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Kelly Pavlik: More Wolf than Ghost

By Daniel “Tex” Cohen

Apologies to the pugilistic public. 

The masses have had too many styles and measurements coming at them recently to make sense of the whole big mess.  Between Floyd Mayweather’s boxing ability, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao’s explosiveness, Paul Williams’ supernatural frame and talents, Bernard Hopkins’ agelessness, Edwin Valero’s artillery, the two-headed Klitschkos’ dominance, Juan Manuel Marquez’s counterpunching wiliness, Chad Dawson’s youth, Miguel Cotto’s will and Shane Mosley’s whirlwind attacks, there’s no room to include some of the finer specimens of the Boxing universe.  Not enough fights for not enough dollars in not enough venues. 

Some cats will chalk that up to business, and let me tell you; they’re right. 

Obviously, the world is littered in fights that fall apart from promotional psychobabble.  Drama for nada.  Boxing politics is the hurricane that runs over the villages of boxers that sacrifice for the sport. 

Yet consider the magnitude of it all.  Surely, prospects take time to develop and must undergo tests before ascending to levels of greatness.  Even the most dominant twenty-five-year-olds of the day are far from the legendary halls they deserve to join.  Chad Dawson has plenty of belts and plenty of time, but he’s not yet in the halls of history, and he knows it. 

Then again, Dawson’ undefeated record takes him far. 

Large cross-sections of fans have pointed the finger at Floyd Mayweather to decry his claims of an undefeated record as “fake.”  Some of those same fans seem to have gone fickle on Kelly Pavlik. 

You wonder sometimes if “The Ghost”, 36-1, 32 KO’s, is snake bit.  The visual tale is necessary for the casual fan to even understand why that “1” in the loss column is so significant.  Pavlik is a professional that knows how to take his job the right way:  Professionally.  Rumors may swirl of his personal problems, but my memories so far of Pavlik can be summed up in two, proper words, and one name: Edison Miranda.

Miranda was supposed to be the panther….the sleep walker…the tough street Colombian with success on his mind.  Miranda learned to read from a drug-dealer and slept in mosquito-infested gyms.  He was kicked out of his house from his family twice at two different times. 

Pavlik was the prospect.  It was his job to either struggle a bit before closing the show, or have trouble “looking good” in the ring.  He didn’t do “his job.”  Rather, he slammed a courageous, but utterly overmatched, Miranda with shotgun blasts.  Miranda was the man with the knife in the gun fight.  Pavlik became the star and earned a shot at Jermain Taylor. 

Given the current state of affairs, many forget how good Jermain Taylor has been in the past.  Style has done Taylor dirty, as Pavlik was able to survive trouble early against Taylor and take him out late in the fight. 

From there, Taylor was never again the same.  Carl Froch caught the Arkansas native late in their championship bout, and Arthur Abraham gave us super six fireworks in taking out Taylor just as late. 

It all started with Pavlik, though.  “The Ghost” put his butt on the line and fought his way out of defeat in two great fights.  By that time, he had earned a tune up against the unknown Gary Lockett, and he delivered in that fight with dominance.

So along came the scrap with Bernard Hopkins.  Pavlik turns into a 4-1 favorite overnight and Hopkins relishes in the underdog role, counterpunching from angles galore and proving that he is as strong and youthful as ever in beating the skinnier Youngstown redwood like a side of meat under the fits of fictionalized character envisioned by Sylvester Stallone himself. 

From that specific fight and a few delays of other bouts, Pavlik fell from grace.  Apparently one loss, even to the great Bernard Hopkins, can obliterate an entire body of work.  Even when a man faces all comers and has a loss to show for it, he is chastised. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been Mayweathered.  One loss never made a fighter minor league in the past.  It shouldn’t now.  A fighter should be judged based on who he fights and how he performs in those fights.  Kelly Pavlik passes both tests with flying colors.  Most recently, he has a few rebuilding fights under his belt (both of which ended in knockouts) and he will face the vicious Sergio Martinez in a fight of might vs. speed. 

We all know “speed kills”, but writing off Pavlik on a cliché is rather absurd.  “The Ghost” is nowhere to be seen on the radar.  For the amount of upside potential he has, Pavlik might be a good long-term bet. 

Do you see everyone in the super six dogging Kelly Pavlik? 

It’s a good question, isn’t it?

In a sport of moments, some great fighters catch a leg up on others.  Jermain Taylor splashed on the national Boxing scene with two unanimous decision wins over none other than Pavlik’s toughest opponent, Bernard Hopkins.  In this case of rock, paper, scissors, it’s easy to see who won what and why.  Hopkins could not find angles on the athletic Taylor, but he was able to hit a stationary Pavlik.  Pavlik was able to catch Taylor at the end of his punches and overwhelm him with size.  Hopkins was too big.  Hopkins can be out-boxed. 

Hopkins himself told Pavlik that he would one day be great and that he shouldn’t let the loss destroy him. 

Kelly Pavlik has been missing from the scene for too long.  Rather than beckon the jokes the come with calling yourself a seemingly imaginary spirit, he should think about a  name change to something vicious and just as respectable as… well, an “Executioner.”

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