I've always been a big fan of Kelly Pavlik, the former Middleweight champion of the world. While others suggested he was a flat-footed slugger with limited boxing skills, I preferred to think of him as a courageous warrior, the perfect embodiment of his blue-collar, hard-working middle-America roots.
Many boxing fans and writers, always quick to latch on to the next big thing, dismissed completely any notion that Pavlik could be a legitimate threat to Lucian Bute. Bute is too strong, too athletic, too phenomenal. Pavlik's just a name for Bute to put on his resume on his march to the top.
I disagreed with that line of thinking. Kelly, having shared the stage with a prime Jermain Taylor, a prime Sergio Martinez and a rejuvenated Bernard Hopkins, is no stranger to facing the highest class of opposition. Bute's best opponent is debatable, but most likely would have to beat Librado Andrade, who had already been thoroughly outfought and outclassed the year before against Mikkel Kessler.
Because of this notable gap in the quality of opposition, and my own strong belief and confidence in Pavlik's punching power and warrior mindset, I gave Pavlik a good shot at the upset. Of course now we'll never know. We don't know if Pavlik ever fights on the world-class level again, and it won't help his cause if Top Rank, his powerful promoter, severs ties because of this latest "disappointment". We don't even know if Pavlik wants to fight.
He was the latest "great white hope", the middleweight champion of the world, supported by thousands from his hometown who would trek to Atlantic City to root on their brother, their hero, their fellow Youngstownian. Now he's just a guy who's not going to do what he said he was going to do. No prospects, no upcoming fights, his future just as hazy as it was before he came out of rehab and fought Alfonso Lopez.