"A Youngstown Hero,” She Said With a Smile

by Christopher Lettera: Youngstown, Ohio bought the hype and took the ride. Atlantic City, New Jersey. September 29th, 2007. Pavlik fired what Teddy Atlas called his “.357 Magnum” of a right hand. Jermain Taylor's chest muscles twitched. The Ghost was anointed. The city collectively roared, took ownership.

Local working-class scholars Sherry Linkon and John Russo wrote that “Youngstown's story is America's story.” Youngstown is an immigrant city, a former industrial hub where from 1920 to the 1960s, factory furnaces burned and men worked and families were fed (read: an enduring image of classic American masculine success). After Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed in 77, after US Steel went away in 79 and 80, after Republic Steel went bankrupt, after countless working men came to understand the meaning of emasculation, after Kelly Pavlik rose from the canvas in 07, a great many of Youngstown's 66,000+ inhabitants wanted to believe and they cannot be faulted.

No man ought to carry the hopes and dreams of a city on his back but this was and is boxing where men work and fight with their hands and it was so.


Cue a Youngstown homecoming parade that September. Cue Pavlik out the top of a limo. Cue Korn blasting. Cue countless young men and their hopes and their developing understandings of a combat sport that is infinitely more difficult than it looks. Cue these young men not knowing that the Ghost urinated blood after some matches. Cue downtown shot-and-beer celebrations. Cue the young men and their over-priced Affliction T-shirts, often unearned badges of strength. Cue the local media. Cue a record spike in high school boxing tournament entrants. Cue the national boxing media. Cue the scholars. Cue white trash studies.

Cue the smaller and brave and over-matched. Cue Lockett and later Espino, Jaco, Sigmon. Cue Top Rank maneuvering. Cue October 18th, 2008. The Executioner. Cue Sergio Martinez. Cue omnipresent demons and booze. Cue the Betty Ford Center.

Cue the question of the chicken and the egg and resolutions. Cue Cameron Dunkin promises of doing it right and not doing what they did the first go-around.


Las Vegas, Nevada. June 8th, 2012. Cue Cujo. A Twitter-talky top tier club level Daisy Gun takes on a tank who's endured the big battles. Pavlik controls every minute of every round. The ring doctor and Jay Nady inspect Sigmon's cut. Nady ends the beating in the seventh.

Various realities are as follows: Pavlik has a sharper and meaner left hook to the body. Pavlik was mentally absent during at least two thirds of round three. Teddy Atlas remarked on his disinterest. Though Sigmon brought no power, Pavlik's shoulder roll neither kept him away or created distance. Pavlik woke up in the fourth. He did not look bad or horribly slow and he may be as ready as he'll get for a re-entry into elite competition.

Pavlik tells the Youngstown Vindicator that “The kid was a bloody, bloody mess and I enjoyed it.” The defining reality is as follows: Scott Sigmon ate Kelly Pavlik's shots and fought back as best as he knew how and he is a man. Kids booze up and drive ATVs into lampposts and then curse out Canfield, Ohio law enforcement.


Don't let anyone tell you that “Human Touch” is a bad Bruce Springsteen record.

In maybe five years - certainly in ten years - the young man harboring thoughts of the newest local hero will see a painting in the window of the five and dime, the Goodwill, the pawn shop. He'll ask the store girl who the tall kid is between the Doberman and Bruce Lee.


How do you rate the Ghost against Froch? Against a post-Froch Bute? Against Kessler?

Article posted on 12.06.2012

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