Boxing


Taylor Pavlik: Captain Bob’s Carnivàle

By Eric R. Sloan: “Step right up and for a mere $59.95 you can watch Kelly Pavlik, former middleweight champion of the world, fight a 166lb bearded lady who was raised by wolves in Alaska.” In the future, Bob Arum may bark the foregoing into a bullhorn at a county fair near you. In the meantime, he intends to sell more lucrative sideshows on pay-per-view, and the carnivàle known as Team Pavlik appears happy to oblige. Boxing is all about the money anyway, right?

It’s no secret that Jermain Taylor controlled Kelly Pavlik’s immediate future. By exercising the rematch clause, Taylor vetoed John Duddy’s title shot in January and has set up Taylor-Pavlik II instead. Both sides acknowledge that the rematch will be at 166lbs—a non-title fight. If Arum gets his way, then Pavlik will fight Bernard Hopkins in June 2008 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. A Hopkins-Pavlik match will also be above the middleweight limit, which, yes you guessed it, will make it a non-title fight as well. Arum predicts that both fights are pay-per-view darlings, and he is probably right.

What about the fact that the WBO and WBC have the ability to strip Pavlik of his belts in June 2008 if he does not defend his fractional share of the middleweight title before then? Well, there are loopholes and money to fix such a problem; however, it is remains unclear as to whether an October 2008 fight against Jake LaMotta will be problematic.

Not that there is anything wrong with making a buck, but Jermain Taylor put his titles on the line every time he fought. Winky Wright was forced to go twelve weeks without a Krispy Kreme in order to make the middleweight limit. Conversely, Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks each had to move up in weight to fight Taylor. Marvelous Marvin Hagler was the same way—he was the middleweight champion and opponents had to come to him. To Bob Arum’s credit, however, he did push for interim fights before Taylor-Pavlik II, but somehow the new course has Captain Bob thinking money over middleweights.

For a guy who constantly bemoaned that he was the most neglected middleweight in boxing history, it is interesting that Pavlik may force the working class of his division to wait at least a year before a true title defense takes place. This assumes of course that Arum can find a way for Pavlik to fight the winner of Kessler-Calzaghe after the Hopkins match, which he can and most likely will. Worst case scenario, therefore, is that Pavlik could lose his next three fights and remain middleweight champion.

In boxing though nothing is what it seems. Taylor may have exercised the rematch clause in order to continue negotiating. The Hopkins play may have been done to force interim fights. The pay-per-view comments may have been said to convince us that Pavlik is worth an extra $60 per fight, even though the former middleweight champion was never a prince of premium priced pugilism. Finally, a fight at Cleveland Browns Stadium might have been a shout out to Joe Calzaghe to say that Pavlik can pack a 70,000 capacity sports arena. By comparison, the Hatton-Floyd fight will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and has a capacity of approximately 17,000.

Who really knows the gamesmanship involved, if any, in marketing Kelly Pavlik. Perhaps he is prepared to vacate his middleweight titles in order to cash in on the bigger money at 168. After all, wouldn’t we much rather see him fight Calzaghe, Kessler, Lacy, or even a rematch with Miranda than to square off against Abraham, Sturm, or Duddy? If that’s the plan, then he shouldn’t freeze up the middleweight division in the process. What also should not happen is for Pavlik to become just a guy who fights big money, non-title fights. If that’s what occurs, then he will become nothing more than a fighter who is dancing the cooch. The bottom line, however, is that Captain Bob is running the carnivàle and we’ll continue to buy tickets. Let’s hope he understands that Pavlik is a champion and not a sideshow.

Article posted on 28.10.2007



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