By Michael Marley
If there's anything worse than underpaying a fighter, it is directly questioning a fighter's desire to get in the ring.
The way these sudden fight pullout things usually play out, I'm betting that former world middleweight champion Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik will contend that he put the kibosh on a Saturday night Showtime-televised tuneup bout in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio (against Darryl Cunningham), because he was not satisfied with either that purse or a promised $1.35 million guarantee to fight world super middleweight champion Lucian Bute.
Promoter Bob Arum freely admits that Pavlik, who gave no reason for canceling the Cunningham fight other than not wanting to do it, has been angry about a published report that claims former super middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler was going to get $3.5 million to fight Bute, the Romanian now based in Montreal.
For his part, Arum told me on Tuesday that, basically, if "Ghost" Pavlik doesn't want to fight, then his promoter cannot force him to.
Arum mentioned that he has not personally spoken to Pavlik and that all communication was between manager Cameron Dunkin, Pavlik's father Mike and TR president Todd duBoef. Arum said Pavlik started balking two days ago and then avoided further phone calls from Top Rank.
"That information about Kessler is wrong, it is false," Arum said. "I don't know why Pavlik does not want to fight and neither does his father or his manager. But I say this, if he doesn't want to fight, then why push him? This is a hard business, a tough business."
Arum said that Showtime was obviously not pleased and said the 1,000 or so fans who bought tickets would get complete refunds.
"If he wants to fight again, and I don't know if he does, then who would want to rely on him? This isn't the first time this kind of thing happened. The money thing, the thing about Kessler, is just an excuse for Kelly. He just said, 'I'm not going to fight.' No more, no less than that.
"I am more saddened by this than anything. People in his hometown, they're not behind Kelly any more. He was getting a 60-40 split against Bute and he was getting 82 percent of our share of the money. He was guaranteed $1.35 million," the 79 year old promoter said.
"I have to think there is something, something mentally amiss here. That purse mentioned for Kessler is just ludicrous."
Arum revealed that Pavlik was getting all the money for the ShoBox bout against Cunningham.
"We were paying 100 percent plus expenses and Kelly's guarantee was for $50,000."
The 29 year old Pavlik's only two losses on a 37-2, 32 KO record were to Bernard Hopkins and to Sergio Martinez.
He owns two solid victories over ex-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, who ironically has announced a ring comeback.
Maybe Pavlik will see old rival Taylor entering as he heads for the exit.