Kelly Pavlik: Relevant Again?

    (December 18, 2009 – Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America)

    This Saturday Kelly Pavlik will square off against Will Rosinsky in a super middleweight fight scheduled for 10 rounds. The fight will take place in Carson, California and is part of an HBO double header which features perennial P4P ranked fighter Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula, in a 12 round WBO/IBF junior featherweight unification title fight. I believe both fights should provide well-rounded action, although most feel its Donaire’s fight to lose. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mathebula make an interesting matchup for Donaire, who hasn’t really been tested in quite some time now.

    Regardless, the fight to watch will be the co-feature. Pavlik (39-2) will continue on the comeback trail, going for his 4th win in a row since suffering a unanimous decision loss at the hands of lineal middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez. I guess you can still call it a comeback, though I’m not sure what number this is for Pavlik, whose public battles with alcoholism have become the overwhelming story in his return to the ring.

    Pavlik will face hard-nosed Will Rosinsky (16-1) in a fight that could uplift both fighters’ careers and cement their chances at a meaningful fight in the 168lb division. Rosinsky’s only loss came at the hands of highly acclaimed Edwin Rodriguez and although he lost a unanimous decision, Rosinsky had more success than most of Rodriguez’s opponents thus far. This fight can be very entertaining and I believe it will act as a good barometer for Pavlik or Rosinsky (who would be pulling the mild upset).

    That said I’d like to explore for a moment the scenario that would find Kelly’s hand raised Saturday night. I’m not saying Rosinsky has no chance; in fact, I think it’s a fight that either guy can win. If Pavlik wins do we consider him a legitimate threat again and does he become relevant? I think you can make a case for both arguments.

    On one hand, Pavlik has stretched the maximum level of leniency from boxing fans alike. I’m not talking about alcoholism because we all have our demons, although it doesn’t assure confidence. He’s relapsed a few times already and when dealing with a disease like this, it’s only safe to account for the possibility of relapsing again. If Pavlik is ever going to move on from it and continue his boxing career, then we have to give him the opportunity to show us it’s behind him. The real problem exists in the fiber of his poor decision making.

    It was only a year ago when Pavlik left Showtime high and dry, a week out of his scheduled ShoBox main-event. He was supposed to fight the soft touch on ShoBox, only to make the quick turnaround and fight then undefeated IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute. He pulled himself from the card and declared that the money he was getting paid to “cash out” against Bute wasn’t enough, basically saying he needed more money to lose to Bute. Pavlik let down his fans, his network (Showtime), and his promoter (Top Rank). Many lost hope for Kelly and although it was merely rumored, there were those who felt his poor decision making correlated with an alcohol relapse – which was pure speculation.

    This is all on top of a pretty uninspiring performance against Alfonso Lopez on the Pacquiao-Mosley undercard. Things seemed bleak for Pavlik at the time, but by no means is he a ray of sunshine now. However, I feel that he is making a real effort to circumvent his problems outside the ring and make a meaningful attempt to recapture glory inside of it.

    Come Saturday, Pavlik will have fought his 3rd fight this year, which is more than his total number of fights in 2010 and 2011 combined. Plus, he now has trainer Robert Garcia in his corner; that alone would be sufficient enough, but Pavlik took it even further when he moved out to California to get away from the troubling influences he faced in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. That move suggests he’s really doing it right this time.

    Add in the fact that we’ve seen that you can’t look good against Alfonso Lopez, plus his two TKO victories against Aaron Jaco and Scott Sigmon in Pavlik’s last two outings, and I think Pavlik deserves our outright attention should he get the victory over Rosinsky.

    There is nothing flashy about Pavlik outside the ring; at his finest hour in boxing he captivated us with his in ring abilities. Boxing can always use another no-nonsense fighter with an 82.93 KO%. If you think about the landscape of the 168lb division you’ll find that it isn’t as deep as it has been in the past. Before the conclusion of the Super 6 tournament guys named Dirrell, Bute, Abraham, and Taylor gave an allure to the division.  Now, Ward sits supreme over everyone and Froch has proven he’s better than most, but still no challenge to Ward. The division could use a jump start and another solid name to add to potential foes for the elite of the weight class.

    Pavlik is good for the division and he’s also good for boxing. I hope Kelly hasn’t written his final chapter in boxing. If he comes out with an impressive victory, then I believe he should be anointed as a relevant contender. If he’s up to the challenge, just think of all the fun matchups we could get out of Pavlik down the road; a road that doesn’t contain the word “comeback” anymore.