Last February, I flew out to Canfield, Ohio to do a story on Kelly Pavlik. At that time Pavlik was four months out of rehab and, according to most people around him, eager to reclaim his career. I pushed his people hard for the first interview. It wasn't too long ago that Pavlik was the face of American boxing, a blue-collar brawler from the Midwest who had earned his success. I wanted to see if he could reclaim it.
During the interview, Pavlik said a lot of the right things. By 'right,' I don't mean things you should say to a reporter; I mean things you should say if you are truly committed to changing your life. Because Pavlik needed to. The drinking, friends and family told me, had spiraled out of control. Over 2 ½ hours Pavlik talked about how things needed to change, how his drinking had hurt his relationship with his wife, Samantha, and their children.
But everything, it seemed, had a qualifier. Pavlik admitted he was sick, but not anywhere near as sick as the other patients at The Ranch Recovery Center in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. He said he was done drinking, but wasn't going to go to any AA meetings because he felt he didn't need to. I left Ohio the next day with an uneasy sense that Pavlik wasn't so much sober, but dry.
Unfortunately, I was right: On Wednesday night Pavlik was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while impaired, failure to control and leaving the scene of an accident. The charges were connected to an ATV accident involving Pavlik and a friend, Daniel Ferreri. The details of the incident are saddening: According to multiple reports, when police came to Pavlik's home to question him, a drunk and slurring Pavlik ordered them off his property. When police learned that Pavlik, who was bleeding from a cut on the back of his head, was driving the ATV, he was arrested.
Now, this incident isn't a career ender; the charges Pavlik is facing are misdemeanors. But it does mean that Pavlik needs help. This likely wasn't the first time Pavlik had been drinking. A source close to him told me in October that Pavlik was "hitting it pretty hard." The talk among Pavlik's handlers lately is that Pavlik plans to move to Southern California after Christmas and begin training with Robert Garcia. That's a mistake. Boxing should be the furthest thing from Pavlik's mind. He has a problem, one he is unwilling to fully admit to. Go back to rehab, get your life back in order and then and only then think about resuming your career.
Boxing is not a cure-all. If Pavlik can't chase away the demons on his own, ultimately they will come right back.
Onto your e-mail ...
I'll be honest, Mike, I'm not that surprised that the judge included jail time in her sentence. When I was in Las Vegas in September reporting a story on Mayweather for Sports Illustrated, I talked to several law enforcement officials and people with connections to the district attorney's office. And the overwhelming sense I got from them was that they believed so strongly in the merits of the case against Mayweather that they were going to do everything in their power to make sure he got some jail time. Does he deserve it? The judge seemed to think so. And remember this: You don't plead guilty, which is what Mayweather did in accepting a plea deal, if you didn't do anything wrong.
As far as Pacquiao goes, it's hard to say how this affects a possible mega fight. Certainly it's highly unlikely it happens in the first half of next year. Even if Mayweather does less than the full 90 days -- and it's likely if he reports to jail on January 6th, with good behavior he could be out by early March -- it stands to reason that Mayweather would want to take some time once he is released to get his life together. And Pacquiao is a twice-a-year fighter who will probably look to face either Juan Manuel Marquez or Tim Bradley in either May or June.
Still, I don't think this scuttles the possibility. The sense I've gotten from key parties -- Mayweather's team, HBO and Bob Arum -- is that everyone wants this fight. They may not like working together (Arum hates the idea of working with Golden Boy on this one) but for the first time, everyone is open to getting it done. So if Mayweather can put his legal problems behind him by the spring, I think it's very possible we could see Mayweather-Pacquiao in November.
Thanks, Tony. I agree, seeing Jones reduced to this shell of his former self is tough to watch. But what's more disturbing is that by fighting in the cruiserweight division -- and with an eye toward another move up to heavyweight in the future -- Jones is putting himself at risk for a serious injury, or worse. I know that a lot of people in Jones's life have tried to talk him out of fighting. But the people in his inner circle continue to tell him he can do it. It's scary to think what might happen to him if he goes up against another big puncher in the division.
I've had this debate with a couple of people, Lou. And I see your point. Ward is unbelievably talented; Naazim Richardson has told me that he thinks Ward is on the same level as Mayweather and Pacquiao. But he's not exciting. He wins with his speed and defense and doesn't take many chances in the ring. He's virtually unbeatable at 168-pounds, maybe at 175-pounds, too. But he doesn't win in a way that attracts fans.
One thing about Ward though is that he is young. At 27, he still has time to grow into his skills. I don't think he will ever be reckless in the ring -- a characteristic we love about Pacquiao -- but there may come a time when he is a little more aggressive and learns how to put fighters away when he has the chance. If he can do that, Ward has all the other tools to be a true great one.