Kelly Pavlik - Ghost Busted
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (April 19, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing  
At the end of eight rounds on Saturday night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, it seemed that Kelly Pavlik had things where he wanted them against Sergio Martinez. After getting out-boxed and out-quicked during the early rounds, he had seemingly figured out the riddle that was Martinez, who suffered a mid-round knockdown and seem to be fading a bit. It was at this point, you figured that the naturally bigger and stronger Pavlik would come on and wear down “Maravilla.” All the momentum was with Pavlik, at this point.

But in an interesting fight that played out in three stages, the last portion of the fight was taken by Martinez, who just seemed to grit his teeth and was determined not to be the recipient of another close, questionable call in the States. He got his second wind and started darting in and out and around Pavlik, then peppered him with sharp punches that cut Pavlik around both eyes and left him with a mask of crimson, by night’s end. The only thing that could save Pavlik this night was judges from Nevada, but being that they were about 3,000 miles away, he would get no such aid. Ultimately, Martinez won a well-deserved unanimous decision and distinction as the middleweight champion of the world.

Martinez was every bit the stylistic problem most had envisioned for Pavlik. But what was really striking to me was the lack of snap and torque in Pavlik’s punches and his inability to pull the trigger with any quickness or velocity. He’s still a heavy-handed guy, but I haven’t seen his offensive arsenal that made him so dangerous since 2007. Pavlik’s never been fleet of foot or a speed merchant, but he just looks like a fighter who’s movement looks so labored and forced. I know some will, of course, blame his trainer, Jack Loew, but to me, this is really about the thoroughbred and not the jockey. Pavlik has gone backwards physically at a time in his career when you think he should be in his prime.

I’m left wondering if the Pavlik who first captured the title from Jermain Taylor was the best version of him we’ll ever see. The future is certainly murky for the pride of Youngstown, Ohio, whose support in his hometown had waned before this latest setback. He has a rematch clause, but Martinez will simply present the same problems all over again and, next time around, armed with the confidence that he can defeat Pavlik.

But this was also a loss for the business of boxing, which needs all the ticket sellers it can get. Atlantic City has been looking for the next Arturo Gatti to be its flagship fighter and it was hoped that Pavlik would fill that void. But on Saturday night, Pavlik was unable to pull out a dramatic victory under the same circumstance that Gatti did on a regular basis.

And because of that, the search is still on.

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