By Keith Idec
Kelly Pavlik’s promoter suspects the embattled former middleweight champion’s abrupt withdrawal from a tune-up fight against Darryl Cunningham had more to do with desire than money.
“The way I read it is that he doesn’t want to fight anymore,” Top Rank founder Bob Arum said Tuesday. “And it’d be wrong to really force him to fight.”
Arum hasn’t spoken to Pavlik since Pavlik informed manager Cameron Dunkin that he wouldn’t face Cunningham for $50,000 on Saturday night in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. Pavlik also told WFMJ-TV, a Youngstown television station, that he won’t fight Lucian Bute, either, because he’s “not going to fight a southpaw for peanuts.”
Arum said Top Rank offered Pavlik a $1.35 million guarantee to challenge the unbeaten Bute for the IBF super middleweight title. That fight was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 5 at Bell Centre in Montreal, the Romanian-born Bute’s adopted hometown.
Pavlik reportedly is bothered because he thinks Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler was offered $3 million for battling Bute, before Kessler declined and Bute’s handlers turned their attention to Pavlik.
“This whole thing with Mikkel Kessler, that was like fantasy,” Arum said. “That was an excuse, [saying] that Kessler, if he fought Bute, would get $3 million. That’s silly. Was it written anyplace? Probably, with one of these Web sites. But Showtime was paying $2 million for the fight, plus the gate, and the other guy [Bute] has got to get paid. So $1.35 million was a good guarantee and he could’ve made more.”
Arum added that Top Rank struck a 60-40 deal with Quebec-based Interbox, which promotes Bute, and that Pavlik was to receive 82 percent of Top Rank’s 40-percent split.
“I don’t know what more you can do,” Arum said. “So it seems to me, coming the way it did, the week of the fight, it seems to me that he has second thoughts about fighting.
“From what I understand, he really wasn’t giving it his all in sparring. A lot of these people in Youngstown, they’re well-meaning, like Jack Loew [Pavlik’s trainer]. They do what they can to cover up and the hope is that it’ll all come right [by fight night]. But it just isn’t the case.”
Pavlik, 29, has fought just once since losing the WBC and WBO middleweight titles to Sergio Martinez 15 months ago in Atlantic City. Pavlik pulled out of a super middleweight fight scheduled for Nov. 13 on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard to enter a Southern California rehabilitation center for alcohol abuse.
After two months of treatment, Pavlik returned to training and boxed Alfonso Lopez on the Pacquiao-Shane Mosley undercard May 7 in Las Vegas. He wasn’t impressive against Lopez (21-1, 16 KOs), whom Pavlik defeated by majority decision in a 10-round super middleweight fight.
That subpar performance prompted Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs) to take a tune-up fight against Cunningham (23-2, 10 KOs), a left-hander fighter from Detroit, before boxing Bute (29-0, 24 KOs), a much more talented southpaw.
Pavlik remains under contract with Top Rank, which his promoted him throughout his career. But Arum isn’t sure if Pavlik will fight again.
“He might have a change of heart,” Arum said. “I really don’t think that anybody should force him or encourage him. It’s up to him. Unless he truly, truly wants to come back and fight, without having other people trying to push him, the same thing is going to happen again.”
Arum is much more concerned with Pavlik’s comeback outside the ring.
“I’m not trained in this, but from what I hear he’s not talking to his father,” Arum said, referring to Mike Pavlik. “I’m really troubled by this. It’s got nothing to do with him fighting or not fighting. I’m past that. I’m really troubled by what’s happening with him as a person. … Basically, he’s a nice kid. How this thing happened, I can’t figure it out. You need a trained psychiatrist to figure this out.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.