Letter from Benny concerning Kelly Pavlik reclamation project

Kelly Pavlik at the weigh-in ceremonies for the Sergio Martinez world championship bout.


Once again we receive a letter from Benny Ricardo, a boxing insider, the play by play boxing and football color announcer, ex-NFL kicker, stand-up comedian. He’s in New York and has news for the Kelly Pavlik fans.

“The reclamation project that is former middleweight champion Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik is about to enter the next, inevitable phase: a new trainer (Robert Garcia) and a new training location (Oxnard, CA).

On Saturday night, Pavlik and his father, co-manager Mike Pavlik, came to the Big Apple to watch the Nonito Donaire versus Omar Narvaez card at Madison Square Garden and, more importantly, meet with co-manager Cameron Dunkin and sit down with Top Rank’s Bob ArumTodd DuBoef and Carl Moretti.

Friday’s meeting was meant to get them on the same page after Pavlik’s terrible decision to pull out of a Showtime ShoBox fight against Darryl Cunningham on a few days notice in August (for no other reason than his heart wasn’t in it) and throw away a seven-figure super middleweight title opportunity that Top Rank had negotiated for him against Lucian Bute on November 5. The sides had since had little contact, until the meeting.

Although Pavlik wasn’t talking much, only to say, when I ran into him in the hotel lobby Saturday afternoon, that it was a good meeting and he was looking forward to fighting again. By all accounts it did go well. Most notably, Pavlik, whose year began with a well-documented stint in alcohol rehab, is in the process of making the drastic change of leaving his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and trainer Jack Loew for Garcia and his gym in Oxnard.

“Jack’s out,” Dunkin told me Saturday night following a media conference for Top Rank’s Miguel Cotto versus Antonio Margarito undercard on December 3 at the Garden. “It’s about seeing if Kelly still has any fight left in him, and he may not. He wasn’t getting any better, he wasn’t training, he had no organization. He wasn’t in a positive way. So you have to make changes. You have to do something. You have to make drastic changes and see if it’s going to work.”

That means hooking up with Garcia, who also trains Dunkin clients Donaire, Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia (Robert’s younger brother), as well as Margarito.

“Robert Garcia, Oxnard. I’m excited about it,” Dunkin said of Pavlik’s impending move. “It’s not done yet because there are two things I still have to work out, but this is about getting him out of Ohio. He’s happy with the place. He’s fine with the trainer. That’s worked out. He’s going to go and train with Robert Garcia. That’s done. He’s going to go to Oxnard. That’s done.”

Arum also liked the choice of Garcia. “I think Robert is ultimately going to be as good as Freddie Roach as a trainer,” said Arum. “He isn’t now, but he will be.”

Loew has trained Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs) at the South Side Boxing Club in Youngstown since Pavlik picked up gloves at age nine, so it’s an unfortunate end to what had been something of a fairy tale. They reached the pinnacle of boxing together on September 29, 2007, when Pavlik rallied from an early knockdown to knock out Jermain Taylor in the seventh round and win the middleweight world title.

Despite their success, Pavlik, 29, never really lived up to his potential under Loew. He had health issues, pulled out of fights and had a drinking problem. Some believe he stagnated under Loew, and periodically there were calls in some quarters for Pavlik to dump him. But Pavlik was always loyal, at least until now.

However, it seems in order for Pavlik to save what’s left of his career, he needs to get away from Youngstown and the myriad of distractions there. Getting out of Ohio also means leaving the trainer he has referred to as a second father, a friend and brother.

“We had a nice meeting with Pavlik and we laid out a course of action that [Pavlik] liked,” Arum said. “It’s gonna be a whole new ballgame as to where he trains, who his trainer is going to be, where he’s going to live.”

Arum said if Pavlik wanted to remain in Youngstown, “I’m not interested. Jack is fine, but [Pavlik] needs to be away from Youngstown. That doesn’t work [for him to stay there]. He was very, very receptive. What that ultimately means, I don’t know. But we’re going to fly him out to Oxnard, let him see the beach, the training facility, and I’ve offered to lease him a home.”

Arum said if Pavlik wants to salvage what is left of his career, he must make a change. As much as it probably will hurt Loew, Arum is probably right.

“Can’t do things that we know haven’t worked and, in our opinion, won’t work. Staying at home and all of that,” Arum said.

If all goes well, Arum said he would schedule Pavlik for a 10-round fight “off television or on television, but small, not HBO or Showtime, like a ‘Top Rank Live’ [card].”

As for when?

“Whenever he is ready and the trainer says he’s ready,” said Arum. “Then maybe two or three fights, and then we’ll see what he wants to do. I’ve got to play it by ear. We have to see how it works. He was very receptive; he couldn’t be more receptive.”

Being receptive, however, and implementing the last-ditch plan are two different things. Two months back, Pavlik was claiming he was through with boxing. Is this going to make any real difference? Or is this all part of the movie script that Hollywood has written? Remember this, Kelly Pavlik is still very young and won’t turn 30 until April, 2012. He’s like that rock star who may have peeked too early. The move to California takes him out of his comfort zone, the South Side Boxing Club in Ohio where he trained with Jack Loew, Pavlik’s lone trainer since he was nine years old.

Pavlik’s recent track record:

May 5, 2011 (his last fight) he beat the undefeated Alfonso Lopez

April 17, 2010, lost the middleweight crown to Sergio Martinez, the current world champion.

December 19, 2009, won a fifth round TKO victory over Miguel Angel Espino.

February 21, 2009, Pavlik had Marco Antonio Rubio’s corner throw in the towel.

October 18, 2008, lost badly to the much larger Bernard Hopkins

Then we sprinkle in the negatives: He pulled out of fights with Sergio Mora and Paul Williams (twice). He did two stints in rehab. Stayed away from boxing for 13 months. Bailed out on the more lucrative fights with Darryl Cunningham ($50K) and Lucian Bute ($1.35 million).


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