Thursday, June 08, 2023  |



Pavlik: What’s next?

Fighters Network

Kelly Pavlik wore down Marco Antonio Rubio with punches like this and others to the body. Photo / Rafael Soto-Top Rank

Kelly Pavlik did what he was supposed to do before the hometown fans in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday night.

THE RING middleweight champion pounded on Marco Antonio Rubio until he gave up after the ninth round in Pavlik’s first fight since he was outclassed by Bernard Hopkins in October.

Pavlik (35-1, 31 knockouts) showed no lingering effects from the one-sided setback against Hopkins, pressuring his opponent from the opening bell as always, but he didn’t look sensational.

However, that had a lot to do with Rubio’s reluctance to mix it up. Pavlik stalked Rubio, throwing hard, straight punches with abandon to the head and body, but the Mexican was more interested in covering up than throwing his own punches.

Still, Pavlik hurt Rubio (43-5-1, 37 KOs) a few times and eventually wore him down. After the ninth round, Rubio decided he could take no more punishment.

Thus, Pavlik pleased his hometown fans, retained his WBC and WBO titles and got the loss to Hopkins out of his system.

“I feel great. I put the loss behind me,” Pavlik said.

So what’s the next step?

Pavlik has said he’d like to unify the middleweight titles, meaning he’d have to beat Arthur Abraham (IBF) and Felix Sturm (WBA). And, obviously, there are many other possibilities in and around his weight.

Here’s five potential opponents for Pavlik this year:

1. John Duddy (26-0, 17 KOs): Duddy easily outpointed Matt Vanda on Saturday to set this bout up but hard-core boxing fans probably wouldn’t approve because the Irishman would have little chance to win. However, it’s a good fight for Pavlik on several levels. First, Duddy’s a solid fighter but not in Pavlik’s class; thus, he doesn’t pose a serious threat. Second, he’s undefeated, which is always good for marketing. And, third, he’s a charming guy with a good-sized following on the East Coast, where the fight would undoubtedly take place. Thus, Pavlik would chalk up another win (probably by knockout), earn another hefty payday, get some good exposure and then ease into a more difficult fight.

2. Sergio Mora (21-1-1, five KOs): The former junior middleweight titleholder and “Contender” winner could be a nice backup if the Duddy fight can’t be made. Again, some fans would wonder about Mora’s chances but he undoubtedly would be more competitive than Duddy. And he has a better resume than the Irishman, including an upset victory over Vernon Forrest. That means a victory over him would mean more than a victory over Duddy. The downside for Pavlik would be Mora’s style; he’s awkward, quick and mobile, meaning Pavlik would have to chase him down. And if Mora can beat Forrest, there’s a chance (however small) that he could also outbox Pavlik on a given night.

3. Winner of Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs)-Paul Williams (36-1, 27): If Wright wins, Pavlik should probably look elsewhere. The former four-time titleholder is one of the best boxers of his era, which he will have proved again if he beats Williams. He has made a career out of making opponents look bad; win or lose, Pavlik would be no different. And Pavlik would probably lose. If Williams wins, this would be an extremely intriguing matchup for the fans. Pavlik would have a size and power advantage but Williams is a more versatile fighter. This would be risk for Pavlik but it could pay off. One big problem, though: Pavlik’s promoter, Bob Arum, refuses to deal with Williams’ manager, Al Haymon.

4. Arthur Abraham (28-0, 23 KOs): Hardcore boxing fans would fear for Pavlik’s safety if he fought the Armenian who fights out of Germany yet he remains a possible opponent. Abraham seems to be the complete package – a slick boxer with power and reslience – while Pavlik is seen as more one-dimensional. Aside from Abraham’s ability, Arum isn’t crazy about this matchup because Abraham wouldn’t generate a lot of money here. On the upside, if Pavlik were to take this fight, he would be seen by knowledgeable fans as extremely courageous. And a victory over Abraham might be the only thing that could lift Pavlik back into pound-for-pound consideration.

5. Vernon Forrest (41-3, 29 KOs): THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior middleweight would be a good choice because of his name recognition. Television executives certainly would approve. And the matchup probably would be both competitive and entertaining. The four-time titleholder, coming off an impressive points victory over Mora in their rematch, is a better all-around fighter than Pavlik but he’d be moving up from 154 pounds and he’s 38. A victory over Forrest would look nice on Pavlik’s resume.

Five more: Carl Froch, Ronald Hearns, James Kirkland, Ricardo Mayorga and Felix Sturm.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]