By Bill Patrice Jones – There has now for some time been a potential fight brewing between two top middleweights: Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham. Though both men currently possess their own ‘world titles’ if a fight did take place boxing purists would no doubt understand it as a title defence for Pavlik more than a unification fight. Pavlik after all possessed the linear and legitimate Middleweight championship of the world. It seems over the past few years whilst interest for such a fight between two undefeated champions in a reasonably unentertaining division, perspectives over the winner have changed..
Bernard Hopkins was one of the finest boxers of his generation, perhaps the finest. A fighter who will be used in the future when recalling potential historical matches between the all time greats anywhere between 160 and 175 pounds. When he unified the division he was seen universally as the greatest middleweight on the planet and his string of masterful title defences against the very best the division had to offer solidified that reputation. Yet as all things which go up must come down, Hopkins’s own run of good form was ended by a highly controversial points decision loss to HBO’s new darling undefeated Jermain Taylor of Arkansas. The fight clearly was not won by Taylor, and the best he could have hoped for was a draw (a result this author agrees with), however bad luck and bad judging cost Bernard his title. Jermain was forced to relinquish the IBF belt when he faced Hopkins in a lucrative rematch. The fight ended disappointingly again with another controversy albeit a lesser one when Taylor retained the title.
The vacated IBF title was won by Arthur Abraham when he knocked out Kinglsey Ikeke in Germany though little attention was paid to the fight. As Jermain Taylor settled somewhat uncomfortably into his role as newly crowned champion so too did Abraham begin his successful rise to the top. He decisioned Shannon Taylor and Kofi Jantuah before losing momentum with a controversial points win over the power punching Colombian Edison Miranda. For whatever reason much of the popular boxing community took Miranda’s side of the argument and began to see Edison as the future middleweight champion. Abraham bounced back with knockout wins over: Sebastian Demers, Wayne Elock and Khoren Gevor all of which took place in his native Germany or other European countries, thereby severely limiting interest from America.
Jermain Taylor was coming off some fresh and hugely disappointing title defences against the likes of Cory Spinks. Kassim Ouma and the highly skilled Winky Wright. Fans were turning against him and desperately sought for a new middleweight hero. They did not look to reigning titlists Abraham and Sturm but instead turned to Kelly Pavlik.
Kelly Pavlik from Youngstown Ohio seemed to epitomize everything blue collar America wanted in a fighter, he was tough, brave, exciting and could brawl. Added to this his massive size and reach advantage, very simple but effective style of merely doubling a heavy jab and throwing a powerful straight right and you had a winner. When he knocked out Jose Luis Zertuche people took notice, when he flatted Edison Miranda on the undercard of Spinks Taylor people went wild.
The fanfare and enthusiasm for the new middleweight star was justified when he stepped up to the plate, took Jermain Taylor’s best shots, got up off the canvas and came back to win by a devastating KO in round 7 of a classic middleweight title fight.
Jermain Taylor had been deposed and Kelly Pavlik had proven himself worthy of wearing the coveted title. At the time few would have thought that reigning IBF champion Abraham stood much of a chance against such a force. The hype was building and so was the fan following: “He hits as hard as Hearns” we heard, “He’s as strong s Middleweight as there’s been” they shouted. Because Pavlik was so marketable and because his fights were so entertaining it was easy to buy into the idea that he was far better than he actually was. He decisioned Taylor in a non title rematch and smashed to smithereens an overmatched Gary Lockett to continue the excitement.
Amidst all of this and with little notice taken in the States Abraham continued to improve as a boxer and more importantly continued scoring good wins: He knocked out Elvin Ayala, smashed up Edison Miranda in four and forced Raul Marquez to retire. Many were beginning to make some noise about Abraham perhaps being Kelly’s toughest test at 160. If the rest of us needed a reason to doubt Pavlik we certainly got it when he faced former undisputed king Bernard Hopkins in a lightheavyweight fight.
The Pavlik bandwagon was firmly halted, and Pavlik Mania called off as Hopkins’s destroyed and dazzled the confused Youngstown slugger with consummate ease over 12 rounds. As Hopkins’s proved himself truly one of the all time greats so did Pavlik prove himself to be a very limited fighter in need of improvement. There was no reason to write Kelly off after the Hopkins’s fight and only his most ardent critics would refuse to acknowledge his obvious gifts.
Pavlik was last seen easily stopping Marco Rubio in a routine comeback fight and Abraham last seen making harder work than expected of Mahir Oral.
It is clear that Abraham is now seeking a fight with Pavlik and that he has serious reason to believe he may win. Certainly what once appeared as something of a routine Pavlik defence would not be seen as such now.
Arthur Abraham is indeed a very handy middleweight boxer. Though he has a tendency to start off very slowly once well into his rhythm he can rock opponents with deceptively fast bursts of punches which carry decent power for a 160 pounder. He has good footwork and far better hand speed than he is given credit for, he also possesses a reasonably sturdy chin. We have seen Abraham in big trouble before, notably against Miranda in their first encounter when Arthur took quite heavy punishment in the first three rounds. A highly skilled fighter may very well take advantage of Abraham especially if he can hit, but is Pavlik highly skilled?
It is easy to imagine Pavlik winning the first few rounds against Abraham with little more than his jab, but as Arthur grows in confidence we could see him unleash some hard volleys of punches. If Abraham can make good use of his footwork and ride Pavlik’s shots he may even send him the wrong way and catch him clean. Ultimately this author foresees a Pavlik victory based on sheer size and strength.
Nonetheless it would certainly be a very competitive fight and one which the fight fans surely deserve. There was a time when it appeared Abraham wanted nothing to do with either Taylor or Pavlik, it now seems as though perhaps Pavlik does not fancy a date with the in form German.