Kelly Pavlik: Headliner to One-liner
You've got to feel for WBC/WBO middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik.
Fifteen months ago "The Ghost" was rocketing toward the top end of pound-for-pound rankings and closing in the mainstream appeal reserved for fighters with a rare combination talent, personality and backstory.
An undefeated champ with thunder in his right hand, Pavlik's romp through the middleweight division made him a symbol of rebirth in the post-industrial wasteland he calls home. And after a pair of victories over 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Jermain Taylor led to the kind of press coverage that made him nearly a household name in middle (read: white, anglo) America.
Then last October he met Bernard Hopkins, who beat him -- as my mom would say -- nine ways from Sunday.
Because he fought Hopkins at 170 pounds Pavlik held on to his middleweight titles, and this month he was supposed to creep back amongst the cream of the boxing crop by defending those belts against highly regarded and widely avoided Paul "The Punisher Williams."
But then a staph infection in Pavlik's right hand forced him to postpone the showdown, which was to have aired on HBO on both sides of the border.
Then a second staph infection forced Pavlik to pull out of the fight, sending the two fighters in opposite directions.
Williams, who shuttles between three weight classes (welter, super welter and middleweight) remained on HBO and on Dec. 5 took on Argentina's Sergio Martinez, a late-blooming star at 154 pounds and a guy most other contenders would rather not face.
A career-best win in one of the action fights of the year.
A courageous late rally in a bout so close and controversial it demands a rematch.
And a bigger following among fans who respect him for taking a risk and respect high-octane style.
Pavlik, meanwhile, headlines a lacklustre pay-per-view card this weekend that has struggled to attract attention in a December full of big fights.
And if you find the matchup uninspiring, the trash talk is even worse. The lowlight? This groaner from Pavlik's trainer, Jack Loew.