Kelly Pavlik has had to bounce back from some difficult circumstances, including devastating losses to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez, a life-threatening staph infection in his hand and a public battle with excessive drinking.
The former middleweight champion is now face to face with what might be the biggest threat to his boxing career.
Pavlik on Monday made the decision to pull out of a fight with Darryl Cunningham that was scheduled for Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio – Pavlik’s hometown – on Showtime.
In the process, any momentum he had regained after the Martinez setback was lost and he alienated a number of important parties.
That includes Showtime, which might never again book him on the network; promoter Bob Arum, who might be wise to sever ties with the fighter; and his own trainer, Jack Loew, who has been at Pavlik’s side through all the tribulations.
“I'm very, very concerned about this young man,” Arum told RingTV.com. “I consider the actions that he has taken at this point to be very, very bizarre.
“How can anybody book him in a fight when he acts in this manner?”
Pavlik, 29, recovered from the infection and was dealing with his alcohol issues, which allowed Top Rank to devise a plan to get the former middleweight champ back to the top.
And it was a good plan. First, he moved up to a more-comfortable super middleweight. Then he faced solid, but limited Alfonso Lopez in his first fight in more than a year, which he won by majority decision.
Next came Cunningham, another beatable foe. And then came the payoff: If he beat Cunningham, he would face IBF 168-pound titleholder Lucian Bute in a fight that would bring back the spotlight and provide the opportunity put all his missteps behind him.
What was the problem? Apparently the money.
Arum said Pavlik would make $1.35 million to fight Bute, which Pavlik came to believe was far less than the amount Mikkel Kessler turned down to fight Bute. Pavlik’s reaction was to pull out of both the Cunningham and Bute fights, a mistake that could haunt him the rest of his life.
The one-time star-in-the-making was in no position to make such a move. He is far removed from his sensational back-to-back victories over Jermain Taylor, which seemed to portend great things.
As it turned out, the second Taylor fight – in February 2008 – was his last truly important victory. Victories over Gary Lockett, Marco Antonio Rubio, Miguel Espino and Alfonso Lopez were nice but didn’t give him the bargaining leverage of a superstar.
On top of that, he had to pull out of two fights last year, one against Paul Williams because of the staph infection and another against Brian Vera because of what he called a rib injury.
Pavlik then checked himself into rehab in an effort to control his drinking. He seemed to be on the right track in his recovery only to end up in a fist fight with his brother a few weeks ago, sparking rumors that he was drinking again.
Thus, in light of all that, he’s unbelievably fortunate to be in a position to fight for a major title for a seven-figure payday even if what he heard about Kessler is true.
A victory over Bute, which wasn’t out of the question, would’ve vaulted Pavlik back to top of the boxing world and into a position to command huge paydays in the near future. The pot of gold was directly in front of his face.
And now that opportunity appears to be lost because of Pavlik’s decision to walk, which is both perplexing and sad.
“I really think that there are some sort of mental issues there,” Arum said.
Remember Pavlik’s knockout of Edison Miranda in 2007, which made it clear that he could be a force in the sport? Remember the riveting first fight with Taylor, in which he was hurt but rallied to stop the champ to win two middleweight titles?
The boxing world was abuzz over the strapping, hard-punching young man from the Midwest at that time. Now, after the stunt he pulled this time, no one could blame the powers that be if they stayed clear of him from now on.
Even those close to him have made it clear that they’re growing tired of defending him publicly.
Now it’s up to Pavlik to come to his senses and try to repair the damage he caused – if it’s not too late.