Kelly Pavlik – Let’s get things in perspective

29.06.08 – By Jim Dorney: First off, I don’t want the title of this article to give boxing fans the wrong impression. From what I’ve seen of Kelly Pavlik, he seems a damn fine fighter, and it’s clear that he has many things going for him – height, reach, serious punching power (as his 30 KOs from 34 fights clearly demonstrates), as well as heart (as shown by getting off the floor to defeat Jermain Taylor) and a good boxing brain..

I totally accept that Pavlik has a lot going for him, but some fans would seemingly have you believe he’s the second coming, and would easily have the beating of the likes of Bernard Hopkins & Joe Calzaghe. Whilst I’m not suggesting that’s outside the realms of possibility, I do feel that people are getting a little carried away, and should look at the achievements of these fighters versus what Pavlik himself has yet achieved.

Pavlik’s reputation has largely been built on his two fights with Jermain Taylor. What his fans seem to forget is that at the point Pavlik fought Taylor, Taylor’s previous three fights were snooze-fests against fighters who had both fought the majority of their careers at lower weights – Corey Spinks at Welterweight (who Taylor only just managed to get a SD against), Kassim Ouma, who since losing to Taylor has gone on to lose two more fights straight) & Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright, the perennial defensive genius who held Taylor to a draw when many thought he should have gotten the verdict.

Now – I’ll stress again that I’m not outright knocking Pavlik, but when you combine all of this with the fact that first time out Taylor had Kelly down hard & in serious trouble, does this really warrant the credit Pavlik is getting for being called a current pound for pound elite fighter?

Let’s look again at Pavlik’s record. His route to the Middleweight championship actually impresses me more than his fights with Taylor. On the way up, Kelly bested some pretty dangerous guys – Namely Bronco McKart (who drew with the successfully-comeback Raul Marquez last out), Fulgencio Zuniga (who recently defeated previously unbeaten knockout artist Victor Oganov) and, of course, Edison Miranda, although Miranda’s reputation has taken a further knock since his conclusive defeat via rematch to Arthur Abraham – That said, first time round, he gave Abraham all he could handle, and Pavlik beat him handily in seven.

By contrast, Hopkins & Calzaghe both sat atop their respective divisions for 10 years – With Calzaghe still yet to taste defeat. Fans criticize their opposition, but there’s a long list of world champions in both their career successes, and often when they weren’t considered likely to win. Can the same truly be said about Pavlik yet?

The answer, in short, is no.

Reigning for ten years as world champion says a lot about you as a fighter. Sure people can write off your opponents, but especially in Calzaghe’s case, as soon as he beats someone a lot of boxing fans come out of the woodwork inventing excuses of how they were allegedly unproven or one-dimensional. See Lacy or Kessler for examples of this. The fact that Kessler has once-again become world champion might in time change some mind, especially considering I’m not convinced there’s anyone out there (Pavlik included, although I’d certainly give him credit if he goes on to prove me wrong) who can beat him. What being a long-standing champion does say about you, is that you can consistently come up with the goods over a long period of time. Everybody has off-days, but rather than getting caught out, these guys have delivered time after time, and have earned my respect for that.

As far as I’m concerned, Pavlik has unfinished business at 160lbs at the moment. Arthur Abraham has as good a case as Pavlik to call himself the man at Middleweight from my perspective. Good wins over Miranda (twice) Kofi Jantuah, Kingsley Ikeke & Elvin Ayala amongst others makes Abraham a man worth respecting. Stylistically, I believe that Abraham would give Pavlik more trouble than Taylor did, whilst I’d pick Taylor to beat Abraham – but then that’s boxing. Styles make fights & some fighters just have the right or wrong style for others. Let’s see who the man at 160lbs really is before we carried away with notions that Pavlik could & would beat proven great fighters.

If Pavlik does beat Abraham then I’d like to see him defend his title against some better names than Gary Lockett (who I don’t have a problem with as a first defence, by the way – Most champions take an easier option as their first title defence) then go on to challenge Mikkel Kessler. As I’ve previously stated, based on what I’ve seen of them both, I think Kessler is too much for Pavlik, but perhaps I do Kelly a disservice by saying so. For me, Pavlik is still growing as a fighter, which is one of the reasons I’ve written this article – I DO believe he has the potential to be great, but I just don’t think he’s done enough yet to warrant it. Kessler, on the other hand, is a complete fighter in my opinion & just into his peak years. If Pavlik can take care of business with Abraham then go onto beat Mikkel, then he certainly gets a thumbs up from me.

Until then, I’ll watch with interest & reserve judgement.

As always, I welcome your comments.