On Saturday night amid home field advantage, Kelly Pavlik looked to reclaim some of the luster that had tarnished his image following his devastating loss to elder statesman Bernard Hopkins. He traveled to Atlantic City to face a foe, Sergio Martinez, that had turned in a stellar performance against a foe many accused Pavlik of ducking.
During 2009 Kelly Pavlik fought two mandatory qualifiers and defeated Marco Rubio by ninth round TKO and Miguel Espino by fifth round TKO, but the year was defined more by the fight that wasn't.
Pavlik and Paul Williams were scheduled to fight on October 3, 2009 and then on December 5, 2009. After watching Sergio Martinez defeat Pavlik on Saturday night, he definitely is not in the class of Paul Williams and should be glad his knuckle was infected.
Sergio Martinez in 2009 fought Kermit Cintron to a tough draw. He then fought an incredible war with Paul Williams in which he lost a razor thin decision. Many experts called their fight the year's best.
Kelly Pavlik and Sergio Martinez fought on April 17 in Atlantic City which is Pavlik's adoptive backyard. Only 3,000 of Pavlik's hometown, Youngstown, Ohio's, followers were on hand for the middleweight title fight. This is about half of the usual contingent. For their sake and Pavlik's they should be glad they stayed home.
Michael Buffer did the introductions, Jim Lampley and crew did the pre-fight and now the bell has sounded for round one.
As round one begins and the fighters circled one another I couldn't help but notice how heavy Pavlik looks. This is a 160 lb middleweight title fight and he weighs 178 tonight. Martinez checks in at a fit looking 167.
During rounds one and two Pavlik stalked Martinez relentlessly but was hit with crisp combinations comprised of power shots. After two rounds Martinez held a 28 to 16 power punch edge. There is a cut over Pavlik's left eye.
Martinez fought with hands down low, almost arrogantly, but hand speed and footwork were too quick for Pavlik to take advantage of early in the fight. Through four rounds the story was consistent as Martinez used his hand speed and fleet feet to rack up a power punch edge of 60-36.
In the fifth round Pavlik came out with a renewed vigor and cut off the ring better. At the one minute mark he landed a nice straight right and followed it up with a clean overhand left that backed Martinez up.
Pavlik's defense had tightened up and he started catching Martinez' lead left on his gloves. Martinez slowed down and Pavlik continued with more of the same in the sixth.
Boom! A crushing right hand by Pavlik two minutes into the seventh planted Martinez on his backside and earned the Ghost a 10-8 round.
Pavlik's momentum is over almost before it began as Martinez opened a cut above Kelly's right eye in the opening moments of the round.
Like a jackal jumping on a cape buffalo carcass, Sergio jumped all over Pavlik and rocked him over and over again for the remainder of the round. Martinez finished the round by showboating at the Ghost's expense.
During the time between rounds Pavlik's corner was in chaos and the cut above his right eye was not even close to being properly addressed. Therefore, Kelly comes out with blood all ready spurting from the cut to start the tenth.
Sergio controlled the round with excellent combinations and focused on that right eye, turning Pavlik's face into a bloody mask. For his part Pavlik did little but move forward as if on automatic pilot.
In between the eleventh and twelfth round, Pavlik's trainer Jack Loew begins to sound desperate, almost as if he sees his standard of living being threatened.
The eleventh round is a carbon copy of many of the others. Martinez throws combinations and gets out of the way. Pavlik hopelessly stalks and throws a few one-twos.
The twelfth and final round comes and Pavlik came out and instead of stalking purposefully he boxed almost timidly. I know the cuts were a huge factor but Pavlik could have at least went out on his shield.
The judges scorecards were: 115-111, 116-111, 115-112, all for the new WBO and WBC Middleweight Champion of the World Sergio Martinez.
What will Kelly Pavlik do?
He still has a title at 154 lb but with the trouble he had making weight for a middleweight bought, is that a viable option? He is not a huge puncher so there isn't a lot of marketability there. The perception following the Hopkins fight was that he didn't go for it when he knew the cause was lost, and that will be followed with more of the same after this bout.
What once was such a promising career seems to be not just at a crossroads but already on the skids.
As for Martinez, a lot of people will not be fans of his style. He does appear to be riding the bicycle but he at least knows where he's going.
He has very fast hands and crisp combinations and a rematch with Paul Williams may even be a pay per view attraction. At the very least he is in line for a much better pay day in his next fight.
There is also Felix Sturm, Sebastian Sylvester, and Sergio Mora as potential candidates for future title defenses.