By James Slater: For weeks now, if not months, fans have been wondering about former middleweight king Kelly Pavlik. Having rapidly become known as a fighter with a tendency to withdraw from fights (Pavlik did it again, most recently, in pulling out of his Nov. 13th bout with Bryan Vera), “The Ghost‘s” actions served to arouse suspicion. Whispers suggested the Youngstown hero had either an alcohol or a drugs problem, and this was why he had fought so infrequently over the past year or so.
Well, it has been revealed by Yahoo Sports and various other news outlets that Kelly does indeed have a drink problem – a problem so severe he has been receiving treatment at The Betty Ford Centre in California since Nov. 4th. Apparently, Pavlik, who spent two weeks in rehab earlier this year, has developed a problem with beer, and that his boxing career may be in doubt as a result.
“I don’t know if he’ll ever fight again,” Cameron Dunkin, Kelly’s co-manager said.
As with Britain’s Ricky Hatton, who also had a real problem with alcohol (and cocaine), Pavlik is in the right place, trying to get himself clean and sober. And Dunkin is of the belief that his friend can sort himself out.
“Three months, six months, whatever it takes, he’s going to do it,” he said.
Mike Pavlik, Kelly’s father, says the rib injury his son gave as the reason for his pulling out of the Vera fight was legit, but that his son’s alcohol troubles began quite a while ago; just after he got off the canvas to win the world title from Jermain Taylor in 2007.
“We’re trying to get him back on his feet and back on the right track,” Pavlik Senior said. “It’s [Kelly’s beer problem] been ongoing since shortly after he won the title. I guess what happened was he was not prepared for what came with the title. It was instant stardom and the demands on his life became so hard and so intense that he couldn’t deal with it.
“Everywhere he went, everyone wanted to buy the champ a beer. He didn’t want to disappoint anyone or say no and it wound up causing him a pretty serious problem.”
Despite his problems, Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, believes Kelly can come back as a top class fighter, maybe even better than ever. However, Loew says the priority now is getting the 28-year-old “cured” before he even thinks about boxing again.
A superb fighter when mentally and physically right, Pavlik is also a tremendously exciting puncher. Willing to face the best when he knew he was in shape “The Ghost,” it must be remembered, lost just twice – on points to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez. When we stop and take in the notion that Pavlik might have trained for both fights having had a growing alcohol problem to hinder him, we have to ask how much better would he have performed in both bouts had he been 100-percent clean and sober.
Can Kelly get himself sorted out and return triumphantly to the ring? I’d be willing to bet that practically everyone out there will be wishing Pavlik the best, and hoping he can indeed. One of the genuine nice guys of the sport, Pavlik will have plenty of fan support during this tough time.