Kelly Pavlik: Boxing’s Next Superstar?

By Francis Walker
Updated: October 17, 2008

Both Kelly Pavlik and Bernard Hopkins pose for the cameras. But on October 18, there will be no posing when the two men meet in the middle of the ring. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Both Kelly Pavlik and Bernard Hopkins pose for the cameras. But on October 18, there will be no posing when the two men meet in the middle of the ring. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

NEW YORK — WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (34-0, 30 KOs) is scheduled to fight former undisputed world middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs) at a catch-weight of 170 pounds. Should Pavlik defeat Hopkins, the boxing world could be watching the birth of boxing’s next big major attraction.

“Pavlik vs. Hopkins: Unstoppable” is a joint promotion of Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc. and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. The bout takes place Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. and will also be broadcast on HBO Pay-Per-View at a suggested retail of $54.95.

Pavlik could be one of boxing’s major attractions heading into 2009. Let’s face it Pavlik has what it takes to be a superstar.

Pavlik has a humble personality that people can relate with. He has also had a wonderful amateur background and has a crowd pleasing style. Pavlik is an unbeaten world champion and his legend continues to grow following career defining victories against Jose Luis Zertuche, Edison Miranda, and a pair of wins against Jermain Taylor.

Perhaps most of all, Pavlik is a puncher. He knocks opponents out. Punchers put people in seats.

Pavlik also is a rags-to-riches story that the public can identify with. The young 26 year-old grew up in one of the poorest cities in the United States – Youngstown, Ohio. Although Pavlik is making money and is perhaps the biggest celebrity to come out of Youngstown since Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, he refuses to live elsewhere.

Pavlik continues to bask in the hardships of his humble beginnings – abandoned steel mills and warehouses, a close-knit community in which everyone knows your name. Your current neighbor could have been your classmate in elementary school. That’s the Youngstown life that Pavlik knows and will only accept for himself.

It is because of Pavlik’s devotion to Youngstown why he has become “The Pride of Youngstown.” The same way Roy Jones, Jr. put Pensacola, FL on the map, Pavlik is doing the same for Youngstown.

” You feel a little pressure,” Pavlik said during a recent conference call. “I mean, there has been especially, going into the world title fight in the first match against Taylor, there was definitely pressure there. But there is going to be pressure no matter, if it’s 10 fights now, and 15 fights there’s not as much pressure. You want to constantly keep putting, Youngstown on the map and keeping it there in a positive way.”

“So there’s a little pressure but the toughest challenge comes taking that pressure and setting it aside for four or five days or so a week and focusing on, exactly what you have to do and that’s the main thing. And we’ve been very good with that, from the first Taylor fight and actually the Miranda fight, the eliminator for the title fight. So, that pressure, now we know how to deal with that. But yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure, but nothing that affects anything.”

Pavlik can be seen as an American hero; a kid that fought his way through an economically ravaged neighborhood to become successful. Pavlik has also given back to Youngstown, whether he’s signing autographs, attending charity events, making contributions, or simply talking to the young children that idolize him.

People like Pavlik’s humble personality and persona outside of the ring. However, when Pavlik steps between those ropes, the smiling stops and the desire to pummel his fists through his opponent’s body is at its peak.

Pavlik can fight and is a student of boxing. He is exciting and people want to see him fight because he gives it his all and continues to win.

Gark Stark, Jr. returns to DBE Broadway Boxing at the BB King Blues Club & Grill on Wednesday, October 22. Photo Credit: Christy Cappillino

Gark Stark, Jr. returns to DBE Broadway Boxing at the BB King Blues Club & Grill on Wednesday, October 22. Photo Credit: Christy Cappillino

The Pavlik Express has landed “The Executioner”

Pavlik’s highlight reel career has garnered a date with Hopkins, the toughest opponent and the biggest name on his resume. Nothing on Pavlik’s resume spells anything close to a future Hall of Fame fighter like Hopkins. But after October 18, it will.

The question is, however, has Pavlik mastered enough of his craft to emerge victorious against a solid ring veteran as crafty and as experienced as Hopkins?

Does the boxing community dare ask whether Pavlik can stop Hopkins?

“Kelly Pavlik is the perfect opponent for me come October 18, because, he comes forward, he comes to fight, and look — he wants to knock Bernard Hopkins out,” Hopkins said. “At least that’s what he says. But he’s going to find it difficult and that’s going to change the fight.”

Hopkins added: “If Kelly Pavlik thinks he’s going to beat Bernard Hopkins because he has a right hand, he’s a damn fool.”

Hopkins was the last dominant world middleweight champion. Despite having his 10-year title reign ended by a pair of decision losses to Jermain Taylor in 2005, Hopkins was the man at 160 pounds.

Hopkins broke Carlos Monzon’s record of 16 consecutive middleweight title defenses with 20. Hopkins is the only fighter to have unified the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO middleweight title belts. Hopkins is the only fighter to have knocked out De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad.

During his campaign as a light-heavyweight he has defeated Antonio Tarver and Winky Wright, but lost to Joe Calzaghe in his most recent bout.

Hopkins is a very rough and gritty fighter who can box well. Hopkins has never been stopped during a career that carries a wealth of experience.

Despite Hopkins’ recent success, many doubt his ability to beat Pavlik. Boxing is a young man’s sport and Hopkins is 43 years old. Hopkins will be fighting a younger, fresher, and faster fighter in Pavlik. Hopkins’ losses in the last three years were against fighters with the greater hand speed – Calzaghe and Taylor.

Pavlik isn’t faster than Taylor or Calzaghe, but will have an edge in speed over Hopkins. Should Pavlik get his punches off first and keep Hopkins at the end of his punches, Pavlik should win convincingly. Hopkins, in recent fights, has been throwing one punch and grabbing. He did a lot of that in the fight with Calzaghe as way to compensate for the Welshman’s rapidly fast hands. Even though Calzaghe escaped with a 12-round split decision nod, it was clear that Hopkins had trouble with Calzaghe’s movement and speed in the later rounds.

Pavik won’t be doing much moving around and will look to pressure Hopkins away with power and precision punching. Hopkins would be a fool to stand in front of Pavlik for twelve rounds.

The undercard

“Pavlik vs. Hopkins: Unstoppable” will have an appetizing undercard to coincide with the main event. The undercard appears to be somewhat appetizing.

There will be a featherweight bout between WBO champion Steven Luevano (35-1-1, 15 KOs) against Billy Dib (21-0, 11 KOs). Luevano will be making his third defense of his title this year and fourth overall.

Marco Antonio Rubio (42-1-1, 37 KOs) battles Enrique Ornelas (28-4-1, 18KOs). The winner will be guaranteed a shot at Pavlik should he return to the middleweight class.

Plus, 21 year-old prospect Daniel Jacobs (10-0, 9 KOs) will appear on the undercard in a scheduled six-round super middleweight bout. Also, Junior middleweight Yuri Foreman (25-0, 8 KOs) will compete in a scheduled 10-round contest.

Golden Boy Promotions signs James Kirkland

Junior middleweight prospect and undefeated James Kirkland recently signed a promotional pact with De La Hoya’s promotional company. Kirkland (23-0, 20 KOs) appears to have the right stuff as he is highly regarded as one of the hottest prospects in boxing.

At age 24, Kirkland is a hard-hitting southpaw from Austin, TX. He is trained by Ann Wolfe, a former professional women’s boxer. Kirkland has power in both hands, relentless, and is anxious to fight the best fighters in the world at 154 pounds.

“I’m ready to fight the best fighters at 154 pounds, said Kirkland said in a statement. “I know that Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar de la Hoya will get me these great fights. I want to showcase my talent to the boxing world on all the big television networks. I want to thank Golden Boy Promotions for giving me the opportunity to work with a boxing promoter that has the best fighters in the world like Oscar de la Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton and many others.”

Kirkland is currently ranked by all four major sanctioning bodies: WBA #3, IBF #4, WBO #4, and WBC #13.

Broadway Boxing Returns

DiBella Entertainment will present another Broadway Boxing show on Wednesday, October 22, at BB King’s Blues Club & Grill.

Edgar Santana (25-3, 15 KOs) will meet Luis Rodriguez (23-, 14 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round junior welterweight main event. Santana-Rodriguez will be supported by a rematch between former junior welterweight champions Randall Bailey (37-6, 34 KOs) and DeMarcus Corley (31-9, 17 KOs).

“I’m thrilled to present this truly outstanding card to the boxing fans of New York,” said DBE President Lou DiBella. “The main event and co-feature are both network television caliber bouts. Santana versus Rodriguez is that rarely seen matchup of equally talented fighters – risking a potential world rating, while the Corley-Bailey rematch is a classic boxer vs. puncher pairing, with Bailey anxious to avenge a disappointing world title loss to Corley.”

In January 2003, Corley out-boxed Bailey via 12-round unanimous decision to retain the WBO junior welterweight title. In the last 5 ½ years, Corley’s career has taken a turn for the worst, while Bailey has resurrected himself as a junior welterweight title contender again.

Corley has lost eight of his last eleven fights and his currently riding a five fight losing streak dating back to September 2006. Corley has not won a fight in more than three years.

Bailey, a former WBO and interim WBA champion at 140 pounds, has won nine of his last ten fights. His only loss during his recent stretch was a disputed split decision in Herman Ngoudjo’s hometown. The bout was also an IBF junior welterweight title eliminator last year.

The undercard will also feature the return of Staten Island’s Gary Stark Jr. (21-2, 8 KOs) against Leivi Brea (16-7-3, 8 KOs) in an eight-round junior featherweight bout.

Stark hasn’t fought since March when he avenged a shocking KO defeat in May 2007 to Andreas Ledesma. In the rematch, Stark was very aggressive in the early rounds, but his right eye quick began to close. Stark’s right eye was nearly the size and discoloration of a dark plum. It was amazing that Stark was able to last the 10-round distance and win a hard-fought decision.

Also on the card, two-time NY Golden Gloves winner and 2008 National Golden Gloves Champion Tor Hamer makes his professional in-ring debut. Hamer, a recent graduate of Penn State University, will make his pro-debut in a scheduled four-round heavyweight bout against Joe Rabotte (2-3, 1 KO).

Also appearing on the card will be undefeated light heavyweight prospect, Will Rosinsky (2-0, 2 KOs) of Queens, NY, Brooklyn’s Philip Jackson Benson in a middleweight pro debut, and super middleweight HajroSujak (2-0, 1 KO) from the Bronx.

Tickets for Broadway Boxing priced at $150, $100, and $70. They are available by calling DiBella Entertainment at (212) 947-2577 or at Proceeds from this event will help support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The BB King Blues Club & Grill is located at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42 Street in New York City.