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COLUMN: Pavlik has become a casualty of the city

A Mahoning Valley tradition is sadly in full effect

December 22, 2011
B.J. LISKO - Salem News Sports Editor ( , Salem News

There's a great pastime in the Mahoning Valley. A friend of mine said "taking pleasure in watching people and ideas fail is sadly a Youngstown tradition."

Recapping the rise and subsequent fall of Kelly Pavlik isn't necessary here.

When Pavlik said if he picked his nose it was front page news, he wasn't kidding. The fallout from his drunken ATV escapade is now unfortunately the story of the holidays in the Mahoning Valley.

There's been a myriad of things at work much deeper than what we've seen on the surface when it comes to Pavlik and the drama surrounding him.

That he has needed a proper agent or press relations manager has been entirely obvious to anyone who had access to the Pavlik camp but was still on the outside looking in.

This is what happens when you become a Youngstown celebrity and try to stay in Youngstown but don't have anyone to turn to for decent advice of any kind. Pavlik never knew what to say or how to handle things. He only knew what to do in the ring. No one told him what he had to do out of it.

Pavlik was long surrounded by yes-men and people who claimed to be his friend. People he thought he could trust but were only along for the ride. People that wanted to drink with the champ but also criticized him for being an alcoholic.

I don't know how much ex-trainer Jack Loew had to do with his big successes. I truly don't. But obviously being there for two decades, he was a major factor in it, but he wasn't so helpful on the public perception side of things. To those who are familiar, Loew doesn't pull any punches when he speaks and that's putting it lightly. He certainly wasn't the calming voice Pavlik needed with the seemingly unending mounting tension.

I do know that after Pavlik captured the title neither Kelly nor Loew had any clue how to handle the new-found fame.

So every bad rumor led to another. Pavlik didn't exactly endear himself whenever approached about the subject, so with each report, with each online rant or anonymous message board post, things got worse and worse in both the public's eye and in the Pavlik camp.

There was no one to tell Pavlik what was going to happen when get got famous, and certainly no one to tell Pavlik how to handle it.

Grated, there's a level of self-accountability here that I'm sure Pavlik himself would admit to.

Whether or not he'll admit to having a drinking problem remains to be seen, but honestly, does it even matter?

Even if he cleans up his act and makes some semblance of a comeback, the damage has already been done. He'll never be what he was in the eyes of the Mahoning Valley again.

Pavlik once said something to the effect that because Youngstown is a struggling city trying to get back on its feet, the people in the Mahoning Valley don't have much to hold onto. So when someone like himself breaks through, they latch on and the public scrutiny becomes a constant distraction.

Take that, then throw in unfounded rumors about his family and personal life, add alcohol to the mix and you're asking for big trouble.

I'm not going to profess to know what Pavlik should do or say at this point. I simply feel bad for the guy.

Every time I see an ignorant post online or have to hear some uneducated rant, I get annoyed. So I can only imagine what the last few years have been like for Pavlik having stayed in the thick of it.

You can't truly know what a person is going through unless you take a walk in their shoes. That's a point Pavlik has tried to get across for a while and failed to do.

For now, though, as much as it pains me to say it, with yet another public blow confirming what many people already thought was the case, I don't know if he can recover.

For his sake, I hope he can. If only for himself and his family.

Kelly Pavlik, in the public sense, has become another casualty of the city.

I hope for his sake he doesn't let the rumors, the media blitz and the backlash of the Mahoning Valley take him down any further than it already has.

E-mail B.J. Lisko at



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