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Garcia Embraces Challenge of Resurrecting Pavlik’s Career

By Chris Robinson

In the first part of my latest interview with respected trainer Robert Garcia, we took a look back at his trip to Puerto Rico earlier this month, where he worked the corner of his younger brother and featherweight contender Mikey Garcia in his victory over Bernabe Concepcion while also was present for the madness of the Orlando Salido-Juan Manuel Lopez rematch.

Garcia is constantly jet-setting, and presently finds himself in San Antonio, Texas, where he will be leading his latest high-profile pupil, Kelly Pavlik, into battle on Saturday. Pavlik, a former middleweight champion, faces off with twice-beaten Aaron Jaco inside of Illusions Theater in a must-win contest in his first fight in nearly eleven months.
 
Pavlik was once one of the hottest names in the sport following his pair of victories over Jermain Taylor nearly five years ago but he truly has never seemed to rebound from a shocking upset to Bernard Hopkins in October of 2008. Last year alone was tumultuous enough for the Youngtown, Ohio native, as Pavlik endured more personal issues and saw a possible fight with IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute go up in smoke.
 
And while many have all but written Pavlik off at this point, Garcia seemed enthused by his later undertaking, and has spent countless hours connecting with Pavlik both in the ring while honing his skills and also outside of  the ropes as he has tried to get know who he truly is at his core.
 
Fighting on the same card as Pavlik tonight will be another one of Garcia’s new talents in Russian-born, undefeated featherweight Evgeny Gradovich, who meets up with Mexican spoiler Francisco Leal. Gradovich came to Garcia’s camp late last year and has been receiving valuable experience by sparring the likes of junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire, featherweight contender Mikey Garcia, and countless others in the Vegas and Southern California areas.
 
In the second part of my interview with Garcia, he spoke on what it has been like working with Pavlik, revealed why he still thinks ‘The Ghost’ is still a force, talked about relishing the challenge of reestablishing a fighter’s career, and discussed what it is like having Gradovich in his camp.
 
This is what Garcia had to share…
 
Getting to know Kelly Pavlik…

“Before he came in, I didn’t know him personally, I didn’t know who he was. I knew who he was but not how he is personally. When he first came in I talked to him. I asked him a lot of questions and I got all the answers I wanted to hear. But just knowing his career, the fight that he had, the problems that he’s had outside of the ring, was a challenge for me also. Not only to come back and bring him back to the boxing level that he was a few years ago, but to help him in his life. Change him around, give him advice, talk to him.”
 
Talking about more than just boxing…
“Not about boxing, but about life; bad things in life, good things in life, things that he can still enjoy with big victories, his family, his kids. I keep talking to him about what he could do if he becomes world champion again, what Top Rank would love to do with him, and all the fights that are possible. But those fights won’t happen if he doesn’t give it his 100%.”
 
Pavlik’s work ethic in camp…

“So far the two and a half months that he’s been here with me, he’s been doing everything I could say, perfectly. I don’t stay with him, I don’t live with him, but in the gym he’s responding to everything I ask for. Not one single day did he complain. Every day he did everything he was told, sparred when he was told, did everything, and the mornings with the conditioning coach, I never had any complaints from our conditioning coach. He always told me that every day he was doing better and better. And that tells you a lot. He’s back, but not just for this fight. He knows he’s got so many fights ahead of him that are going to be huge.”
 
Embracing the challenge…
“That’s something, when I take a fighter in, especially somebody like Kelly, when people think he has no chance and he shouldn’t even be boxing anymore, I bring him in because that’s a challenge for me. I want to show people to see the kind of work that I do. I don’t want to just get all those superstars who come to me and just win. They are supposed to win anyways. All superstars or fighters or world champions who could come to me, there’s supposed to win. They’re not going to make me look good because they’re winning. But I like to take those challenges with the one that people already doubt, and people already lose faith in. And those are the ones that make me look good. They prove that I am really doing a great job.” 

Reflecting back on his other accomplishments…
“I think I did that with Steven Luevano, who, very few people thought he would ever become a world champion. He became a world champion and defended his title five times. He lost in his sixth title defense. The same thing happened with Brian Viloria, who had lost his title, had lose a couple of title fights, and he didn’t look good at all. Nobody thought he would come back. He came back with me and I made him a world champion. He beat, at that moment, the best [junior flyweight] in the world, who was Solis.”

Taking it fight by fight…
“Those are the challenges that I like to take. Brandon Rios, who I brought him in when he was an amateur, and you’ve seen him at first when he was getting in trouble and he was looking bad in some fights; he had a draw, he had a hard time beating guys he should have knocked out in one round. Because of his problems in the streets, his in and out of jail. Meanwhile, what I’m doing with him and what I’m doing so far, that proves that I do a good job. Same thing with Kelly, all the things he’s gone through, and all these people not believing in him anymore; little by little, this fight might not show everything, but the following fights will be better, and he will be back. I see that in him. He’s already ready. For this fight, I have no doubt that he’s going to look great. The following fight he’s going to look better, and just go on.”

Evgeny Gradovich joining his camp…
“I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t even know how his manager got a hold of us here in Oxnard. I actually wasn’t here, I was gone for a while, and I was told about this kid. I said we’d hook him up and when I get back we would meet him. I hadn’t met his manager yet,  but he’s here and he’s training hard, and he’s a hard worker. He’s ready to go, he’s fighting this Saturday also. He’s a tough kid, tough fighter, and he’ll give great fights to the fans wherever he fights.”

Gradovich learning and love it…
“Just the fact that he can fight and the fact that he’s around the Brandon Rios’, the Kelly Pavliks, those warriors in the ring. He’s already in the team. He doesn’t have to speak Spanish, even though he’s learning a lot of it, he doesn’t have to. He barely speaks English also. But just the fact that his style is the style that goes to war and keeps coming and gets better as the rounds go by, that’s the style that we have in this gym and that’s the style that he sees when he sees Brandon Rios spar or when he sees Kelly Pavlik spar, that’s what he sees. Then he goes and spars Mikey and he gets a boxer that’s fighting on the outside and landing punches. That’s all a learning experience for him too. He’s here and loving it.”

Watching the aggressive Gradovich in sparring…
“Definitely, he’s a tough fighter that will give anybody good work. He gave Nonito Donaire great work for the Vazquez fight. He gave Mikey great work for the Concepcion fight. If I put him in with Brandon Rios, he’ll give Brandon Rios good work. That’s just the way he is and his style. He keeps getting better as the rounds go by.”
 
Building his new gym in Oxnard….
“It’s unbelievable. I already have the building. I still haven’t moved, because I don’t want to do it before Brandon’s fight [on April 14th]. I don’t want to interfere with anything. I am going to have two rings. I already built a ring there and I had an amateur show Sunday. I had an amateur show and I had 25 amateur fights, and over 500 people showed up to my show. It was unbelievable. Some people are saying it was the best amateur show they’ve been to. I had a club from Arizona that came to my gym, to my show. I had people from San Diego, from all over Sothern California, come to my show and it was a rainy day and I had over 500 people come to see my fights. It was unbelievable.”
 
Why it was essential to build a new facility…

“If it comes to my professionals, I could divide them and train them at different hours and the gym where I’m at now, would be big enough to accommodate all my fighters. Because I start at ten in the morning with one group, then at twelve with another, at two with another, and at four with another. And that accommodates all my fighters. I could easily do that. But besides all my pros, I got close to 200 members in my gym already. Kids that are doing amateurs, that are staying off the streets, so that’s why I need the big place. I need to have two rings. I have 28 heavy bags, but I need more than that. Every class, I have classes at night with kids and every class has over 50 kids. I do need a bigger place because I do need to get all my members in the gym to be comfortable and have their space. Right now, where I’m at, is too small for those 200 kids. It’s ok  for all my pros if I did them in different hours, but I definitely needed the big place.”

Related slideshows from Photojournalist Chris Robinson

Kelly Pavlik and Evgeny Gradovich in training - Exclusive photos of Kelly Pavlik and Evgeny Gradovich, who fight on Saturday night on Top Rank Live, training in Southern
California and Las Vegas alongside the likes of Robert Garcia, Nonito Donaire, Mikey Garcia, and others

Andre Dirrell at the Mayweather Boxing Club - Super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell shaking out at Floyd's gym plus bonus shots of Floyd's sparring partners and
other young talent in the building

Introducing Floyd Mayweather's sparring partners - Exclusive photos from Camp Mayweather as we take a look at Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s sparring partners, plus showcase other young talent in the gym. Including cameos by 50 Cent, Roger Mayweather, Andre Dirrell, Hasim Rahman, and others

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Neglect on 03-30-2012

I know the fight is on Aztecca America which I dont think I have. Does anyone know if top rank will stream it?

Comment by ßringer on 03-30-2012

Garcia seems like a really good guy to have in your corner. You can just tell he really has a passion for this sh*t and cares about his fighters. That's something a guy like Pavlik really needs right now, and…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (2)
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