Pavlik should mark return with an easy win
The enigmatic Kelly Pavlik returns after a ten month absence during which he's had deal with injury, infection and scheduling issues which ruled out a fascinating match up with Paul Williams, and sadly left us rounding off the year with this rather less competitive contest
Kelly Pavlik vs. Miguel Angel Espino. WBC and WBO middleweight titles.
Saturday December 19, Beeghly Center, Youngstown, Ohio, United States.
Pavlik 1/16, Espino 7/1.
Who or what was to blame for the Williams fight failing to materialise is, as you'd expect, a topic of contention depending on who you ask, but the notion that Pavlik simply did not want any part of the tricky former welterweight has been used in some quarters as a stick to beat the current WBC/WBO middleweight king, who was arguably THE boxing success story of 2007.
Getting off the floor to stop the undefeated Jermain Taylor, having also knocked out the ferocious puncher Edison Miranda thrust Pavlik into boxing's upper echelons and made for a great story; a young blue collar knockout artist rising up from the streets of Youngstown to claim the world championship.
Cue Bernard Hopkins.
The wily veteran was widely expected to have little chance against the younger, quicker, more powerful Pavlik when they fought in October 2008, but he rolled back the years and made his doubters look stupid when he won almost every single round with a brilliant display of tactical boxing.
The defeat was indeed a surprise, but the manner in which Pavlik was so spectacularly dominated left many wondering if he would ever be the same.
I found it slightly reminiscent of the beating Joe Calzaghe dealt out to Jeff Lacy, when the young undefeated hot prospect was so soundly thrashed that he went from superstar of the future to overhyped slugger overnight. His career has never recovered.
The fact of the matter however is that if Pavlik has anything left at all he should win this fight at a canter.
Having iced 31 opponents from 35 wins his power is not in dispute, and you'd have to consider Espino at a similar level to Gary Lockett at best, who Pavlik simply ran over in three one-sided rounds.
A former star of 'The Contender' series (during which he was beaten by one-time Calzaghe opponent Peter Manfredo Jr), Espino hasn't been particularly active of late; this will be his first fight since March with his previous fight to that being in March 2008.
If Pavlik is anywhere near full fitness Espino could get the shock of his life. He has quite simply never been in with anyone close to his class.
Pavlik holds all the aces in this fight. He's younger, taller, has a greater reach and hits a lot harder.
He's beaten fighters who'd be huge favourites to beat Espino themselves, and his only loss is to a boxing legend.
A Pavlik stoppage win is a very obvious pick, although there is still a certain something in the back of my mind that wonders if the real Kelly Pavlik will ever be seen again.
We may find out when he faces a top class opponent down the line, and Espino might have enough ring savvy to keep himself out of harms way for a while, but 'the ghost' should get him eventually.
I'll suggest a mid-rounds stoppage, and keep my fingers crossed for a better 2010 for Pavlik.