Boxing: Pavlik says troubles are finally in past
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — Kelly Pavlik believes he finally has his injuries behind him, and he's ready to face Sergio Martinez in what amounts to a comeback fight for the middleweight champ.
Since rocketing to stardom with a knockout of Jermain Taylor almost three years ago, Pavlik has defeated a trio of overmatched challengers, lost to Bernard Hopkins when he was ill, and was sidelined for several months because of a persistent staph infection on his hand.
The rough run has turned many fans against him, and Pavlik said during a conference call Thursday that the reason he's taking a risk by fighting Martinez — considered one of the top junior middleweights in the world — is to prove he's not afraid to face anybody.
"The flack is going to be there, there's nothing I could do," Pavlik said. "This was my way of going out there and showing people I will take dangerous fights, against a very good fighter, when I'm healthy and 100 percent ready to go."
Pavlik will defend his WBC and WBO versions of the title on April 17 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., the same seaside arena where he stunned Taylor in September 2007 and defending his championships nine month later against fringe contender Gary Lockett.
Along the way, Pavlik defeated Taylor in a catch-weight rematch that many people seem to have forgotten. Instead, they point to the Hopkins loss at light heavyweight and a pair of wins last year against Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Angel Espino as evidence that Pavlik is unwilling to defend his title trinkets against the best in the sport.
"I probably have never seen Kelly look so good," said his trainer, Jack Loew. "This is a very serious fight for us, and I think everybody is going to finally be able to see the best Kelly Pavlik they've seen in a long time."
Pavlik (36-1, 32 KOs) typically trains in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, because he prefers to be around his family and comfortable surroundings. But in an attempt to clear his head and shed a few extra pounds, Loew decided to move the champ's camp to Florida.
It lasted all of three days.
The ring was small and the gym cramped, spring break created just as many distractions as back home, and the weather — around 40 degrees at night and the mid-60s during the day — was about the same as it has been during a mild spring in Ohio.
"The whole thing wasn't playing out," Loew said. "We got three days of training in there and we left. It was a decision I made and we just decided to come home."
Everything else during the eight-week camp has gone well, Loew said. Pavlik is on schedule with his weight and had just finished a sharp, 12-round sparring session Thursday afternoon.
"This will be one of the most important middleweight championships, I think, in a long time," said Bob Arum, who has promoted his share of them during a career spanning four decades.
Martinez (44-2-2, 24 KOs) is far more than simply the B-side to the fight.
He's an exciting puncher with plenty of power, and his only losses have come against former champions Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams.
Many believe that Martinez defeated Williams in December, when they traded knockdowns in the first round at Boardwalk Hall, then proceeded to trade punches the rest of the fight. Williams earned the mixed decision, but Martinez earned plenty of praise.
And now, a shot at the reigning middleweight king.
"People saw his last fight against Paul Williams, and a lot of people thought Martinez won the fight, but in any event he gave a hell of an account of himself," Arum said. "Kelly has his hands full with Martinez, but it should be a tremendous, tremendous fight."