Just over two years ago, Kelly Pavlik pulled off a major upset when he defeated Jermain Taylor in impressive fashion, beating Taylor into a corner where Taylor submitted for the first time in his career. It was a terrific fight. Pavlik had been down on the canvas early but showed great heart and determination to climb back into, and win the fight. I was excited. Finally, boxing fans had found an exciting middleweight fighter capable of clearing out the division in thrilling knockout fashion and being the face of boxing for the next decade. Or so we thought.
What has transpired in the two years since that fight has been anything but thrilling. Four and a half months after his defeat of Taylor, a rematch took place. You might be saying to yourself, that’s bold and honorable of Pavlik to accept that challenge. If you are saying that however, it probably slipped your mind that the rematch was a non-title fight and took place at 166 pounds, a weight Pavlik thought he would be more comfortable at.
Pavlik won the rematch on the cards but didn’t look great doing so, winning a close but clear decision. Pavlik’s first actual middleweight title defense took place 9 months after obtaining the titles against ridiculous mandatory challenger Gary Lockett. Lockett was completely overmatched, getting TKO’d in just the 3rd round. Interesting note: I did not see this fight live as I was attending the 1st round KO of Carlos Quintana at the hands of, ironically, Paul Williams.
Anyway, next up for Pavlik? We’re all thinking it has to be his first legitimate middleweight challenger right? Perhaps Felix Sturm or Arthur Abraham? Wrong. Pavlik decides once again to move up in weight for a non title fight. This time 10 pounds north of the middleweight limit against first ballot HOF’er Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins, who is old enough to be Pavlik’s father, seemed like a ploy by Pavlik to get a big win on his resume, collect a big paycheck and have a relatively easy night of work.
Pavlik came into the fight a 4-1 favorite in Vegas. Glad I didn’t bet on that fight. Pavlik got thoroughly embarrassed through 12 one sided rounds of punishment. Hopkins pitched a virtual shutout, sending waves of doubt and despair through the boxing community that had such high hopes for the young lion. He still had his middleweight titles but did he deserve them?
We are now 11 months into Pavlik’s reign as undisputed Middleweight champ. Impressed? Me neither. We’re not done yet. In February of 2009, 4 months after his dismantling at the hands of “The Executioner”, Pavlik stepped into the ring for only the second middleweight defense of his titles, 15 months after attaining them. Sturm or Abraham? Try again. In steps bogus mandatory challenger numero dos, Marco Antonio Rubio. Rubio was coming off a win over Enrique Ornelas on the Pavlik/Hopkins undercard. Rubio retreated around the ring for 9 rounds before retiring (and sobbing) in his corner.
That was February 21st. It’s now October 7th. We’re just shy of 2 months prior to the first “real” title defense of Kelly Pavlik’s career against the aforementioned Paul Williams. But this fight almost didn’t happen. Pavlik, pulled out of October 3rd date with Williams because of a staph infection in his hand. Word around the boxing world was that Pavlik had skipped out on numerous doctors appointment in regards to his hand and this was the reason the hand had become infected. (Editor’s Note: There have also been grumblings about a potential drinking problem). True or not, it appeared Pavlik would once against disappoint his fans.
Fortunately, Williams was willing to wait for Pavlik’s hand to heal and the fight has been agreed to for December 5th. Williams, a former title holder at 147 and current interim title holder at 154 is a physical freak, standing a full inch taller than Pavlik and having a reach as long as either Klitschko. He is considered by many to be “boxing’s most avoided fighter”. One thing is certain: this will be the first legitimate title defense for Pavlik in his 26 month tenure as Middleweight Champion and it’s about damn time.