Last week former world
middleweight champion Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik announced his retirement from
the ring. The 6’3’’ Youngstown slugger has apparently bowed out aged just 30
with a record of 40 wins (34 KOs) against only two points defeats.

In a statement on, Pavlik said:
“When you stay in
the sport too long you have health problems. That’s a big, big thing for me.
I’m not talking about now. I’m talking about in the future. I’m talking about
when I’m 55 or 60. What’s gonna happen to me then? Why take any more chances,
especially in that sport. It’s a brutal sport and you never know what can
happen. I won the world title, I defended my title, I was champ for three years
and I made good money. Why take the chance of medical problems? That’s a big
part of it. I also don’t think the drive is there anymore. I’m moving on to a
new chapter in my life.”
“I’ve been a pro
for 13 years and doing this since I was 9. I go away for two or three months at
a time (to train) and I’m tired of leaving my family. It comes to a point where
you just don’t want to do that anymore. I put my money away and then with the
Ward fight being canceled, well, health and time with my family is more
important at this stage, especially with no guaranteed big fight or date.”
In the statement
Pavlik mentioned his proposed fight with Andre Ward, which had been scheduled
for the 26th of January, but which was postponed when the WBA/WBC super-middleweight
champion injured his shoulder in training early last December. Pavlik stood to
make as much as $3 million from that fight, which would have been rescheduled
for the summer, but instead has surprisingly decided to hang up his gloves,
although one has to wonder just how long he will actually stay retired for.
For a while in the
late 2000s Pavlik was potentially the biggest star in boxing. Something of a
novelty initially, Pavlik became that rarity of rarities; a white American
fighter that didn’t need protecting. He ripped through the middleweight
division at a time when Bernard Hopkins had finally been deposed after a ten
year – 20 title defense reign. His successor Jermain Taylor had defeated BHop
twice, and also looked set to stay on top for the long haul.
Managed by Bob Arum,
Pavlik grabbed attention with his freakish build (6’3’’with pipe stem arms and
legs), ghostly white appearance, shaved head and tattoos, but most of all for
his sledgehammer punching power. There was nothing overly fancy about Pavlik´s
boxing, it was pretty much jab-cross, jab-jab-cross, but it was those straight
rights that were so-o-o effective.
An 89-9 amateur and
National Junior Golden Gloves winner, Pavlik turned pro in 2000, and by 2002
had stopped his first fourteen opponents. He continued to blow away the
majority of his foes over the next few years, and in 2005, scored his
breakthrough win – a ninth round TKO over the highly rated Colombian puncher
Fulgencio Zuniga. He followed that up in 2006 with a sixth round TKO over the
cagey veteran Bronco McKart, a former WBO light middleweight champ who had
twice given Winky Wright tough nights. The victory was also significant in that
Pavlik became the first man to stop McKart. 
Suddenly Pavlik was a
top-ten contender, and in May 2007 he proved beyond doubt that he was a genuine
title threat with his 7th round TKO of the fearsome Edison Miranda.
The muscle-bound Colombian brawler had broken the jaw of IBF middleweight champ
Arthur Abraham the year before, and was as avoided as anyone in the division,
yet Pavlik dominated him with his strafing jabs and pin-point right hand bombs.
Despite his win over
Miranda and his impressive unbeaten record, Pavlik was a big underdog vs
Jermain Taylor when the two met in September of 2007, and when Taylor dropped
Pavlik heavily in the second it looked as if the bookies had been spot on.
However Pavlik hung on and survived that rocky second round, and gradually
began to work his way into the fight.
Taylor was up on all
three scorecards when Pavlik cornered him late in round seven. A thunderous
patented Pavlik right sent Taylor into the corner, and a follow up barrage of
vicious head shots sent the champion to the canvas, forcing the referee to stop
the fight. Kelly Pavlik was world middleweight champion, the first white
American fighter to hold the belt since Joey Giardello in 1965. (Doug DeWitt
held the WBO middleweight title in 1990, but at that time the WBO belt had as
much credibility as the IBO or WBF belt has today.)
In retrospect, kayoing
Taylor to win the title was by far and away the peak of Pavlik´s career, and
everything that succeeded it was a slow but steady decline.
He fought a rematch
with Taylor in February 2008, a strange affair made at a catch weight of 164
lbs., and this time Pavlik had to settle for a close points win. Ironically,
Taylor would suffer two devastating KO defeats against Carl Froch and Arthur
Abraham the following year, yet Pavlik, arguably the harder puncher of the
three, couldn’t put Taylor away a second time. 
Pavlik defended his
title for the first time with a third round KO of overmatched Welshman Gary
Locket four months later. Next up was another catch weight bout, against a
supposedly washed up Bernard Hopkins.

Whether Pavlik was
feeling the effects of his third training camp of 2008, whether he and his camp
had grossly misjudged the 41 year old Hopkins, or whether Pavlik just plain and
simple would never have been in BHop´s league, what took place that night in
Atlantic City was arguably the greatest master class of boxing displayed by a
veteran against an undefeated world champion in decades. Hopkins won by a
landslide, and Pavlik´s aura of invincibility was decimated forever.
Pavlik handled his first
pro loss with great dignity, praising Hopkins, and then went about rebuilding
his shattered reputation. His bullet-proof chin was on display in February 2009
against Mexican puncher Marco Antonio Rubio in his second title defense, when
his sustained battering forced Rubio’s corner to withdraw him after nine
one-sided rounds.
Pavlik was sidelined
for a large chunk of 2009 with a staph infection that cost him a multi-million
dollar showdown with Paul Williams. He finally returned to action that December
and marked time with a 5th round TKO of Miguel Angel Espinosa.
In April 2010, Pavlik
faced Argentina’s former WBC light middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, a
flashy, stylish fighter who’s speed belied his 35 years. Martinez had stepped
in for Pavlik against Williams, and played his part in the best fight of 2009.
Many at ringside believed that Martinez had been robbed when Williams won a
majority decision.
Martinez had made such
a strong impression vs Williams, he was actually the slight betting favorite
against Pavlik, and he proved that the bookies seldom get it wrong, surviving a
seventh round knockdown to batter and bloody Pavlik to a unanimous decision defeat.
The Ghost’s three year title reign was over.
Pavlik sunk into an
alcoholic fueled depression following his loss to Martinez. Two stints in rehab
were followed by a public falling out with long-time trainer Jack Lowe. There
was just one fight in two years – a decision over previously unbeaten Alfonso
Lopez – before Pavlik hooked up with Robert Garcia, a former IBF super
featherweight champ and now one of the hottest young trainers in boxing, his
most high-profile being pound-for-pound top-3 regular Nonito Donaire.
Pavlik boxed three
times in 2012, stopping Aaron Jaco (2nd) and Scott Sigmon (7th) and
decisioning Will Rosinsky. He had established himself as a contender at 168
lbs., and the title fight with Andre Ward was made.
Now we have the
announcement of Pavlik’s retirement, just as he is on the verge of possibly re-establishing
himself. Although the vast majority of fans and writers didn’t offer much hope for
Pavlik’s chances vs Ward, he would have at the very least had a puncher’s
After Ward’s injury
was announced, did Pavlik take stock and wonder if a fight against such a
dangerous opponent was a step too far too soon?
An in shape Pavlik
versus the likes of Froch, Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham or Lucian Bute would
be 50/50 fights. However there could be few worse matchups for the hard hitting
but one-dimensional Pavlik than against the man Carl Froch described as being so
slippery he was “like an eel.”
The odds are
overwhelming that Pavlik will be back. The word coming out of the Garcia
training camp on Oxnard, California was that Pavlik wasn’t having fun. Maybe
living and training in a largely Hispanic community was tough for the
Youngstown boy. He clearly needs an environment that he is comfortable in,
remains sober in, and is inspired by. Many believed that the move to Oxnard
would have been all those things. Apparently not.
I am sure that every
fight fan whishes nothing but the best for the extremely likeable Pavlik, and
no doubt we would all like to see him lay his demons to rest. However, I am
sure the majority of us would love to see Pavlik finally fulfill his awesome
potential, potential that was only hinted at that night six years ago when he
was crowned middleweight champion of the world. 

Dan Hunter is the editor of The Boxing Post and the author of the weight training and fitness ebook Urban Muscle

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