He was America's next great hope, remember?
Tabbed, that is, until an almost jaw-droppingly swift fall from grace.
It has been less than two years since Pavlik won his second fight with Taylor. In that time he has defended his middleweight crown twice, in knockout wins over unheralded "contenders"
"No question," Top Rank promoter
Pavlik's first attempt to restore that shine comes Saturday, when he steps in the ring for the first time since last February and defends his titles against
"I feel I have to go out there -- especially after the layoff -- I feel we have to look good," said Pavlik in a conference call. "If there are critics now, there are going to be a lot more if I don't dominate."
Critics, who were few and far between when Pavlik first won the titles, have swarmed like vultures on Pavlik since the loss to Hopkins. His win over Rubio, the WBC No. 1 contender, was dismissed as a joke. And when Pavlik pulled out of the Dec. 5 fight with Williams and made the Espino fight for two weeks later, there were some who questioned whether Pavlik was ducking the fight.
"[The criticism] doesn't bother me because some people know absolutely nothing about boxing," said Pavlik. "They don't know how the sport works or what goes on in the sport. So the people that said he is now fighting two weeks later, they don't understand the story and have no idea what was behind it. I've got my own things I've got to worry about on the 19th and that's where my focus is right now, on that fight."
"It really makes me want to cry because people like that saying what they say [about Pavlik's injury]," said Arum. "They have absolutely no factual basis for what they are saying. We knew what Kelly went through physically and how close he was to not making it at all, not just to fight, but not making it at all, and to have those statements made. Like the genius that trains Williams [
Indeed, there are some questions as to whether Pavlik should have agreed to
"It has been crazy, the hand," said Pavlik. "The problem with the hand was time-consuming. People wanted to fight and everything was supposed to get done. After the first surgery we thought we would be ready to go. After I got the stitches out, it opened up again and the puss started coming out and they did a re-culture on it and an MRI and it got worse. Finally we were on a new antibiotic and that wasn't doing the job so we went back in and did another surgery and after that everything was fine. The infection eventually went away with new antibiotics. After it went away we got a new reaction from the antibiotics. That put me in the hospital for four days with a very serious problem. At the end of the day we had two major surgeries within two months of each other and the tendons were coming out of the hand. So we had irritation and stiffness and I had therapy to get movement back in the finger. We wanted to fight, that is the main thing. We told the people to push the fight back. We had to hurry up a little bit, pile everything into five weeks."
Arum said both he and Pavlik understand that Pavlik needs a monster 2010 to reclaim his career, which is why they are targeting a rescheduled date with Williams -- whose oft-mentioned status as "the most feared fighter in boxing" is a source of irritation for Pavlik -- and possibly a move up to 168 pounds to fight one of the emerging contenders there.
"My career has been in a little bit of limbo," said Pavlik. "[But] there are plenty of big fights in the future. I had a setback like everyone has. Football players get staph infections all the time, I got one and I will still fight twice this year. I still stayed somewhat active in '09. I know what we have planned for the future and know what track we are on."
• Lightweight champion
• The fans that packed B.B. King's in New York to see heavyweight prospect
• Schaefer told SI.com that he has whittled the list of
• Still no official word on
I spoke with Schaefer about Diaz this week and he said Diaz would be dropping down to 135 pounds for his next fight. As listless as Diaz looked against Malignaggi, there are still a lot of major fights waiting for him at lightweight. One possibility is a rematch of his action-packed fight with
There are a few fights I would like to see: Kelly Pavlik-Paul Williams,