In a clash that he calls “probably my last chance” toward “revitalizing my boxing career,” former undisputed middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik will face Aaron Jaco of Sarasota, Fla., on Saturday night at the Illusions Theater in San Antonio, Tex.
Pavlik (37-2, 32 knockouts), who turns 30 on April 4, has been training in Oxnard, Calif., since mid-January under Robert Garcia, having left his native Youngstown, Ohio, and split with career-long trainer Jack Loew.
“Changing trainers was very hard,” said Pavlik, who is facing Jaco at a contracted weight of 170 pounds. “But so far, this has worked out real well with Robert Garcia.”
During an interview with RingTV.com in late October, Pavlik said that he welcomed the change “for several reasons.”
“I am revitalizing my boxing career – this is my second chance – probably my last chance really,” said Pavlik.
Garcia also handles the careers of fighters such as RING No. 4-rated pound-for-pound and WBO junior featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire, RING No. 1-ranked lightweight Brandon Rios, and unbeaten RING No. 5-rated featherweight prospect Mikey Garcia, who is Robert Garcia’s younger brother.
“I have been in Oxnard three months, will go home for a few weeks, then back to Oxnard,” said Pavlik, who is married with two young children. “But boxing isn’t like a job now – I am more eager to train and having a lot of fun now.”
The career changes for Pavlik, who was given the nickname, “The Ghost,” for his pale skin by African-American rivals as an amateur, were proposed by manager Cameron Dunkin, his father, Mike Pavlik, promoter and Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, and Top Rank Vice President Carl Moretti during an Oct. 21 meeting in New York.
Dunkin, Arum and Moretti had invited the Pavliks to New York for Donaire’s unanimous decision over Omar Narvaez at Madison Square Garden.
In an interview on the evening of Oct. 21, Arum and Dunkin outlined the details designed to resurrect the beleagured Pavlik to the point where he is on par with mangerial and training stablemates Donaire and Rios, as well as managerial stablemate and RING No. 8-ranked pound for pound WBO junior welterweight beltholder Tim Bradley.
So far, so good, says Pavlik.
“I sparred 10 rounds the other day and in the eighth round, I had more bounce in my step than I had in second round,” said Pavlik.
“My true, loyal fans are great. I fight for them and for my family. I feel like the old Kelly Pavlik. I feel good and am happy with myself.”
That was the case back in September of 2007, when Pavlik burst onto the scene with a seventh-round knockout of then-undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain Taylor.
Taylor also lost his non-title rematch with Pavlik by unanimous decision in February of 2008, when they each weighed 164 pounds.
Following a third-round knockout of Gary Lockett in June of 2008, Pavlik rose to 170 pounds, where he lost a non-title unanimous decision to Hopkins in October of that year.
Pavlik had scored two straight knockouts after losing to Hopkins, but then cited a staph infection in his hand for twice pulling out of scheduled matchups with Paul Williams. 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 pulling out of a scheduled bout with Bryan Vera, which was scheduled for the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s unanimous decision over Antonio Margarito in November of 2010.
Later that month, Pavlik entered the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for treatment of a drinking problem.
In August, Pavlik pulled out of a scheduled fight against southpaw Darryl Cunningham on Showtime, citing his disappointment over the offer he received from Top Rank to face Cunningham and then southpaw 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 matchup with Bute.
The move by Pavlik forced Showtime to cancel the entire card that was be held in Pavlik’s hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, frustrating network executives, Arum and Dunkin, and prompting the change to Garcia.
Jaco (15-2, 5 KOs), who turned 35 on March 9, has won two straight bouts after having suffered two consecutive knockout losses.
But Pavlik plans to end Jaco’s winning streak on Saturday night and continue his own.
“I’m working on counter-punching now – a whole variety of new things we are working on,” said Pavlik. “I am totally focused on boxing.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank Inc.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com