Like Bernard Hopkins, Kelly Pavlik has become an unlikely success story in Boxing and has battled long- shot odds to make himself a force in the sport. Pavlik’s story is just as compelling as Hopkins’ but a lot more wholesome. He looks more like your buddy from the factory than a real, elite athlete, but appearances are very often deceiving and Kelly’s been engaged in shattering stereotypes his whole career.
A world class fighter shouldn’t look like him; Battered industrial towns shouldn’t produce world champs; His trainer, a relative novice who paves driveways by day, shouldn’t be in a world champion‘s corner; He shouldn’t have beaten Olympian, defending champ and pound for pound candidate Jermain Taylor; He shouldn’t have survived the barrage from Taylor in the 2nd round of their fight that saw his legs turn to spaghetti. But somehow, with the help of a blue-collar work ethic and an almost freakish jaw-breaking punching power, all the “shouldn’ts” became a great, big “can.”
Pavlik worked his way to the top of his division the hard way and was forced to fight for respect from day one. He was never the beneficiary of a world-class promotional push and never the recipient of easy, hometown match making. Instead, he battled his way to the top on non-televised functions and in filler fights on Spanish language UHF Boxing shows. In his first 11 pro fights, Pavlik fought in 8 different states and only twice throughout his career has found himself fighting in front of his hometown, Youngstown, Ohio fans. But through all the traveling and low-paying undercard fights, Pavlik maintained his intensity and handled everyone put in front of him.
There were several times where he could’ve given up his dream, but “The Ghost” handled the adversity like everything else in his career- he walked right through it and beat it into submission.
In the 1st round of his first real, televised main event bout for the NABF Middleweight title, Pavlik was floored by Fulgencio Zuniga. The power-punching Colombian smacked Pavlik with a wild left hand that sent him to the canvas. Pavlik got up and, despite being buzzed a couple of other times, went on to wear down and wipe out Zuniga in 9.
Other solid opponents followed like Bronco McKart, Lenord Pierre, Jose Luis Zertuche and bomb-throwing, wild man, Edison Miranda. Kelly would take all their best shots and essentially walk through them and make them yield. However, his career was defined by a dominant win over reigning Middleweight king, Jermain Taylor.
Pavlik was almost sent packing after some uncharacteristic showboating led to him taking several flush bombs, but Pavlik fought through the rubber legs and eventually stopped Taylor to become the new lineal Middleweight champ. Two other fights followed- another win against a much more focused Taylor and the other a blow-out over hapless UK import, Gary Lockett.
At any point, he can call it a career and rest assured that his professional life would be characterized as a success, but Kelly has always been an overachiever and there is so much more for him to accomplish.
Why Pavlik will beat Bernard Hopkins
Time is on His Side: Pavlik was in the first grade when Hopkins made his pro debut. There is no cruder, more direct way to say that Hopkins’ time has passed. Hopkins showed an uncharacteristic lack of energy in his last fight with Joe Calzaghe. Unlike Calzaghe, though, Pavlik is a pressure fighter and he is a tremendously physical boxer who tends to push and push until his opponent simply goes away. Older fighters usually don’t regain their mojo once they begin to get winded in fights they previously would’ve walked right through. This doesn’t bode well for a middle-aged fighter who has to take on a prime, world-class boxer.
Active Participation: B-hop can dodge and frustrate all he wants, but he’ll have to deal with a very active, persistent Pavlik. If Hopkins wants to win, he has to throw punches and make those punches count. Over his last 5 fights, Hopkins has averaged under 11 punches landed a round. This will be nowhere near enough to outscore The Ghost. Hopkins needs to actually land some punches in order to win rounds against a guy who may be out throwing him 3 to 1.
Let’s get Physical: The move up in weight probably won’t be a factor for Pavlik, but what will be a factor is that Hopkins will have to get in the trenches and work inside if he wants to be effective. Hopkins’ last several opponents were not physical in the least and he will have to juice up his physical game this time if he wants to have a shot. It will be hard, if not impossible, for an aging fighter to keep up the pace against a young, strong physical fighter like Pavlik. Sooner or later something will give in this type of give-and-take war- and it’s more likely to be the 43 year old war horse than that 26 year old stallion.
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