Story by Antonio Castro
The last time he entered the ring, Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik was a heavy favorite. He was undefeated. He was powerful. He was full of confidence. His opponent that night, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, had twice lost to Jermain Taylor, whom Pavlik had defeated twice himself. Thousands of the Youngstown faithful traveled to Atlantic City and watched in horror as “The Ghost” was “Executed.”
Despite that setback, Kelly Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs) remains the middleweight champion of the world. Having fought Hopkins in the light heavyweight division allowed Pavlik to keep his championship. Despite that setback, thousands of Pavlik’s fans will still be cheering him on. They won’t have to travel very far at all, right up the street in downtown Youngstown at the Chevrolet Centre to be exact. Despite that setback, Pavlik remains a heavy favorite. His opponent on Saturday night is a tough Mexican contender named Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 38 KOs). For those not able to attend in person, the fight will be shown on a pay-per-view basis.
Pavlik will be defending his championship for the second time, his first since knocking out middleweight pretender Gary Locket last June in three rounds. Rubio is a much sturdier opponent. Having won nine straight, including an impressive 12 round split decision over Enrique Ornelas on the Pavlik/Hopkins undercard, Rubio is a legit top 10 contender.
Styles make fights in boxing. Where Hopkins style may have been wrong for Pavlik, Rubio’s straight forward aggression should be taylor made for what he wants to accomplish.
“Rubio is going to be right in front of us. We’re not going to have to go looking for him,” stated Jack Loew, Pavliks trainer. “I think that’s a perfect fight that they’ve picked for us. I think that anybody that is willing to stand in front of someone like Kelly that can punch like he can, it definitely plays into our hands. I think it’s a perfect opponent they’ve put in front of us.”
Don’t think that Pavlik, who will have the power advantage, will try and stand toe-to-toe with Rubio and trade bombs. He showed during the second Jermain Taylor fight, that he has underrated boxing skills.
“I would definitely use my talent and ability and my boxing skills. We’re going to use angles and Rubio seems to have trouble with that and we’ll use our hand speed,” Pavlik said while explaining his game plan.
The Youngstown faithful will also be aplenty, cheering on their favorite son. Over 5,000 tickets were sold in under 20 minutes the day they went on sale. Pavlik knows the importance of having a hometown advantage.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s good for the city of Youngstown. I’m excited for the opportunity. They (fans) don’t have to travel to see me fight. I think it’s just a nice little payback and they can come watch the fight and then get a night’s sleep in their own bed,” Pavlik stated.
Assuming all goes well for Pavlik on Saturday night, there remain formidable opponents in the middleweight picture.
“There are a lot of names. You’ve got (Arthur) Abraham, you’ve got (Felix) Sturm. You’ve got guys that are still in contention there with (John) Duddy. You’ve got Anthony Mundine. There’s a bunch of names being thrown out there. You can definitely stay busy,” Pavlik said.
First though, Pavlik must get by Rubio. After that, adding more belts to defend will suit Pavlik and his fans just fine.