Saturday, May 19, 2007 was an historic day for Youngstown, OH. Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik KO'd Edison Miranda to become the undisputed number one contender for the Middleweight Title.
Kelly Pavlik represented Youngstown in many respects that Saturday night. Miranda was a heavy favorite, both in Vegas and in the media. Just before the fight, HBO aired a short documentary about Miranda: his life, his training, his hometown, and his childhood.
HBO mentioned nothing about Kelly Pavlik, save the announcers declaration of Pavlik's name and weight. This did not appear to bother Pavlik, and I doubt it bothered anybody from Youngstown. Anybody born in Youngstown knows what it is like to be an underdog.
Youngstown is a city famous for ugly things: shut-down steel mills, laid-off factory workers, poverty, murder, organized crime, and corruption in politics. In the last twenty years, Youngstown has seen a congressman (amongst judges and other public officials) go to prison, a prosecutor have his house bombed, and another prosecutor gunned down by Mafioso in his house on Christmas Eve. The once beautiful city now appears dead to some.
As I was watching Pavlik fight, unaffected by Miranda's hype, I remembered hearing stories of how he became named "The Ghost." Long before the HBO events, Pavlik was fighting in Struthers, OH. That was the first time I heard an explanation for his handle. Apparently, Pavlik's sparring partners called him that because he moved so well that they felt they were trying to punch a ghost.
My mind wandered to Lean On Me, a film in which Morgan Freeman portrays a principal who takes a run-down high school with a bad reputation and gives it hope. The school appears dead to the rest of the world. However, Freeman's character, Joe Clark, points out to his students that the school mascot is the ghost, and that ghosts rise from the dead.
It seems fitting that someone who could get the world to associate Youngstown with greatness should be called The Ghost. Not since Boom-Boom Mancini (some twenty years ago) has Youngstown had such pride in one individual, and Pavlik's pride in his hometown is evident in every fight.
Pavlik is a reminder to the rest of the world that Youngstown is not dead. Additionally, he is a reminder to all underdogs who grew up in towns like Youngstown that they too can be great.
Bill Barner is a certified official with USA Boxing. a partner in the Law Firm of BarnerRossen P.A. specializing in Criminal and Immigration Law, and a former sparring partner for several amateur and professional boxers and MMA fighters.