Johnny Wilds ESPN Boxing Insider special to NYFIGHTS.com
Kelly ‘The Ghost’ Pavlik turned professional in June of 2000 and seven years later with 32 fights, zero losses and 29 KOs, he won the coveted Ring Magazine and lineal middleweight titles by stopping reigning champion Jermaine Taylor via 7th round KO.
He amassed a 40-2 record with 34 KOs and his only losses were to future hall of famers Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez.
Pavlik hung up the gloves after he won a UD over Will Rosinsky in July of 2012.
Recently there has been talk of ‘The Ghost’ returning to the ring so I reached out to Kelly to find out not only if he was coming back, but also to take a look back at his phenomenal career and answer some questions from boxing fans around the world.
Question from Johnny Wilds: In looking back at your career, what do you feel was your greatest accomplishment?
Answer from Kelly Pavlik: Honestly, winning the world title (over Taylor)… and it’s pretty close with the Edison Miranda fight too, due to the fact that the whole circumstance leading up to the Miranda fight and nobody was giving me a chance in that fight. At that time Edison Miranda was recognized as one of the most feared fighters in the sport. I mean, at that time he was even feared more than GGG was feared in the middleweight division now. I was given no chance to beat him but we went in there and I beat him up bad. It still doesn’t beat the Jermain Taylor fight though because obviously that's the world title fight!
Q) Did being the unified WBC, WBO, Ring Magazine and lineal middleweight champion and living in a small town like Youngstown,Ohio add any pressure with regard to people maybe not giving you your space or respecting your privacy?
KP) Oh, absolutely. It’s crazy. People would tell you when you’re a prospect things are going to change, and change over night. You say, I know, you envision it but nobody is really prepared for it. Your life becomes not yours anymore. Living in Youngstown, before I won the world title it was funny. I would go play darts and stuff like that. Locals would be interviewed (by HBO etc) and say Kelly Pavlik is just like one of us. He’s so cool and he doesn't think he’s better than anybody then 4 months after winning the world title- what the hell is Kelly Pavlik playing darts for? Why is he coming in here? It’s no win situation. The pressure was there and you cannot be yourself anymore. It sucks but it’s understandable as you’re in the spotlight now and especially in a small town like Youngstown where not much goes on.
Q) The last time we saw you in the ring was 2012- what is driving these talks of a comeback?
KP) I went on the Joe Rogan show and I wasn’t expecting to bring it up but it kind of led into that.
I’m 36 years old, I know I have taken everything into consideration- believe me. I’m taking my age into one part of it, being out for six years is another part. It’s not about the money. That’s the first thing everyone goes to- but it’s the itch. I have been working out now for 3 years and keeping myself healthy- it’s just the itch. I’m a fighter and have been for all these years. I clearly stated on the show that I was thinking about it. A lot of media outlets ran with it that I am positively coming back- and I am not. It’s a process, it could be a matter of 2 months from now, sparring one more time and saying no. It’s something I am thinking about and definitely considering and we will see how it turns out.
Q) At what weight class would you compete- would it be cruiserweight as reported?
KP) Yeah, because you know I don’t want to come back that badly (laughing) to cut that type of weight. I still have to cut 40 pounds right now. I was at 250 actually doing powerlifting. Now I have been slowing down on that- I still lift, doing functional strength training and flexibility. I am down to to 240 as I lost 10 lbs already fairly easy without watching it too closely and 200 lbs would be a perfect fit.”
Q) You appear to be in tremendous shape and added muscle- has that been from powerlifting?
KP) Yes, I started doing powerlifting competitively about 2 years ago- I don’t know why as it’s pretty brutal on the body too- but, I always find something to keep myself motivated and active. It’s been fun but now I am taking a little break from it obviously and see what goes on as far as working out in a way that I used to work out. Other than that, I have been busy with that and actually busy with a lot of things.
Q) Have you signed with a promoter and do you have a trainer for your return?
KP) No, we haven’t and that’s still in the works. I don’t know how that works as far as that and the promotional stuff- I retired six years ago and with the six years being retired, I don’t how that falls in the contract clause. And if it’s with Top Rank if and when I do comeback- Top Rank is a fantastic promotional company and it would actually be up to them to do whatever they want to do. It they want to promote me that would be their choice and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Because I don’t know so much if I am coming back for another career as much as going back out and having fun with it now, but also be dedicated to it but I don’t think I’m trying to make another career run. I think it may be a couple of fights- or two fights or even one fight but it’s all up in the air right now. So as far as promotional- I am sure somebody will pick it up as there is a lot of buzz around this comeback- which is crazy and kind of cool but if anything I wouldn’t mind staying with Top Rank but there is a lot of great promoters out there.
Questions from boxing fans:
Q from Abe Gonzales NYFIGHTS: What would Kelly Pavlik now tell Kelly Pavlik back then when the decision to walk away from the sport was made and announced? Would you tell your younger self anything different?
A) I wouldn’t tell myself anything different. Absolutely not! I would not tell myself anything different especially when way I walked way. That’s another one with regard to telling myself something different as an older version versus younger. Everybody and I have seen it……it’s a shame his career was so short and this and that… there’s a whole bunch of things that go into that. First of all, I was pro for over 12 years and had 42 pro fights. Floyd Mayweather turned pro 4 years before me and fought for 4 years after I did. He only has 8 more fights than me. I fought for the world title in 2007 and defended my title for 3 years and held on to the middleweight title. That’s not a short career and that’s 42 fights in over 12 years and that’s not short. My wife and I talked about it early in my career, I was not going to stick around long after winning title. When I had kids it was a reality and I was more so counting days to retirement than to big fights. The great part of my comeback as it’s on my terms and I am happy with it.
Q from Michael Mohan: How does a young fighter know that it's time to move on to a new trainer?
KP: When it’s not working out and you’re not bonding. I think a young fighter needs to observe and watch. I think it’s really important for a young fighter to watch other fights. What happens in the corner between rounds and watch sparring and listen to what the trainer is telling other fighters. If you have a trainer that doesn't know what to say and pretty much hollers at you and tells you to stop slacking off or quit being a sissy and doesn’t offer you any gameplans like B or C. It’s hard to explain but you can hear the good trainers in the corner coming up with different scenarios.
Q from Jules Philippe-Auguste: How do you feel when you are training now as opposed to when you went on your title run?
KP: I feel good but I don’t feel 18 because I’m not. Punches still come off pretty sharp and quick. They are only going to get sharper and quicker as I keep cutting weight. I feel good overall.
Q from Colin Morrison: I'd be interested to hear what it was like for him when he was the unified middleweight title holder. How did the external demands increase, the trappings of fame etc.
KP: The demand is cool to be recognized as universal champion. I really felt I was the undisputed champ. You know what I mean because Jermain was the undisputed champion when he beat Hopkins and he didn’t lose and I beat him. But, the tension is really on you… the pressure. You got people people aiming at you too and it was hard, it was tough. There was a lot of pressure with that, it was cool at the same time, don’t get me wrong as it gave you a reason to walk with your chest popped out. (Laughing).
Q from JW) How do you feel the state of boxing is going with the emergence of ESPN+ and DAZN showing fights via an app to view fights?
KP:) You know even with the HBO situation, I think that was a big cause and there was a lot of other reasons too but that kind of hurt. Network TV- they can still do the fights because everybody is hungry to see a good fight. It doesn’t really matter if you have an app or network television. But, I think the apps are really great and it’s great for the sport- look at the numbers ESPN+ has done so far with the app and look at what DAZN is doing with it. If it’s good for the sport I don’t see what the issue would be. They are getting us the fights we want to see where you don’t have to spend big money. That was a big part of it, you’re spending $99 to watch good fights. That’s a lot of money some people don’t want to pay.
Q.) How do you feel you would have done versus guys like GGG and Canelo If you could make middleweight again- what are your thoughts?
KP:) I think I would have done really well against them. GGG, I look at it more how GGG would have dealt with my punch output, my power, my frame and my size. Other than Jacobs he has not really fought a really big middleweight- let alone a middleweight that punch averages high 80 punches per round and every punch hurts. I don’t know- I would have been coming forward- he’s not the quickest guy on his feet- I think it would have been an issue. It would have been a fight. Listen, people will say I’m talking out of my ass right now- but Miranda- I think he hit harder than GGG does. They won’t say it now because everybody forgets- it’s crazy how the brain works as you see what happened at the end of Miranda’s career and after the beating he took against me and it’s like Miranda was nothing in a lot of people's eyes. But they forget about how dominant and how powerful he was when he was fighting in his prime when I fought him. I took his punches and backed him up… and nobody backed Miranda up! Nobody expected Miranda to back up. So going in a battle with GGG, there you go right there for ya’. Here I go throwing 80 plus punches per round with power behind everyone one of them- I think it would have been a very interesting fight.
Canelo- I think is a very sharp fighter, I truly do. But I don’t think his size… I know people are going to say well look at Sergio Martinez did to you- first of all people who are close and really know boxing know it was not me that night. I had weight issues and trying to make weight for that fight and Sergio was a boxer and he moved around the ring. Canelo does not move like Sergio did and with my size and punch output it would have been a factor. But, Canelo is a sharp fighter. I will never be the type of guy that says I could have beat them as I will leave that up to everyone else- but I would have been a fight Canelo and GGG have yet to have!
Q.) I know hindsight is 20/20- anything you would have changed in your career?
KP:) You know what, that's a good question and it’s hard to answer that because I didn’t say anything for a long period of time. We kind of touched on it in the Martinez fight but the fact I never wanted anyone to think I was making excuses or anything like that. Listen, I lost to two fights to two hall of famers. Those two fights I lost, it was not a 80% Kelly Pavlik let alone 90% or 100%. The Hopkins fight-we had very, very minimal sparring and I was not feeling my best. The commission and the doctor asked about what medication I was on and temperature I had. There was just something that wasn’t right. I could have postponed the fight, not cancelled it… make sure I was ready for the fight the right way. But, I was worried about the Youngstown people who bought tickets for the fight- I didn’t want that lashing etc. I wish I had have postponed it thinking now.
As far as the Martinez fight- there would have been other options if we took our time. We could have come in over the limit…..1 or 2 pound over the limit- strip me of the title because it was my last fight at middleweight.. What do I care? It could have swayed a W or L, but if I won, the backlash from coming in heavier just wasn't worth it. It wasn’t a good choice regardless. I could sit here and beat myself up on it. Overall, I am still happy with my career with a 40-2 record and losing to Bernard Hopkins- one of the best ever and future hall of famer, and Sergio Martinez who was a phenomenal fighter…. I believe those are some things if I could go back… I am not saying I would change them, but I would have definitely looked at other options and other avenues as far as going into those fights.
I want to thank Kelly Pavlik for his time and his publicist Amy Green for making this interview happen. Kelly was a pleasure to speak with and coming from a long time fan of his, it was an absolute honor to interview him Boxing fans can catch Kelly on his podcast at http://punchline.live/ for not only updates on his return but boxing news and great interviews.