Stagnant: The Career and Development of Kelly Pavlik

pavlikBy Dave Cacciatore - It is not uncommon in recent years for fighters to win world titles without being finished products in the ring. Recent memory brings to mind Andre Berto, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Wladimir Klitschko as fighters who became world champions in their respective divisions before being completely refined. Kelly Pavlik though unlike the aforementioned fighters has seemed to follow the path of Jermain Taylor; resistance to change, poor match making, and blind allegiance.

It became painfully obvious in the ring with Sergio Martinez that Jack Lowe had taken Kelly as far as he could go. Martinez exposed major deficiencies in Kelly’s defense, his ability to in-fight, and most troubling of all his ability to adapt. Martinez seemed to lose the middle rounds not so much because of anything that Kelly had changed in his game, but by what Martinez stopped doing. In the 9th round when Martniez decided to go back on the attack, Kelly again had no answers and dare I say little guidance from the man entrusted with his career, Jack Lowe..

Granted we only had limited access to what was being told to Kelly in the corners between rounds, which seemed to be exhortations to throw particular numbered combinations. But the proof of Lowe’s tutelage is in the ring, and it was woefully inadequate. If Kelly Pavlik is anything he has been known as a good solider, he goes out and does what he is told to do. Apparently, Jack Lowe never passed on the memo that Kelly needed to throw his left hook when Martinez circled towards it, that he needed to take lateral steps to cut off the ring, and that uppercuts would be effective inside. In fact it is not even certain from watching that fight if Pavlik has been taught what an uppercut is by Jack Lowe.

Instead the game plan seemed to be as it always has been, plod forward throwing straight punches and wear down your opponent with your strength and power. That is not a bad strategy against some fighters, but not against speedy southpaws like Martinez who move in all directions. At a time when offensively Pavlik was trying to line up Martinez with his jab and straight right hand, he threw very few left hooks and lead rights against the left handed fighter. The unsurprising result is that Pavlik had a lot of trouble finding him and lost the fight.

The question for Pavlik is what can be done about this loss. The Hopkins loss was wrote off to weight instead of forcing a critical examination of strengths and weaknesses. Only Kelly can tell us if this loss will sound the wake up call. A rematch with either Hopkins or Martinez under much the same circumstances would produce no better of a result. If Kelly intends to be more than a fighter whose biggest accomplishments are behind him he needs serious change now, and that means replacing Jack Lowe.

Kelly has exhausted the limits of the loyal and dedicated Jack Lowe’s knowledge. This is not a slight to the work and effort Mr. Lowe has put into Kelly’s career, it is rather an assessment of where his career stands now. Pavlik is making he same mistakes today that he was three years ago; success has brought glory, titles, and riches but it has stifled his development. When the errors can no longer be hidden by a jab and a straight right hand, it is evident that a more advanced teacher is needed.

It is the belief of this humble scribe that Emanuel Steward is the professor for this assignment. No trainer is more renowned for showing big men how to beat smaller quicker men than Steward. Few trainers have developed, not just trained more world champions. And very few are more savvy in the business of boxing than the legend of the Kronk gym.

I doubt seriously that under Steward’s guidance if Kelly would have fought such a high-risk low reward opponent at this stage in his career. I know that Pavlik would have had a much different and diversified fight plan. And I would bet that Kelly would still be holding his world titles today instead of talking about a rematch. Top Rank needs to pick up the phone and dial information for Detroit because the fighting pride of Youngstown is in dire need of a stimulus.

Article posted on 19.04.2010

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