Monday, April 19, 2010

Pavlik Goes Down in Flames Against Martinez

Pavlik (left) never found his groove against Martinez and he lost his middleweight championship.

Sometimes in the sport of boxing those whose flame burns the brightest go out with a a mere flicker.

And so it was Saturday night in Atlantic City, when middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik lost his world championship belts to Agentina's Sergio Martinez via 12-round unanimous decision.

Judge Roberto Ramirez scored the fight 116-111, Barbara Perez scored it 115-111 while Craig Metcalfe had it 115-112, all for Martinez.

Pavlik was outclassed and outfought from the get go. For most of the night he had the look of a zombie walking through a fire pit.

“He was a smart fighter,” said Pavlik, whose mug was covered with cuts and bruises. “He doubled up on the jab a lot after he cut me. I just couldn’t get anything going.”

What became painfully obvious as the rounds wore on is that Pavlik learned little during his time at the top of the 160-pound division. He had no answer to Martinez' slick movement and he was unable to cut off the ring to stop Martinez from zigging and zagging. It also became clear that Pavlik has no inside game. He threw very few body punches which would have served to slow the smaller man down.

It was tedious to watch Pavlik stumble ahead like the Frankenstein monster. He was gangly, he was clumsy and his hopes seemed predicated on landing his big right hand punch.

But the night belonged to Sergio Martinez. He was edgy, he was flashy and more importantly he took the chances he needed to take in order to be victorious. He walked into the dragon's lair (also known as Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall) and he did what many believed he could not do.

“It was a 12-round fight and I knew it would go the distance,” said Martinez who is Hollywood handsome. "I knew at the end I had to close strong.”

As the rounds wore on, and Pavlik's face became a bloody mask, the pain of the night could also been seen on his promoter Bob Arum's face. Seated at ringside, Arum could be seen biting his bottom lip and he slumped further down into his seat with every passing minute.

Before the start of the twelfth and final round, Pavlik's trainer Jack Loew pleaded with his man to land the big punch. He knew that Kelly would need that in order to return home to Youngstown, Ohio with the title belts.

It was not to be, however. Pavlik never did find the big punch that he needed. His belts slipped away without much of a fight. For Pavlik fans, it was frustrating and painful to watch. He gave up his belts by fighting the final round like he fought the first - without fire.

“We were coming on strong in the middle rounds. After the eighth round, he just seemed like he gave it away,” said his trainer, Jack Loew. “We couldn’t turn it around, and I don’t know why.”

Pavlik's future in the sport is now clouded with doubt.

There was a rematch clause in the contract, but it would be foolhardy for Pavlik to pursue that option. Martinez has too much skill, too much experience and too much passion for Pavlik. Some will say that Pavlik should abandon the middleweight division and move eight pounds north to 168 pounds to the land of the super middleweights. But that would also be a move fraught with danger and uncertainty. The last time Pavlik moved up in weight he was even more sluggish and one dimensional in losing to Bernard Hopkins.

The new middleweight champ is a gentleman, a sharp dresser, a big hit with the ladies - and he can fight, too.

Besides, all of the top super middleweights in the world are tied up in the Showtime network's Super Six World Boxing Classic. The one who is not, Quebec's Lucian Bute who fought tonight prior to Pavlik's fight, also on HBO, scored an electrifying one-punch knockout over the big punching Edison Miranda. Quite simply, the undefeated Bute would embarass Pavlik easier and more convincingly than Hopkins and Martinez did. He is that good.

So, at 28-years-old the future for Pavlik looks to be clouded with doubt and uncertainty. Chances are he does not defeat Martinez in a rematch. He is too one dimensional for the top fighters in the world and unless he can learn to throw more than a jab and a right hand he will have no chance against them. His defense is virtually non-existent.

What is clear is that if Kelly Pavlik is going to continue as a going concern in the sport he will have to decide in which weight division he can be most effective. He struggled before weighing 159 1/2 pounds on Friday for the official weigh-in, but he scaled 178 pounds before stepping into the ring Saturday night. He will also have to go back to the drawing board and add nuance to his game.

Instead of progressing, his skills appear to have regressed since he won the title from Jermain Taylor in 2007. I'm not advocating that he rid himself of Jack Loew, but it may be time to consult a trainer that has more experience and knowlege at the world class level.

Finally, Kelly Pavlik needs to take a good, long look in the mirror and decide whether a boxing career is really something he still has his heart in - because the manner in which he fought Saturday night says that he does not.

April 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i give pavlik credit for taking that fight. he did adjust and seemed to take control in the middle rounds but as he said he got hit and cut in the 8th (?) and was having trouble seeing... i also appreciated his interview in the ring, he's straightforward, honest, genuine... and martinez is fast and has so much energy. not a great fight but still felt like an event.