It started with friendship. One built in the most modern of ways, on social media.
Three-time world champion Kelly Pavlik had retired in comfort, but had an active Facebook presence.
Former amateur-military boxer/trainer James Dominguez took note and they soon built a back and forth that grew into far more than either would have anticipated.
They met in person through mutual friend Roger Romo in California, and as Kelly put it, “We felt like childhood friends from the start.”
Their online rapport was noticed by friends and followers alike. People began to make suggestions. “You guys should have your own show” was mentioned more than once. And so James suggested just that to Kelly. Kelly didn’t buy in as quickly. As he told me, “I don’t really like media.” He gave it a week though, then came back to James and said “maybe we can do this.”
Perhaps it would be fun to control the narrative for once – to cut out the middle man between himself and the fans, all while hanging out with one of his best friends.
Then came the “how.” James hopped in Kelly’s car and they headed off to Best Buy to purchase podcast equipment, not fully aware of what they would need when they got there, or even what to do next.
Fortunately, sponsors signed on quickly as word got out. Cleveland-based NEO Sports Insider came on board and helped with the show’s creation, set-up and continued maintenance.
This is how “The Punchline with Kelly Pavlik and James Dominguez” was born – on a Facebook lark. However, it is quickly developing into an essential show for boxing fans and lovers of good talk shows alike. Episode one had the usual fits and starts, but the chemistry between James and Kelly was evident. There is a nice complimentary juxtaposition between James’ barely contained enthusiasm and Kelly’s more laconic and focused style.
Beyond the obvious chemistry between the hosts, it’s the honesty of the show that is so refreshing. Both men are unfailingly honest – also occasionally politically incorrect – and are willing to dig into the spaces between: The more intimate details of what it’s like to be in the ring. To feel another man’s punches. To think through a tough fight. The nuances of training. Or having to take criticism from someone who’s never been in the ring.
It’s a great, and often fascinating listen. The early guests have been choice as well. Trainers Ann Wolfe and Rudy Hernandez and current WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia have made appearances. The guests are at ease and the conversations are frank and free flowing. Remarkably, as James told me, the two don’t write questions beforehand, only topics. While many might find this to be folly, it has created a show with a loose and rollicking quality, avoiding the stiffness you often find in talk radio.
As well, the show expands to topics outside of boxing and sports altogether with “After the Bell,” a second podcast built around any topic these two pals want to throw out on the web. Relationship issues, ghost stories, you name it. I pointed out to Kelly that he wasn’t so sure he wanted to do one show, and now he’s doing two. He laughed and blamed it on James’ enthusiasm and his own curiosity.
One thing both Kelly and James made clear to me is they didn’t want either show to become too reliant on “name” guests. While they certainly want to bring on people of note, they also want to follow whatever topic interests them and feature the best people they can find to discuss the subject. While you can expect boxing to be a mainstay, you can also expect the show to expand into other sports (UFC fighter Matt “Immortal” Brown was a recent guest), entertainment, health and training, and more. What Kelly and James are clear on is not placing limits on themselves and where the show can go, which will occasionally include the road. Kelly and James will be promoting the show from Maryland this weekend at the Lomachenko/Sosa fight. This time, they will be the “media.”
In listening to both “The Punchline” and” After the Bell,” it’s hard not to feel optimistic about their chances. That’s because the biggest reason to listen in is for the hosts: Two guys who met on social media with a shared love of boxing, and an easy, sustainable connection that most co-hosts need years to attain.
“The Punchline” is a talk show. It has great guests and topics. It’s both topical and fun. What separates it from other programs is a sense of comraderie and chemistry. Something that can’t be faked. “The Punchline” is about a lot of things, none of them more significant than friendship.
Don’t miss it.
You can follow The Punchline on Twitter @KPavlikPunchlin, on Facebook at PunchLineWithKPJD, and listen to previous episodes on Mixcloud