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Boxing
Underdog Rubio not lacking in confidence
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Marco Antonio Rubio has been there.

He knows what it feels like.

And come this weekend, he's hoping to share the misery with one Kelly Pavlik.

"A loss has an absolute effect on a fighter, any fighter," the 28-year-old Mexican told BoxingScene.com, through interpreter Julio Gudino. "Whether he'll admit it or not, everything is different. And no matter what, it does take a little bit of time to recoup.

"That might be to our advantage on Saturday night."

Rubio, a former regional champion at 154 pounds, gets his initial crack at world middleweight glory when he meets WBC/WBO champion Pavlik at what figures to be a jam-packed Chevrolet Centre in the incumbent's Youngstown, Ohio hometown.

The main event shares the spotlight on a two-site Bob Arum pay-per-view production -- packaged with a comebacking Miguel Cotto's try for the vacant WBO welterweight title against British import Michael Jennings.

Cotto hasn't fought since losing his WBA title and his unblemished record against Antonio Margarito last summer.


Marco Antonio Rubio will get his crack at world middleweight glory.
Similarly, it'll be Pavlik's first appearance since his first setback, a one- sided decision loss to Bernard Hopkins in a catch-weight bout last October in New Jersey.

A heavy betting favorite going in, Pavlik was dominated for nearly every minute of every round against Hopkins, eventually losing by a combined 31 points on three ringside scorecards.

And suddenly, though he didn't forfeit his middleweight kingpin status, the 34-0 record Pavlik carried in looks a bit different at 34-1.

Rubio is hoping it'll feel different, too.

"I'm a little more confident and at ease than I would have if our fight had been six months ago," he said. "It's not that he's a worse boxer or anything, but it's always nice to see a guy's true weaknesses stand out the way they did against Hopkins.

"I think I learned a lot. It was obvious what his deficiencies were, and it wasn't just Bernard Hopkins. Now I come into the fight with abilities, too, and he's going to have to contend with the things I think I know about him."

In addition, Rubio knows a little something about adversity.

He suffered a since-avenged first defeat in just his seventh pro fight, then rattled off a 22-bout unbeaten streak before a nightmarish 33-second blowout loss to Kofi Jantuah for the WBC's international super welterweight crown in September 2004.

Ironically, that loss came on the undercard of Hopkins's knockout of Oscar De La Hoya -- a bill also shared by Pavlik, who stopped Carlton Holland in his 22nd pro outing.

Undaunted, Rubio strung together seven more wins before another low point, a four-month stretch that produced losses to Kassim Ouma and Zaurbek Baysangurov in consecutive bouts and convinced the 6-foot-1 right-hander a bigger change was needed.

So, two months and six pounds later -- Marco Antonio Rubio, starving super welterweight became Marco Antonio Rubio, comfortable and dangerous middleweight.

"It's a big difference for me now," he said. "I don't have to be stressed out in training camp about how I'm going to lose those last two pounds.

"I can be more relaxed and not concerned with the weight all the time. Instead of spending the last few days drying out to make 154, I can concentrate on my mental approach to get fully ready for a fight."

So far, the facts back him up. Convincingly.

Nine subsequent fights have yielded nine straight wins, including seven knockouts and one very important split decision -- a 12-round verdict over fellow Mexican veteran Enrique Ornelas in a WBC title eliminator on the Hopkins-Pavlik undercard.

As a result, Rubio became a No. 1 contender and a mandatory challenger.

And now, he hopes to add party crasher to his resume as well.

"I think it's a part of the benefit I have going into this fight," Rubio said. "I don't have to worry about being the host and taking care of people. I can concentrate 100 percent on the fight. I love to fight at home, but this might be better for me at this point."

"We know Kelly Pavlik is the local idol and that we're going to the fight with no fans. But I've fought in other countries and been a visitor many times and his fans that are there this time are going to see me knock him out."

Saturday's PPV show begins at 9 p.m. and carries a suggested retail price tag of $44.95.

The Cotto-Jennings bout is set to hit the ring at 10.

Pavlik-Rubio is slated an hour later.

"At this point, tranquility is rolling in," Rubio said. "I'm concentrating on relaxation and focusing on the game plan. We're exactly where we want to be.

"I'm looking forward to the fight. I know we're both going to land a lot of power shots and my intention is to end it in a knockout so I don't have to worry about hometown decisions. But one way or another, I plan to win the fight."

* * * * * * * * * *

A few follow-up thoughts from a Saturday evening at BankAtlantic Center:

1. As much of a godsend as mapquest.com is at times, the directions it provided for my 60-plus mile excursion from a friend's house in Loxahatchee to the venue in Sunrise were nothing if not maddening. And were it not for an obsessive need to arrive at shows hours before the bouts I'm actually there to write about -- thereby giving myself an allowance for highway incidents -- I may have had to flex the old fiction-writing muscles.

Another such instance and my frugal nature might have to make room for a GPS.

2. I can't speak for the masses, but I wasn't as impressed with Alfredo Angulo in person as the HBO commentators seemed to be on Sunday's replay. Sure, he fought through some blood to grind down a ring-worn Cosme Rivera, but he took a fair amount of shots in the process, and, should he eventually tangle with slicker or more powerful foes at 154 named Martinez, Santos, Williams or Forrest, it could pose a problem.

He may get a belt, but I don't see pound-for-pound elite status in the future.

3. To the topic of unimpressive, add Kermit Cintron. Even with a dubious piece of refereeing that allowed the bout with Sergio Martinez to go past a seventh round, Cintron did precious little to prove he still belongs among the truly elite at either 147 or 154 pounds. If unable to land a powerful right hand and render an opponent senseless, he quickly becomes a four-limbed heavy bag for quicker and fleeter-footed foes or those more powerful and relentless.

One more loss and he becomes the guy prospects fight to get noticed.

4. I wanted to be angry with Nate Campbell. I wanted to write a column ripping him for failing to make weight in Florida just months after he ripped Joan Guzman for doing the same thing in Mississippi. I wanted to...but I can't. Because instead of bailing out at the last possible minute and making a month's worth of excuses -- a la Guzman -- Campbell sacrificed his belts, showed up for work and gutted out 12 rounds against Ali Funeka.

If 140 is indeed his next weight stop, I hope big fights and jewelry are in his future.

5. Carl King knows the boxing business. Carl King knows how to promote a fight. And Carl King surely knows how to talk with the best of them. But in the minutes and hours following the end of the Campbell-Funeka brawl, the progeny of the sport's most famous hairstyle proved beyond doubt that he needs some work on post-fight protocol.

Instead of a professionally run question-and-answer session with the card's prominent in-ring principals, the Sunrise presser devolved into a prolonged gabfest between King and a host of entourage fillers whose only credentials for being there appeared to be flashy bling, gold-grilled teeth and the proper reactions to King's inane verbal cues.

No Martinez. No Cintron. No Angulo... No real reason to even bother.

So, in light of that, Carl, here's my only request. If you really hope to establish a permanent boxing presence in South Florida and get positive feedback for your efforts from the area's online and print journalists, leave the interviewing to the professionals and save the glad-handing for the after- party.

Otherwise, skip the fights entirely and just rent a nightclub in South Beach.

* * * * * * * * * *

SATURDAY WBC/WBO middleweight titles - Youngstown, Ohio Kelly Pavlik (champion) vs. Marco Antonio Rubio (No. 1 WBC/No. 3 WBO contender) Pavlik (34-1, 30 KO): Second title defense; Suffered only loss (Hopkins) in October Rubio (43-4-1, 37 KO): First world title fight; Won nine straight since 2006 FitzHitz says: Pavlik in 8

Vacant WBO welterweight title - New York, N.Y. Miguel Cotto (No. 1 contender) vs. Michael Jennings (No. 2 contender) Cotto (32-1, 26 KO): Ex-champion at 140 and 147 pounds; Suffered only loss (Margarito) in July Jennings (34-1, 16 KO): First fight outside United Kingdom; Won six straight since lone loss FitzHitz says: Cotto in 6

Last week's record: 3-1 Overall picks record: 61-28

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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