Former undisputed middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik ended a nearly 11-month ring absence with a second-round knockout of Aaron Jaco on Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Pavlik (38-2, 33 knockouts) has won two consecutive fights since he lost a unanimous decision and two major titles to Sergio Martinez in April 2010. The native of Youngstown, Ohio, defeated Alfonso Lopez by a majority decision in May of last year.
Pavlik ended the fight Saturday with a powerful left hand 45 seconds into the second round, nailing Jaco, point-blank, as he fell to his butt and rose on wobbly legs.
Referee Jon Schorle peered into the eyes of Jaco, reaching the count of eight before asking the fighter if he was “done” and then waved off the fight.
“I said, ‘how you doing?'” Schorle told ringside officials. “He said, ‘I’m done.'”
That second left hand had followed one that had staggered Jaco in the first round, forcing him to briefly take a knee only to rise after Schorle’s 10-count had reached eight.
“I was calm, relaxed, had good energy, bounce. Everything was working,” said Pavlik. “I thought he was looking for a right hand, so I got him with my left. I feel good, and I am back.”
Pavlik, who turns 30 on April 4, was fighting under the guidance of new trainer Robert Garcia for the first time. They have been working together at Garcia’s gym in Oxnard, Calif., since mid-January. Pavlik has split with career-long trainer Jack Loew.
“The plan was to stay calm, work off the jab, then get to work,” said Garcia. “Kelly did everything at a high level.”
Jaco (15-2, 5 KOs), from Sarasota, Fla., had won two straight bouts after having suffered two consecutive knockout losses.
“Game plans are great until you are punched,” said Jaco, who turned 35 on March 9. “I never felt power like that. He is a great fighter and a great man.”
Pavlik burst onto the scene in 2007 with a seventh-round knockout of then-undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain Taylor, winning the WBC and WBO belts.
In the featherweight main event, unbeaten Evegeny Gradovich scored a knockout at 2 minutes, 15 seconds of the 10th and final round against southpaw Francisco Leal.
The Russian-born Gradovich, who resides in Arapahoe, North Carolina, improved to 13-0 with his seventh stoppage win, while Leal, of Mexicali, Mexico, slipped to 16-6-3, with 10 knockouts.
The victory earned Gradovich his first knockout in his past five bouts. The match up represented only the second time in his career that Gradovich had entered the 10th round of a fight.
A year ago on March 19, Gradovich was forced to go the 10-round distance for a unanimous decision over Francisco Reyes.
Leal had been on a roll since having been stopped by WBA featherweight beltholder, Celestino Caballero, in the eighth-round in August of 2009.
After battling to Miguel Angel Gonzalez Piedres in his next fight in August of 2010, Leal scored a 10-round split-decision upset of previously unbeaten Robert Marroquin in April, followed by a fourth-round knockout of Leopoldo Gonzalez in August.
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org