Denzil Stone – Atlantic City
Kelly Pavlik‘s withdrawal from his August 8 bout against Darryl Cunningham at the Covelli Center in Youngstown, Ohio, and subsequent snub over a potential world title challenge against IBF super middleweight world champion Lucian Bute has disappointed his promoters, Top Rank, and left question marks over whether his heart remains in the sport of boxing.
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Picture: Stacey Verbeek - Maple Avenue Boxing Gym, Dallas
“The fight is off and the Bute fight is not going to happen,” Pavlik, once a highly-touted unified champion, confirmed to WFMJ-TV before claiming that he was pulling-out of the bouts for business reasons: “I’m not going to fight a southpaw for peanuts.”
Pavlik was propelled into the international boxing limelight when, in 2007, he knocked Jermain Taylor out in seven rounds to become the WBO and WBC middleweight champion of the world. After the fight, his knockout record remained incredible as he had stopped 29 of his 32 opponents; only three had gone the distance with the American, but all those had lost.
In the next four years, Pavlik (37-2-0, 32ko) would continue to fight but his career would go on to contain numerous skidmarks due to a brace of high profile defeats – to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez, a staph injection and a spell in a rehabilitation centre. Following a one year hiatus after his loss to Martinez, Pavlik returned to the ring against Alfonso Lopez, recorded a majority decision win and had a contest lined up against Cunningham, in order to get southpaw practice in for a world title shot against dangerous leftie Lucian Bute.
Indeed, just last week, Pavlik informed reporters of his excitement regarding his duel with Darryl this weekend and said: “I’m going to put on a great show.” He also spoke of Bute: “There are some things questionable about him. I think he has pretty good boxing ability, too. I don’t think he’s as talented overall as Martinez as far as movement and slickness. It’s going to be a different Kelly Pavlik. I’m hungry. I want the title back.”
If it were an isolated incident then the benefit of the doubt should always be granted, however, Pavlik is now attracting a reputation as a bit of a flaker as in the past two years he has withdrawn from five contests. The latest, over Cunningham, has “disappointed” his representatives who labelled his behaviour “erratic”. Top Rank founder Bob Arum even said Pavlik’s career now holds an element of ambiguity over it.
“Top Rank is very disappointed at Kelly’s sudden decision to discontinue the rebuilding of his boxing career,” Top Rank president Todd DuBoef said. “Kelly’s team specifically outlined a strategy for Kelly to return to the ring in an effective fashion. We set them on a course, which began [in] May with Kelly’s fight against Lopez and was to continue against Cunningham. Kelly has derailed this plan.
“Let me make it crystal clear – Saturday’s fight was not part of a two-fight deal [that included Bute],” DuBoef was keen to stress. “We had discussed the terms of a Bute fight, but that had no bearing on this. Is it a matter of, is Kelly going to fight regularly? Does he want to get back on track and knock that rust off? Apparently not.”
Pavlik’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, informed DuBoef via telephone of the fighter’s desire to pull out. DuBoef said in response that it was “unprofessional”. DuBoef continued by stating that he hopes Pavlik has not relapsed back to alcohol abuse: “My first thought was I hope his health is not at risk. We operate gingerly with Kelly as it relates to his demons from the past. We take direction from his team but the behavior here is somewhat erratic and unprofessional.
“I’m very sympathetic to [Showtime, who were due to broadcast the fight], the fans, my staff, the [Covelli Center] and the people in Youngstown who were looking forward to this and working on the event. Unfortunately, it did not come about. There is some soul searching to do for Kelly.”
Top Rank founder, Arum, added to Boxing Scene: “The way I read it is that he doesn’t want to fight anymore. It seems to me that he has second thoughts about fighting. I’m really troubled by this. It’s got nothing to do with him fighting or not fighting. I’m past that. I’m really troubled by what’s happening with him as a person.”
Cunningham (23-2-0, 10ko), meanwhile, does not believe the catalyst for Pavlik’s change of heart is not personal, as Arum and DuBoef suggest, but because he realised he was going to get knocked out: “I’m hurt [and] I’m disappointed. Kelly knew he was going to sleep. He thought it was a tune-up. People don’t know about The People’s Choice but I was going to knock him out.”
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