Four years after he stood astride the boxing world, Kelly Pavlik craves a return to the big-time, but is still assailed by the demons which ensured his fall from grace was one of the most dramatic in the business.
The blue-collar kid from Youngstown, Ohio became an overnight superstar when he dethroned then undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor by seventh round stoppage in Atlantic City in September 2007.
Pavlik's irresistible style, punching power and down-to-earth demeanour made him fans worldwide, and swept him through a rematch with Taylor and a quick win over Gary Lockett before falling by decision to Bernard Hopkins one year later.
It seemed Pavlik had the legs to stick around for more super-fights, but after losing his titles to Sergio Martinez in April 2010, Pavlik's hectic lifestyle away from the ring began to take its toll.
Two consecutive late pull-outs - the first from a prospective title bout with Lucien Bute, and the second against Darryl Cunningham with hours to spare - enraged TV executives and appeared to kill his career stone dead.
Worse, Pavlik twice checked himself into alcohol rehabilitation centres and took a year off to sort out his life. Three low-key wins later, and he believes he deserves another shot, but may be still in denial.
Pavlik will fight Will Rosinsky at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California on Saturday night, just a month after his last outing, a dominant seventh round stoppage of routine opponent Scott Sigmon in Las Vegas.
Inevitably, questions for Pavlik switch to his addiction. Worryingly, he refused to take the opportunity to answer a straight-up question during a recent media conference call which would have banished the rumours for good.
"Are you sober?" Pavlik was asked, to which he replied: "Right now I am in training. It is a three-year-old question. I will talk about my fight coming up and the opponent I am fighting.
"I do what keeps me happy and that's what matters. Whatever keeps me happy in my personal life is the thing and that is the motto I'm always going to follow. And I am happy right now."
Certainly, unlike the now-retired Taylor, Pavlik has not shown any ill-effects from his career or his helter-skelter lifestyle during his three comeback fights, which may well soon propel him back to world class.
Pavlik has taken himself out of the claustrophobic environment of his home town and started training in Oxnard, California. It is a move he believes will make all the difference for his recovery process.
"I didn't think I was going to get the opportunity again if I stayed where I was, but it is a golden opportunity right now," said Pavlik. "It is very important for me to win a world title and it is my goal right now.
"I am ready for the big fight now. I have been a pro for 12 years. I have been in the ring with Taylor twice and Hopkins and (Edison) Miranda and Martinez. After this fight it has to be the big fights."
Pavlik must first make sure he wins back the support of his TV paymasters by turning up and doing a job on the little-known Rosinsky. Currently, Home Box Office are the channel willing to take the risk.
Now a super-middleweight, Pavlik itches to see his name back up in lights in some of the biggest 12-stone bouts. It is only to be hoped his desire to re-emerge in the ring is stronger than the one which impels him to reach for the bottle.
"Andre Ward impresses me the most," added Pavlik. "I would love to fight him because he is the man. (Carl) Froch and Bute I would also love to fight. There are lots of opportunities and whatever comes up I am game for."Tags: Kelly Pavlik , Will Rosinsky , Pavlik vs Rosinsky , Pavlik-Rosinsky