The Whole World Will Be Watching

By Francis Walker
Updated: August 6, 2008

Kelly Pavlik poses with Bernard Hopkins (photos by Francis Walker)

Kelly Pavlik poses with Bernard Hopkins (photos by Francis Walker)

NEW YORK — When WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (34-0, 30 KOs) moves up in weight to battle light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs), it will be fought at a catch-weight of 170 pounds. Pavlik vs. Hopkins is a battle between one of today’s middleweight rising star vs. the longest reigning middleweight champion in the history of the division.

Pavlik vs. Hopkins will be broadcast on HBO Pay-Per-View from at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The suggested retail price is $49.99. Ticket prices range from $700-$75.

Pavlik vs. Hopkins is everything a fight fan can hope for. It represents your old school blue-collar workers, a former convict, and men with a hard work ethic. Every accolade that both Pavlik and Hopkins have ever earned was through their fists.

The fight is also intriguing because, Hopkins represents a rough and tough gritty African-American from the hard streets of Philadelphia. Pavlik, who is White, is the new-old school symbol of the hard bodied, steel mill worker from Youngstown, Ohio.

Both men had rough upbringings and nothing on this earth was handed to them. That’s what makes Pavlik vs. Hopkins so special. The winner will be determined by the fighter that works the hardest (and the smartest) in the ring.

But age 43, can Hopkins keep pace with the much younger 26 year-old?Many have asked Hopkins, why in the world is he still fighting? He retired after he soundly beat Antonio Tarver in June 2006. Hopkins has since returned to defeat Winky Wright in July 2007 before dropping a split-decision to Joe Calzaghe in April.

“I didn’t retire, but one time,” Hopkins said. “I didn’t retire twice and comeback. I retired once which was of course after the Tarver fight. Since then I fought the Winky Wright fight and the Joe Calzaghe fight.”

Hopkins believes that he threw the harder punches in his fight with Calzaghe. Hopkins also scored a first-round knockdown against the unbeaten Welshman, but simply had difficulty matching Calzaghe’s punch output in the later rounds.

Nevertheless, Hopkins feels good and still has the desire to fight the best. However, the question remains — why continue to fight younger and perhaps stronger guys?

Hopkins added: “I feel good. I feel like the Brett Farve of boxing. I’m bringing up Brett Farve because, it’s just so connected to me right now. Can he (Farve) still play? Can he still fight?” I don’ think there’s anyone in this building is saying ‘well, Bernard, you know you can’t fight anymore, you lost it, we’re worried about your health. No is saying that.”

“What they’re saying is…Why?”

Hopkins has always kept himself in wonderful condition throughout his career. While he was world middleweight champion fighting at 160, his walk around weight was 166-167 pounds outside of training camp. Although Hopkins has been in plenty of competitive fights, he has never taken a beating inside the ring.

“Trust me, if you give these sharks any inclination that you should stop because of something physical, or something you cannot do or do anymore… that is their job” Hopkins continued. “Aside from being an iron man — Brett Farve — I still have the will to train. Fighting has always been easy. It’s in the upbringing. Can I get through the seven hard weeks? See I train everyday, that’s my lifestyle.

Hopkins is motivated to fight Pavlik not because of his championship grandeur. It’s not because he’s White. A fight with Pavlik benefits him more than it does Hopkins. A loss or subpar performance against Pavlik does nothing to deter Hopkins’ place in history.

“It’s someone out there that motivates me because he has an undefeated record,” Hopkins stated.

A win against Hopkins = superstardom for Pavlik

Pavlik is a growing commodity in boxing. Ever since he knocked out Jose Zertuche in thrilling fashion,Pavlik’s stock has continuously risen. He knocked out Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor to capture the middleweight championships. This year he belted Taylor a decision loss before having stopped Gary Lockett inside the rounds in June before agreeing to fight Hopkins.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting fight,” Pavlik stated. “With his style, people want to see what I do; throw the punches that I throw. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight for a while. We’re going to work more on strength. We’re not going to worry about the weight as much. It’s an honor to fight the guy. It’s an honor to go out there and dominate the fight from the opening round. That’s a big notch under the belt.”

Pavlik will be fighting on HBO Pay-Per-View for the second time this year against the most creditable and most durable fighter that he’s ever fought. Let’s face it, Pavlik has drawing power and he knows it.

(photos by Francis Walker)

(photos by Francis Walker)

Can Pavlik stop Hopkins?

A win against Hopkins– especially by knockout — would be huge. Pavlik, who fights and trains for a knockout victory believes that he may catch Hopkins in the later rounds.

“I definitely think so in the late rounds,” Pavlik said. “Calzaghe started slowing him down in the late rounds. Calzaghe’s not a power puncher. It’s certainly a possibility, we’ll see what happens.”

Pavlik’s trainer Jack Lowe agrees that Pavlik has a shot at stopping Hopkins, who has never been KO’d in his career. The odds of that happening on a scale of 1 to 10 (highest) are -20.

“We’re going to go full steam ahead,” Lowe said. “I think Bernard has to worry about getting himself into condition. When you got a kid like Kelly Pavlik that throws 100 punches in a round with someone that throws only 25 punches in a round, I think that could be the difference in the fight.”

Weight will not be an issue for Pavlik

Within the past year, Pavlik has fought at 160, 166, and in October 170 pounds. Pavlik is willing to fight the best fighters in the world at any weight. Since Pavlik trains hard for every fight, weight will not be an issue especially when fighting Hopkins in his comfort zone of 170.

Pavik said that he will not tire, nor will he feel uncomfortable and will adjust to fighting at such a higher weight.

“Actually, it’s the same thing with Taylor,” Pavlik added. “In the second ( Taylor) fight, I was able to keep going, going, and going. It’s hard for me to make weight. I’m 6-2,” I’ve got a big frame. I train as hard as I do where I can refuel my body to keep my energy high.”

Pavlik KO’d Taylor inside seven rounds in September at 160. He won a convincing decision in a rematch with in February at 166. Taylor did everything not to get KO’d by the hard-punching Pavlik.

The Pride of Youngstown, an honor or major distraction

Pavlik is the face of Youngstown. He was born there. He was raised there. Pavlik learned how to fight there and continues to train there in preparation for big fights.

However, Pavlik didn’t ask top be the face of his hometown. Pavlik, instead, was placed on this Youngstown pedestal of grandeur. This could be a major distraction for Pavlik, as he prepares for the biggest and most important fight of his career.

Lowe insists that Pavlik’s living and training in Youngstown is not a problem. It simply wouldn’t be right to leave Youngstown because of fame, fortune, and jealously driving them out of town.

“I think if it were any other town than Youngstown that would probably be okay,” Lowe said. “We’ve had so many hits, so many bad things happen to us in Youngstown that when something good like this comes around, unfortunately, that’s the kind of pressure that they put on this kid. He has the weight of Youngstown on his shoulders. People expect him to win the fight.”

Lowe added that sometime she has to play the bad guy and kick everyone of Pavlik’s inner circle in order to get him to train effectively.

“That’s the thing about the people in Youngstown,” Lowe added. “Whenever I say that we’re training, this got to be cut out and that got to be cut out, I’ve never had any problems. I think they respect us to that point. When Kelly’s done training he’s never turned down any interviews. He’s done every charitable event in Youngstown. I think the people of Youngstown get enough of Kelly Pavlik so that when we’re in training, they let us go.”

“Once August 25 comes, I become the bad guy in town,” Lowe concluded. “I think Kelly will continue to train in Youngstown, as long as he boxes. We’ve been offered some of the most exclusive places in the world. Even when we go to Vegas to train, I just don’t get the best out of Kelly Pavlik. As long as he’s comfortable and he does the right think when he comes to camp, I have no problems.”

Pavlik loves Youngstown, refuses to leave

“There’s too much there,” Pavlik said of his hometown. “I got the gyms, the parks. I have the iron man warehouse. When I go to Vegas, there’s nothing there for me.”

Pavlik doesn’t want to train or live anywhere else, but Youngstown – distractions of the pedestal or not. Pavlik, who is a married father with one child, enjoys the attention and uses his celebrity to inspire children.

“You’re right,” Pavlik stated. “I didn’t ask to be up there. I look at boxing as if it’s my job. You go in. You want to be the best at it. You want to become manager and owner of the place. I want to become world champion. Make more money. But I am in the spotlight, mainly for the kids. I have my daughter, my wife, and my friends. I don’t change my friends.”