Boxing Tournament against the likes of Kessler, Abraham, Ward, and Froch.
From what I've read, money was the primary reason. The winner receives $4 million. That's not pocket change, but that's a lot of punishment to get to there.
I don't know if we'll here from Kelly Pavlik anytime soon. If he decides to keep hiding in Youngstown, he may fade into obscurity. He's got to start taking some big fights and get the general public interested in him again.
He was great for the sport. I hope he sorts himself out.