Boxing

Kelly “The Monster” Pavlik

By Scotty Crouse: I’ve often heard Teddy Atlas declare, “There are no monsters in the ring.” With all due respect to Teddy, I disagree. I saw one with my own eyes Saturday night in Atlantic City, wreaking havoc and causing destruction at Boardwalk Hall. It was vicious and left nothing standing in its path. Its name was Kelly “The Monster” Pavlik. No, “The Ghost” just doesn’t work anymore..

kelly pavlikThere were no ghosts in the ring--unless you count the ghosts of Ketchel, Greb, Walker, Graziano, Zale, Monzon and even Robinson who appeared very much alive this weekend in Atlantic City and shook the rafters and rows of Boardwalk Hall as they issued their welcome to the new champion whose fighting style and gutsy performance would make any of them proud. Then again, maybe it was the five-thousand fans from Youngstown, Ohio who were shaking the rafters.

Whether or not anyone believes in ghosts and monsters, I do believe in Kelly Pavlik. That is a confession and apology as much as it’s a declaration. I thought Jermain Taylor’s experience, speed and boxing skill would be too much for the more inexperienced and, I thought, one-dimensional challenger from Youngstown. For six rounds I felt pretty smart, but then came the seventh and I’d rarely looked as foolish (okay, so I’ve looked foolish many times but we don’t have to go there).

The talented boxer is generally supposed to beat the big puncher, right? Yeah, and white guys can’t fight and heavily hyped fights always disappoint. Kelly Pavlik proved all of the above adages and stereotypes wrong in a dramatic and devastating way. Now, having proved me wrong he can count me as one of his biggest fans (remember what I wrote in my previous article about fickle fans?). I haven’t experienced such a turnaround in my affections for a fighter in over twenty-three years. The last time it happened was when Thomas Hearns annihilated Roberto Duran in two rounds, June 15, 1984. Living in Maryland I was a diehard Sugar Ray Leonard fan. Hearns was the enemy. When he fought Duran I was convinced Duran would defeat him--easily. By the end of the night I would become one of Hearns’ biggest fans. I had never seen a knockout as sensationally brutal as that one and was so mesmerized by it that I instantly changed my allegiances. So much so that when he fought Leonard again in 1990 I was cheering for Hearns this time around.

Kelly Pavlik had the same impact on me last weekend. Maybe it was the way he entered the ring to the energetic and thrashing hardcore music of heavy metal band Korn, a harbinger of the violence to come.

Maybe it was his confident and utterly unflappable demeanor reminiscent of someone whose already seen the fight and knows the outcome in advance.

Maybe it was the way he got off the canvas and refused to go down again with all the fury and frustration of the middleweight champion of the world reigning down upon him.

Maybe it was the look in his eyes when he came out for the third round that said, “Is that the best you can do, champ? You should’ve killed me while you had the chance. Now your title is mine!”

Maybe it was the way he just wouldn’t be denied regardless of how many left jabs and right hands he swallowed from the determined champ. Maybe it was the fact that he electrified the crowd when he hurt the champion, drove him into the ropes and finished him with a chilling display of fistic violence.

Maybe it was also the fact that for the first time in years we had a decisive and indisputable end to a middleweight title fight.

Maybe it was all of the above, everything coming together and all the pieces in place to create one of the most electrifying and convincing performances by an emerging fighter I’ve witnessed in a long time and a much needed reminder of why I love this sport and willingly devote so much time to it.

All this, in spite of the fact that Taylor fought the best and definitely most memorable fight of his career. Even in losing he gained fans and silenced many of his critics. The ex-champ fought a solid, strategic and at times highly effective fight. And he finally proved his mettle and valor on the field of battle.

However, I’m not convinced he could have done anything to thwart the irrepressible challenge of Pavlik that night. How do you stop a monster? Taylor tried, but this was a night when the ghosts of middleweight past passed the torch to the middleweight monster of the future. I had my doubts before Saturday night, but I saw it with my own two eyes and now I’m a believer.

Article posted on 04.10.2007



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