STANDING BY his
locker shortly after stopping Jermain Taylor with a seventh-round knockout last
Saturday night, new middleweight king Kelly Pavlik couldn't bring himself to
shake a reporter's hand. "Sorry," said Pavlik. "Tough
The reddened fist
Pavlik proffered by way of greeting told the story of the evening's contest. A
series of devastating rights to Taylor's skull helped Pavlik claim the
undisputed middleweight title in Atlantic City and may even have shocked some
life back into boxing. Despite boasting a 32--0 record and a high knockout
percentage (90.6), Pavlik, 25, was a heavy underdog against the flashy Taylor.
That status looked deserved when a 15-punch flurry by Taylor sent Pavlik
careening to the canvas in the second round. Pavlik, however, wouldn't stay
down ("I wasn't hurt that bad," he says) and fought Taylor evenly for
three rounds before unleashing a right that rocked Taylor into the corner.
Pavlik moved in quickly, lifting the champ with uppercuts until referee Steve
Smoger waved the winner off.
Can this one bout
help a struggling sport? Boxing failed to capitalize on the buzz created by the
Oscar de la Hoya-- Floyd Mayweather showdown in May: The most-watched fight in
history was followed by snoozers like Taylor's win over Cory Spinks in May and
Bernard Hopkins's outpointing of Winky Wright in July. Pavlik, however, puts
only opponents to sleep. His straight-ahead style is reminiscent of fellow
Youngstown, Ohio, native and former lightweight champion Ray (Boom-Boom)
Mancini, and with 29 knockouts in 32 pro fights Pavlik is dropping opponents at
a higher rate than Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran did. Against Taylor he
fought in classic fashion, jabbing stiffly to create opportunities for his
potent right. "Double jabs, then rights," says Pavlik's trainer, Jack
Loew. "That was the strategy all night."
style has networks interested. Taylor's contract guarantees a rematch, and
there will be calls for Pavlik to challenge the winner of the Nov. 3 Mikkel
Kessler-- Joe Calzaghe super middleweight bout. "The fans appreciate how he
fights," says HBO vice president Kerry Davis. "Which is why we're
hoping to be part of as many Kelly Pavlik fights as possible." Apart from a
new champ, boxing may have a new salesman.