Finally healthy, Pavlik ready for Espino
Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik says his left hand is finally
recovered from a staph infection and he feels great heading into a
Dec. 19 title defense against Miguel Espino.
Pavlik was throwing jabs with his left on Tuesday, three days
after he was supposed to fight Paul Williams in defense of his WBC
and WBO titles. The infection forced Pavlik to twice cancel fights,
creating a backlash within the boxing community and even among his
most ardent supporters.
Now Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) is healthy again and preparing to face
Espino (20-2-1, 9 KOs) in a pay-per-view title defense in Pavlik’s
hometown at Youngstown State University. It will come nearly 10
months after his last fight, a win over Marco Rubio on Feb. 21, and
end what has become the longest layoff of his career. It also will
put to rest to fears that Pavlik would never fight again.
“You get a lot of keypad pushers that sit at home on their
computers and get in these blogs and they write that my career is
over,” Pavlik said. “But they don’t know the difference between a
left hook and a fishing hook.”
Jack Loew, Pavlik’s trainer, has heard all the criticism – even
from fans in Pavlik’s hometown. His camp addressed rumors that
Pavlik had entered rehab for alcohol abuse and was dealing with
personal problems. All the rumors, they say, are false.
“I don’t understand it,” Loew said. “Here’s a kid that has
done more for charities in this town than any other boxer – any
other athlete – ever has. Because he’s turned down two fights and
then schedules this fight, everything kind of blew up and went the
opposite direction we thought it was going to go. So many people
have turned on him. It hurts me because I’ve known him since he was
9 years old.”
The fight against Espino is mandatory – Pavlik would have lost
his WBC and WBO belts had he again refused. Still, he wasn’t
healthy when he agreed to the fight in October. He didn’t begin
hitting a heavy bag until about two weeks ago, forcing him to cram
a typical eight-week training camp into about five weeks.
His hand has responded better than anyone could have hoped,
considering he needed two surgeries and still couldn’t make a fist
with his left hand in late October, prompting the second
cancellation of the Williams fight.
“I’m glad they forced it on us. We needed to get back in the
ring,” Loew said. “Even two weeks ago, we weren’t 100 percent …
I was worried. We had our work cut out for us. But he responded
again like the champ he is.”
Espino, ranked third by the WBC, has a lot of heart and seems to
be in great shape, Pavlik said.
“But he has a lot of flaws,” Pavlik said. “He gets hit a lot.
He seems like he has a good chin. He takes a lot of punches.”
Should he beat Espino, Pavlik wants to work out another deal
with Williams for next year. Williams kept the Dec. 5 date and won
by majority decision over Argentina’s Sergio Martinez in a fight
that left the Pavlik camp unimpressed – Loew said the way Pavlik’s
hand has responded in the last couple of weeks, he could have
“I’m glad he got the decision,” Pavlik said of Williams. “I
had Martinez by two rounds, maybe three rounds.”
Pavlik said he wanted to push the fight with Williams back to
around the end of January, which would have given his hand enough
time to properly heal. Williams agreed once to push the fight back
from October to December, but gave up when Pavlik canceled a second
time. Pavlik doesn’t believe Williams will sign to fight him
“I want to fight him, but it probably won’t happen,” Pavlik
said. “Here’s a kid that went from fighting for $1.5 million in
Atlantic City at the Boardwalk Hall in front of maybe 10,000 had he
fought me, to fighting Martinez in the ballroom above that for $1
million less than he would’ve made. Paul Williams needs me after
this fight. I don’t need Paul Williams. But I still want to fight
Pavlik is hoping a strong performance against Espino will end
what has been a difficult 14 months that began with a stinging loss
to Bernard Hopkins on Oct. 18, 2008, the first loss of his career.
Then came the win against Rubio, followed by 10 months of
uncertainty surrounding his left hand.
“Medically, it was tough,” Pavlik said. “Just when we thought
we had it, something else came up. Then after surgery, it turns
into MRSA and gets worse and worse. Every time we thought we had it
beat, there was a reaction. But the hand feels great now. We’re
ready to go.”