By Neil Dennis: Hands down, middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik was served the toughest fight of his career in his rematch against Jermain Taylor. Although the scores did get as wide as 117-111 from Dave Moretti , most in attendance and at home watching the fight would easy agree that the 115-113 score called by Patricia Morse-Jarman was the only dead-on of the three. Taylor once again showed more against Pavlik than he’s ever shown against anyone he’s ever beat. And once again, he will walk away with his fans applauding him for a loss of all things. You cannot blame them one bit. Taylor dominated the first half of the fight, and kept making Pavlik working for everything he got. If this fight is any indicator, Taylor will be just fine at super middleweight..
So, now that the first rematch of Pavlik’s professional career has come to a close. With that, it poses the obvious question: what next? Reading repeated interviews given by Top Rank’s Bob Arum, fans might be very pleased with what the future may bring.
“Don’t be surprised if you see him on free network television in the near future,” Arum added during an interview days before the Taylor rematch.
Bob Arum has been contemplating this idea for a couple of years now, as has the champion. Ever since the build-up to Pavlik-Miranda, Top Rank has been banding about the idea of Pavlik showing his skills to a network primetime audience. That’s quite a tall order since network television hasn’t seen serious professional boxing on it since ABC’s broadcast of the Jose Luis Castillo/Stevie Johnston fight in 2000. Vanilla Ice getting his ass kicked by “Willis” from Diff’rent Strokes doesn’t count. With the win against Taylor, a primetime audience would welcome a title fight coming to the airwaves with open arms.
So, now that the Taylor rematch is behind him, will Kelly Pavlik become boxing’s new ambassador to the masses? Many of the greats owe their fame not to pay-per-view sales, but network ratings. The golden age of middleweights unfolded on the networks, with Robinson, LaMotta, Graziano, and Zale being its biggest stars. Where would Muhammad Ali have been without ABC’s Wide World of Sports in his corner? Even looking to Pavlik’s home of Youngstown, would Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini ever been such a big name in the lightweight division had CBS Sports not latched onto his blue-collar charm?
Only time will tell if boxing will make its way back to prime time. We’ve been teased before, most recently when Antonio Tarver’s promoter Joe DiGuardia originally considered putting Tarver and Elvir Muriqi on ABC. Of course, NBC gave us a small taste of the real game in The Contender, but ended up throwing a heap of sap and sentimentality onto it that made the show feel more like American Idol than Friday Night Fights. It took Sugar Ray Leonard bringing it over to ESPN to give some measure of credibility to the show. So will we see Pavlik and Duddy slugging it out on ABC? Will it be Pavlik against Andy Lee or Arthur Abraham on Fox? Or maybe it will be just some as yet unnamed mandatory on CBS? Regardless how it goes, it is testament to Pavlik’s love for his fans that he would consider giving them the ultimate gift for their support: a free fight.