Robert Garcia has molded many fighters into world class practitioners, Nonito Donaire and Brandon Rios chief among them. But his latest protégé – a reclamation project – may be his greatest challenge yet.
Plagued by a tumultuous (and ongoing) battle with alcoholism, former RING middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik moved his camp from Youngstown, Ohio, to Oxnard, Calif., in January to train at Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy. The 30-year-old has been on the comeback trail in 2012, running through club fighters Aaron Jaco and Scott Sigmon. On Saturday, he’ll make his return to HBO against Will Rosinsky (16-1, 9 knockouts) – and observers may see a new Pavlik in the squared circle.
“Having somebody like Kelly Pavlik who has not only had trouble inside of the ring but outside (is a challenge),” Garcia told RingTV.com. “That’s part of my job. To correct. To advise. I talk to him about being out on the street. About being places he shouldn’t be.
“He’s a fighter who has been (boxing) all his life, so it’s going to be hard to change the way he fights. So I have to just correct little things. Like a little bit more footwork. Make his left hand the main punch. Using the jab. I’m not here to change his style. But it is a challenge for me.”
Garcia’s focus on Pavlik’s left hand seems to have worked – at least if you ask “The Ghost”.
“I knew I had a left hand my whole entire career but I learned I could use it now. That’s what we work on a lot, even on the mitts,” said Pavlik. “A three-piece or four-piece combo – and it’s repetitious. It’s not once or twice in that round and you’re done. Your body gets in that habit – the motor reflex of throwing that combo. And counters that we are working on. Robert reminds me constantly about them.”
Pavlik (39-2, 34 KOs) has also extensively worked on adding a new punch to his repertoire – the uppercut.
“Being a tall fighter, I never threw too many uppercuts and people don’t expect uppercuts from tall fighters and that’s another thing we’ve been working on a lot,” Pavlik said. “Bending your body, turning your hips and throwing the uppercut. There are so many different things on the inside – the jabs – it’s hard to explain but the biggest thing is that it’s always repetitious. We don’t just do something then forget about it, we work on it round after round.”
He hasn’t had a meaningful fight since losing the middleweight crown to Sergio Martinez in April 2010, fighting just three times since. He feels he is now ready for a big fight – but he must first get by Will Rosinsky.
“I am ready for the big fight now,” Pavlik proclaimed. “I have been a pro for 12 years now. I have been in the ring with [Jermain] Taylor twice and [Bernard] Hopkins and [Edison] Miranda and Martinez – we’ve got our fights in, and it has to be after this fight the big fights. On July 7 we have a game kid in front of us so I can’t even think about that right now. We’ve got to take care of business Saturday or we won’t be worrying about any of that.”
Now campaigning at 168 pounds, Pavlik has his eyes set on a pair of top super middleweights, though he insists he’s not looking past the 27-year-old from Ozone Park, N.Y.
“I would like to fight Carl Froch,” said Pavlik. “That weight class is loaded no matter which way you go. Some of those heated words and some of the things Froch has said to me before hurt a little bit. I would like to fight Bute also.”
Moving camp to Oxnard was very important to Pavlik, who formerly trained under Jack Loew in his native Youngstown. He had looked sluggish in his first bout at 168 against Alfonso Lopez and was inactive for most of 2011. He feels revitalized now.
“I am not here to knock anybody or anything like that but I wasn’t going any further where I was,” said Pavlik. “We had a meeting in New York with Bob [Arum] and Cameron [Dunkin] and we had this conversation and a move had to happen and it was very important.
“I am learning, hungry and rejuvenated to get back into it. You can never quit learning in this sport and I’m learning again and that’s very important.”
He certainly picked a fine teacher to learn from. Saturday’s return to HBO will answer many questions about Pavlik’s comeback.
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
Photos/Chris Farina – Top Rank