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Boxing
Straight-forward Pavlik seeks clear-cut victory
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Kelly Pavlik is in no mood for drama.

So when he enters the Boardwalk Hall ring with Bernard Hopkins on Saturday night in Atlantic City, he's going to do all he can to remove it from the proceedings.

"My job is to beat him up," the unbeaten Youngstown slugger said earlier this week in a FitzHitz interview. "Whether I beat him up over 12 rounds or knock him out, it doesn't make any difference. My goal is to make sure there's no controversy."

But make no mistake, the reigning WBC/WBO middleweight champion is well aware he's not the first to enter a match with Hopkins with such an objective in mind.

The 43-year-old Philadelphian dispatched many a determined challenge during a decade-long run as IBF 160-pound champion, and has remained on his feet while giving as good he's gotten during subsequent bouts with Jermain Taylor, Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright and Joe Calzaghe.

Kelly Pavlik is the reigning WBC/WBO middleweight champion.


Taylor edged Hopkins in a pair of reed-thin 2005 decisions at middleweight, before the old man stepped up in weight to sweep scorecards against both Tarver and Wright over 13 months in 2006-07.

He dropped a split verdict to Calzaghe in his most recent outing in April, but scored the bout's lone knockdown and left many thinking he'd done enough to earn the nod.

Additionally, Hopkins has not been floored since a 1994 draw with Segundo Mercado.

"It's very important to me and that's my main goal," Pavlik said of a decisive win over the 'Executioner,' preferably one with the letters 'KO' attached. "I want to be the first one to do it."

At least one clearly biased observer considers it inevitable.

Pavlik trainer Jack Loew, who championed his man's cause long before he reached the national limelight with consecutive defeats of Taylor, said the 26-year-old's mix of power and sheer volume will prove more than enough to make a clear point.

Loew and Pavlik were reached by phone on Wednesday afternoon, en route to Atlantic City from their final pre-fight press conference in Manhattan.

"I think Bernard looks to survive in fights, but there's no way a 43-year-old is going to be able to get by throwing just 20 or 30 punches a round against Kelly," Loew said. "That's fine for four or six rounds, but you've got to remember that we throw 90 punches a round for 12 rounds.

"Kelly proved in the second fight with Taylor that he doesn't have to knock guys out. He can beat them in all categories. It's just like Bob Arum said, the home runs are nice, but we'll take singles and doubles all night long if that's what they're giving us."

Pavlik's star began tangibly rising in October 2005, when he earned the regional NABF belt at 160 pounds with a stoppage of prospect Fulgencio Zuniga and defended it with a TKO of former world title challenger Bronco McKart nine months later.

A four-round rout of unheralded Lenord Pierre and an eight-round downing of ex-Olympian Jose Luis Zertuche for win No. 30 preceded Pavlik's first primetime performance - a surprising blowout of Colombian favorite Edison Miranda in a title eliminator on HBO in May 2007.

"I'm not even a little bit shocked at what he's done. I knew what I had with this kid and I knew that everyone else would see it, too, as soon as he got an opportunity," Loew said. "They finally gave it to him, and once he got a whiff of stardom he didn't want to give it back."

Pavlik climbed off the deck to stop Taylor and take his belts 13 months ago, then beat him by unanimous decision in an over-the-weight rematch in February. One championship defense has since followed back at 160, ending in a concussive three-round TKO of mandatory challenger Gary Lockett on June 7.

And shortly thereafter, a grueling Hopkins-centric training regimen that Loew claims actually started a few days ahead of schedule when his charge called him and urged, "Let's get going."

"He wanted to get going because he loves what he's got, the notoriety and, sure, the money," Loew said. "He doesn't want it to stop. And it's going to take a hell of a man to take it from him."

Needless to say, the charge concurs.

"This is my biggest 'name' fight, but the Taylor fights were huge, too, and it doesn't change my approach at all. In fact, I work harder now than I did before," Pavlik said. "Being where I am now is huge to me and I want to keep winning, not just have one or two big fights and then go away.

"My real objective is to go down in history."

* * * * * * * * * *

This week's big-fight capsules:

Saturday Non-title fight (170 pounds) - Atlantic City, N.J. Kelly Pavlik vs. Bernard Hopkins Pavlik (34-0, 30 KO): WBC/WBO 160-pound champion; 26 years old Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KO): Three losses in last five fights; 43 years old FitzHitz says: Pavlik in 9

WBO featherweight title - Atlantic City, N.J. Steven Luevano (champion) vs. Billy Dib (No. 10 contender) Luevano (35-1-1, 15 KO): Fourth title defense; seven-fight unbeaten streak Dib (21-0, 11 KO): IBO 130-pound champion; fifth fight in U.S. FitzHitz says: Luevano by decision

Thursday Vacant IBF featherweight title - Airway Heights, Wash. Orlando Salido (No. 2 contender) vs. Cristobal Cruz (No. 3 contender) Salido (31-9-2, 20 KO): One no-contest, one loss in two world title fights Cruz (36-11-1, 23 KO): Former IBO champion; four losses in last eight fights FitzHitz says: Salido by decision

Last week's record: 5-0

Overall picks record: 30-8

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides 'In The Ring' commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to 'The Drive with Dave Smith' on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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

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