Although he already is charting a course to rebuild the fighter’s reputation, Top Rank Inc. Chief Bob Arum said that it’s going to be “very difficult” to sell Kelly Pavlik to the cable networks in the wake of Pavlik’s recent actions that may have severely damaged his career.
“I have an obligation to stay with this guy because he’s a fighter that we developed,” said Arum of Pavlik, who was once an undefeated and undisputed two-belt middleweight champ. “You know, when he was going good, he was going good. So I feel that we have an obligation to him. But now, how do I satisfy that obligation?”
On Tuesday, Pavlik (37-2, 32 knockouts) pulled out of last Saturday’s scheduled fight against Darryl Cunningham on Showtime, citing his disappointment over the offer he received from Top Rank to face Cunningham and then IBF super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute in November.
Pavlik said that he was upset with his reported payments of $50,000 for facing Cunningham, and the $1.35 million minimum he was to get from Top Rank for a meeting Bute. Pavlik said that he had heard that Denmark’s ex-titleholder Mikkel Kessler had turned down a larger amount for a match up with Bute.
The move by the 29-year-old veteran forced Showtime to cancel the entire card that was be held in Pavlik’s hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and it angered Arum, network executives, manager Cameron Dunkin and trainer Jack Loew.
In order to rebound, Arum said that Pavlik may have to take smaller purses against lesser-known fighters on cable channels such as FOX Sports or on pay per view under cards.
“How do you rebuild him? If he’s willing to take smaller fights on FOX Sports under our budget,” said Arum. “Or we could give him a slot on our pay per view and let him prove that he’s reliable and that he can come back.”
Dunkin concurred with Arum that Pavlik’s decision has has cast into oblivion the future of a once-bright star who became the undisputed middleweight titleholder when he dethroned previously unbeaten Jermain Taylor by seventh-round knockout in September of 2007.
“I did go over and have a two-hour lunch with Bob Arum in order to address this thing. He just basically said that it’s going to be hard. Bob and [Top Rank President] Todd [duBoef] both said that it’s going to be difficult for television people to believe that Kelly’s going to show up,” said Dunkin.
“You know, he’s pulled out of fights several times, you know. So it may be tough convincing them. Bob said, ‘You’re going to go and call up the networks and say, ‘We want to put Kelly Pavlik on after this?’ He said it’s going to be a hard sell because of the problems that he’s had.”
Pavlik lost his first career bout in October of 2008, when Bernard Hopkins won a unanimous decision at a catch weight of 170 pounds.
Hopkins’ win had come over a man who had twice beaten the same Taylor who had twice defeated Hopkins.
In the ring after their fight, Hopkins warned Pavlik, “Don’t let this destroy you,” adding that if Pavlik didn’t rebound “I’m going to come and find you and whoop your ass.”
Since their meeting, however, Pavlik’s career has been up and down.
Pavlik had scored two straight knockouts after the loss to Hopkins before citing a staph infection in one of his fingers for twice pulling out of scheduled bouts opposite Paul Williams that were to be televised on HBO.
In April of 2010, Pavlik was dethroned as WBO and WBC middleweight titleholder by Sergio Martinez.
Pavlik cited a rib injury as his reason for eschewing a scheduled bout with Bryan Vera, which was slated for the HBO pay per view televised Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard on Nov. 13 of 2010.
Later that month, Pavlik entered the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for treatment of a drinking problem.
Pavlik returned with May’s 10-round victory over previously unbeaten Alfonso Lopez, a super middleweight debut for Pavlik that was televised on the Showtime pay per view under card of Pacquiao’s unanimous decision over Shane Mosley.
But with his latest move, Pavlik is close to having struck out with the networks.
“Kelly Pavlik was supposed to fight on the Pacquiao-Margarito pay per view under card, and we did a press conference for it. But two days later, he pulled out,” said Arum.
“And then he did fight on the Pacquiao-Mosley card on pay per view. So with slots on our pay per view, he’s 50-50 and batting .500. But I can’t run a business on .500.”
Coming off of the triumph against Lopez, Loew said Pavlik blew an opportunity to regain some momentum.
“I would have fought the Cunningham kid. You know, hopefully, I would have blown him out of there and then made myself look really good, maybe better than I did in the Alfonso Lopez fight. And then, maybe I would have tried to use that as a bargaining chip for the Lucian Bute fight,” said Loew.
“Or I would have said, ‘To hell with you, Bute.’ Now I want to go another route. I want to go and do this or that. I just would have fought this Cunningham fight. I just would not have walked away like that. I would not have made a move like the one that he made.”