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Pavlik fight was messy before it even started

Arum’s last-minute attempt fell way short

December 20, 2009
By B.J. LISKO, Salem News Sports Editor

I get that Kelly Pavlik needed a quick fight because of his lay-off. Had he not beat Miguel Espino into a pulp Saturday night he would've had to vacate his belts for not defending them. But the entire night was a hodge-podge production from the first undercard to the final bell. Actually it started even earlier than the opening of the gates when Top Rank's Bob Arum announced the fight would be blacked out to local bars Friday night, sending fans into a frenzy to find a place willing to risk showing the fight regardless of the decree.

Obviously there were a ton of people who wanted to see Pavlik without paying for it, this being the week of Christmas and all. Not to mention the $250 ringside seats for what was at best a second-rate bill, headlined by a third-rate match-up between an obviously rusty Pavlik and a challenger who had no business being in the ring with 'The Ghost' four years ago let alone last night.

They even managed to screw up the only decent fight on the card, Jake Giuriceo vs. Henri White, with a clear robbing of the Struthers native thanks to a pro-Cleveland judge who helped the bout end it a majority decision when Giuriceo, though not totally dominant (he's a stamina fighter, not a power puncher), had still clearly won. Giuriceo was angry, his trainer Keith Burnside called it "B.S." and just about everyone in attendance was in agreement.

Things got even more ridiculous with a giant layover between the final undercard bout and the main event due to Arum trying to sweeten the pay-per-view with a fight in Mexico. Pavlik didn't take the ring until midnight, adding insult to an already shoddy production. Thankfully for those in attendance he made short work of Espino, and the fight was done before 12:30 a.m.

It was just plain bad. The fighting, the delivery, everything.

I'm not pro or anti-Pavlik. I don't know first hand about a lot of the things people accuse him of. Yes, I've seen him at bars. Yes, I've seen him drinking. But, I can't ever truly say he was drunk in public, and I never saw him frequenting a bar anytime close to when he had to fight. Even if he was tipsy at a bar, it's not illegal. He's a grown man. He can do whatever he wants, and he's got a caravan of people to take him wherever he wants to go. Just because Youngstown put him on a pedestal doesn't mean he's got to carry the weight of the entire city. He took the punches, he did the training, he has the bruises. What he does outside the ring is his business. I understand that a city like Youngstown, having gone through so many terrible things economically is always looking for an escape in any avenue it can. But as far as this writer is concerned he doesn't owe anyone in the city of Youngstown anything.

Regardless of all of that, however, if he's still trying to get in the city's good graces like he was when he first won the titles, Saturday night didn't help him. Sure, he won and he gets to keep his belts. But the doubters will remain until he faces more stiff competition somewhere other than his hometown. Hopefully that happens within a few months into 2010, and hopefully the production isn't put together so last minute so the fans, both at the event and at home, get their money's worth.

E-mail B.J. Lisko at



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