So, the 2/3rds world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik successfully beat an Opponent in 5 rounds two weeks ago, bringing his record for "fighting the very best" [a recurring claim from the Ghost's people] since rising to the level of prominence where a fighter actually can get fights with the very best if wants them, to dead even between The Very Best and Not The Very Best.
Pavlik made a splash with his TKO win over Edison Miranda, an achievement even King Arthur Abraham couldn't pull off nine months earlier. Pavlik's fight was a title eliminator, earning him a shot at the champion, Jermain Taylor. Pavlik TKO'ed Taylor in the seventh round, and won a unanimous decision in an ill-considered immediate rematch that Taylor demanded a few months later. As I recall, Pavlik's people presented, or allowed his fight with Gary Lockett to be presented, as the following: 1] A much-earned break from the high-tension matches of the previous year, 2] A keep-busy fight while Top Rank makes a deal to unify the middleweight titles with Abraham, or 3] another seriously dangerous fight that Kelly and his team were taking very very seriously, depending on what level of media was reporting the story. Lockett was out in the third, via TKO.
Then Pavlik fought Bernard Hopkins and the wheels fell off his wagon. How anyone could have thought a smaller, come-straight-forward brawler with three punches in his repertoire could do anything more but be an unwitting assistant in Hopkins' boxing clinic "How To Make Your Opponent Look Like A Chump For 12 Rounds" is still beyond me. Maybe it's the matchmaker fanboy in me talking, but I still retain most of my blind faith in Top Rank's matchmaking genius Bruce Trampler; I assume that he nixed the idea of Pavlik facing B-Hop but was ignored. In one of the more pathetic acts of machismo common to boxing -- not admitting to injuries until after a fight, always doing so if you lost -- Pavlik claimed to have had bronchitis just prior to the fight, but wanted it to go on anyway.
Since getting thoroughly hosed in that fight, Pavlik has gone the hometown-lion-in-winter route, pummeling the clearly outclassed Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Angel Espino before still-adoring Youngstown crowds, broadcast on pay-per-view after attracting no serious interest from any of the cable networks. HBO was still actively promoting the Pavlik-Paul Williams fight even after Pavlik pulled out for the third time, claiming serious hand troubles. Again, it's interesting how there was no talk of this hand injury/staph infection/life-endangering case of MRSA/life-extra-endangeringly allergic-reaction-to-medication until months afterward, with a vague chronology of events. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but it's stories like these that remind me that there really aren't any rock-solid journals of record nor full-time investigative reporters in boxing journalism. [This ongoing clusterfuck with Mayweather-Pacquiao is a fine example; I've never been a big boxing-messboard reader -- I mostly skim them looking at the pictures posted -- but I've had to leave them alone for the last two or so weeks because it's so upsetting how no one agrees on the basic facts of the blood-test dispute. It's probably in both promoters' best interest to keep the bewildered herd's understanding of this news vague -- not just legally but the more fans can argue the more word-of-mouth can be generated and the bigger the PPV sales theoretically might be, even when the conversations generated are confusing and embarrassing -- but selling a boxing promotion shouldn't be boxing-journalism's job.]
Anyway, after three postponements and with HBO's blessing, Williams and his people moved on and made a fight with the second-most-avoided light-middleweight in the world, Sergio Martinez. Miraculously, shortly after Williams-Martinez was finalized, Pavlik recovered and fought Espino two weeks after their fight. Apparently, Pavlik called out Williams in his post-fight ring interview, claiming that Williams is not the most ducked fighter out there, hype hype hype blah blah blah. Technically, that probably is true now; if I was a middleweight as limited as Pavlik, I would much rather take a bigger-money, higher-profile fight with Williams [a welterweight lost in a middleweight's frame] and lose on the cards but physically unhurt than have Martinez zing my ass to the canvas for less money. Williams didn't look nearly as dominating and unearthly against Martinez as he did against his opponents prior to signing to fight Pavlik.
That all said, Paul "The Punisher" has shown a remarkable knack for coming back stronger from setbacks; I seriously underestimated how ferociously motivated he is, re: his one loss to Quintana. This is a man who has fought more A/B-list fighters in a row -- not counting Williams' tryout-at-middleweight fight with Andy Kolle -- than Pavlik has faced, period: Antonio Margarito, Carlos Quintana [twice], Verno Phillips, Ronald "Winky" Wright and now Sergio Gabriel Martinez. It's hard to not see Pavlik having the nerve to call Williams out now as him going after the far easier fight, an impulse he may regret. Even if Williams doesn't throw with the speed, accuracy and power of "Maravilla," he can still easily swamp out a "jab-jab-overhand-right" plodder with his old hundred-punches-a-round workrate and footwork.
[I was going to compare Pavlik's history with a contemporary who seems to be charting a similar career trajectory, albeit one that doesn't have hand like Trampler's guiding it: Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz, but: One, it's unfair to Diaz, who has genuinely been fighting the best in his division for the bulk of his prime time as a unified Lightweight champion and a Showtime/HBO fighter; Two, I distracted the fuck out of myself when I realized that Diaz is another in what seems to be [no research done, but my gut says it's pretty accurate] a long line of Don King-promoted titleholders who ended their association with him and then lost their last fight under his banner, as well as their titles, to other Don King fighter [in this case, Nate Campbell, who promptly lost the titles on the scales in what was to be his first defense].