By Keith Idec
Jermain Taylor hopes he’s not the only former middleweight champion who can make a successful comeback.
Kelly Pavlik halted Taylor’s middleweight championship reign by knocking him out four years ago, but the affable, respectful Taylor is pulling for Pavlik to turn his life around both inside and outside the ring. The 29-year-old Pavlik has twice spent time in alcohol rehabilitation facilities over the past two years, was arrested last week and charged with DUI in Canfield, Ohio, for allegedly driving an all-terrain vehicle while drunk and has pulled out of more fights (five) than he has participated in (three) over the past 2½ years.
Taylor has watched Pavlik’s collapse from afar, but Pavlik’s rival has first-hand knowledge of how difficult it can become to handle both success and failure when a high-profile fighter lives in the spotlight.
“You know, I feel bad for Kelly Pavlik,” said Taylor, who’ll face Jessie Nicklow later tonight in his first fight in more than two years. “It takes a strong mind [to overcome adversity]. I’ll be praying for him, and I wish him the best. It’s hard out here. I just wish him the best.”
Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KOs) and Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs) will be forever linked for their thrilling middleweight title fight in September 2007 in Atlantic City. Pavlik survived a second-round knockdown during that memorable brawl at Boardwalk Hall and knocked out the then-undefeated Taylor in the seventh round to win the WBC and WBO middleweight titles.
Pavlik also beat Taylor by unanimous decision in their 12-round rematch 4½ months later in Las Vegas. That fight was contested at a catch weight of 164 pounds.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.