By Lem Satterfield
In early January, former WBA and WBO middleweight champion, Kelly Pavlik, was released from a two-month stay at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where he was treated for issues with alcohol.
On Monday, the 28-year-old Pavlik (36-2, 32 knockouts) was back in the gym in his native Youngstown, Ohio, where he and trainer, Jack Loew, were gearing up for a 170-pound, May 7 clash with 28-year-old Alphonso Lopez (21-0, 16 KOs) of Cut And Shoot, Texas.
Pavlik-Lopez will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the under card of a main event featuring eight division titlist Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) in defense of his WBO welterweight crown against Shane Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs).
Pavlik earned the crown by dethroning Jermain Taylor by seventh-round knockout in Atlantic City in September of 2007, but lost it in April, this, following a unanimous decision setback at the hands of southpaw Sergio Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs).
Pavlik's only other loss was in a non-title, 170-pound bout against former undisputed middleweight king Bernard Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs).
Loew is hopeful that Pavlik could eventually face either 33-year-old WBC super middleweight king, Carl Froch (27-1, 20 KOs), of England, or even 31-year-old southpaw IBF belt-holder Lucian Bute (27-0, 22 KOs), Canada.
Pavlik has even mentioned a potential bout opposite WBA middleweight king Felix Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KOs) at a catch weight over the 160-pound middleweight limit.
BoxingScene.com caught up to Pavlik for this Q&A.
BoxingScene.com: Kelly, what do you want to say to your fans?
Kelly Pavlik: To the fans, you know, the ones who have been supportive and stuck by me, I have really, definitely appreciated the support. You know, that has meant a lot to me. Especially those in my home town. The loyal fans, it helps a lot. It really, really does.
You know, it gives me a whole lot more to look forward to. It gives me a lot of encourage to get back out there. And I'm ready to do what I do best, and that's fighting in the ring. I'm ready to get back out there and to make a statement and to put my fans and my home town back in the spotlight again.
The fans, the ones that have supported me, it's something to cherish and share about, actually.
BoxingScene.com: Do you mind answering how many days it has been since you have had a drink?
Kelly Pavlik: That's not a problem. I do know that the last day was Nov. 2. I left for rehab on Nov. 3.
BoxingScene.com: Do you consider yourself to be an alcoholic?
Kelly Pavlik: You know, if you go by the program rules, I am. But there are a lot of us who could be and don't know it. But I'll touch on it with you. A lot of people get hard-headed and don't want to say that they are. I'm not one to say that. To tell the truth, I don't think about it.
It's not really a big concern to me. When I was doing my 60 days, the last thing that was on my mind was drinking. I think the main thing is to do what they say to do, and that's to take it one day at a time.
I think that whatever I can find that keeps me occupied and keeps me away and keeps me from thinking about it, that's what I do. If I talk about it, then alcohol is going to be on my mind. But right now, I'm running around and keeping myself so busy that that's the last thing on my mind. I'm being careful, though, not to overload myself with stress and pushing myself to that point.
I have found my own little routine that keeps me occupied and keeps me comfortable and it works.
BoxingScene.com: What have you learned about yourself through all of this?
Kelly Pavlik: You know, I'm learning a lot of things. I've learned that I can be an a**hole at times. I think that the most important thing that I can learn and what I can take out of it is to be strong.
I'm very strong-willed. Even with the rehab thing, I could have easily said, 'No, I'm not going to do it.' But I didn't do that. I realize that some things have just got to be done.
And I've had to make the best of that situation. As far as fights, I don't let the losses in my career bring me down. I've learned a lot.
BoxingScene.com: What perspective do you have on your ring setbacks?
Kelly Pavlik: My perspective is good, especially seeing what Sergio Martinez is doing right now. The guy is a phenomenal fighter, obviously. But I think that if you look at the last two rounds of our fight, if I win the last two rounds of that fight, you know, I win the fight against Martinez and then his career isn't where it's at right now.
But, you know, at the same time if I had hit the right number in the lottery I would have hit that also. So, you can't live off of that either. You know, a loss is a loss. I take that as being strong-willed. I can take things and get past things and get through things. I have to move forward and keep doing that, and I can't let up.
You know, any time that you let up in any aspect of your life, that's when things can creep up and sneak up on you.
BoxingScene.com: How did it feel being back in the gym?
Kelly Pavlik: It felt like home. I felt really good. I felt energized. I had a lot of balance and a lot of snap on my punches and it felt good to do the extra things. Instead of just doing two rounds on the double-end bag, I did three rounds on it. I just had the giddy-up in me today. I felt good. I felt at home.
I think that it's going to be even better when we officially start sparring and getting into a lot more of that part of the workout routine. We'll start hitting the Iron Man warehouse and doing the agility drills and strength training classes and putting the whole, entire package together like we usually do.
BoxingScene.com: What did today's training consist of?
Kelly Pavlik: We've been running for a couple of weeks now, but today, we just did a mile and a half. But what we tried doing was cutting the time down on it. We didn't take a stroll for a mile and a half. A lot of it has to be done within a certain time limit. We tried to do it in a good spurt. So, like today, it was trying to get it done in 21 minutes.
At the gym we picked up everything, you know, a couple of more rounds. I sparred a couple of times and we'll pick that up. We don't go a full, eight weeks of sparring because, again, you don't want to take your toll on the body.
Right now, it's just getting back in and getting into a groove. Getting the movement back down. I think that the biggest is going to be the timing. Getting the timing down, the punches, the counter punching, things like that in the next couple of weeks.
BoxingScene.com: Did you actually spar today?
Kelly Pavlik: I didn't actually spar today. But I sparred last week a little bit with a guy who was in the gym. He was an amateur fighter who was about 175 or 180. You know he had good movement.He was a good boxer with a good amateur style.
When you've got a kid coming in and firing punches pretty much the whole entire round, we worked on that last week. This week, we worked on the bag and the hand pads. We were working on defense and mixing a lot of things up today.
BoxingScene.com: How much do you actually weigh?
Kelly Pavlik: Right now I'm in the mid 180s. We've actually been coming down in the last couple of weeks and keeping an eye on the weight. I was up as high as about 195, and that was pretty much all muscle. But we're getting away from the weights now. There's really no reason to be doing the weights right now.
I'm not going to be playing in a football game or tackling anybody. So we have the strength. That's there. So now, we're going to add in the natural strength, you know? Like with the pullups and the natural things like the excercises that build a lot of strength.
That way, we're not getting too much bulk and muscle, and we still have the snap and the looseness. We'll be doing a lot of jump stretches for speed and agility. So there will be a whole lot of things this time that we're going to be putting in and not do it like we usually do.
I don't think that we'll have to worry about the weight issue this time. In the past, the thing was what gym we're going to have to get to to make weight. This time, it's going to be a lot more time in the boxing gym and a little bit of those workouts throughout the day where we're not killing our body to make weight.
BoxingScene.com: Do you believe that you will fight ideally at super middleweight or light heavyweight?
Kelly Pavlik: There's a chance of fighting at light heavyweight, but right now, the game plan is 168. That's the main concern right now. Like I said, it's going to be hard making weight, but it's not going to be as much of a problem as it was in the past. It's not going to be anything like making 160.
It's just a matter of how much weight and how hard it is to make the weight, and making 168, I don't see it as being that much of a problem. I might have to cut weight and get into the sauna a little bit. But nothing like making 160. So I think that 168 is going to be our home, and I think that we're going to be pretty comfortable making that weight.
BoxingScene.com: What do you know about Alfonso Lopez?
Kelly Pavlik: We've finally got some film on him, and I'm going to go in and look at that pretty soon. I've got some clips from Youtube, and it looks like we're going to have to be on our toes.
Especially after a year layoff, he's going to be somebody that I can't take lightly. He's a big, strong kid, and I see a little bit of a boxer in him. He tries to move a little bit.
I know that they're saying that they want to move on me a little bit. I don't understand it. People want to bring up Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez and their movement. If that's what he wants to do, to go in there and to move, I hope so. That will be great. As far as his ability, you know, I didn't see too much.
I can't be a guy who says that he hasn't fought anybody, because that was the same thing that they said about me when I was in his boat coming up. Other guys, you know, the top prospects, when I got ready to fight them they said the same thing about me. They would say that I hadn't fought anybody and they weren't worried about me.
But I've been there and done that, so I can't look at it from that angle. But he's a strong fighter who is 21-0 with 16 or 17 knockouts. So, I mean he can obviously punch a little bit no matter who he's fighting. It will be a guy that we're taking very seriously.
BoxingScene.com: Lucien Bute? Carl Froch? What are the big fights that you're looking at next?
Kelly Pavlik: I would definitely say those, due to the fact that we're at super middleweight. You know, the Butes, the Froches. Fights like those are very intriguing and great fights. I would love to fight Carl Froch in a heartbeat. That guys been talking a lot of smack. I don't understand where he's on his high horse.
If you go back and do breakdowns of our fights, and people who know boxing would know this: Carl Froch got destroyed by Jermain Taylor for most of the 12 rounds. If Taylor could have taken a knee twice in the 12th round when he got knocked out, then he still would have won the fight. That's how far ahead on the scorecards he was.
Before that, he was just knocking the crap out of Froch. If you take my second fight with Taylor, which wasn't a knockout, I out-boxed him and won by decision. Granted, it was a close fight because Taylor's a very smart fighter and a naturally talented fighter, but where Taylor hits Froch for 12 rounds, I hit much harder than Taylor.
So if I hit this guy like Taylor did, I don't see it going the distance. So I don't see where this guy is coming from. I think that right there would be a very intriguing fight for me. Felix Sturm has said that he would be willing to come to a catch weight and fight me. I think that would be an interesting fight. That would be a fight that I would love to take.
That has been a fight that I have wanted right since right after I won the world title was one with Sturm.