By Mark Staniforth
After battling serious illness and alcoholism, boxing ought to be the easy part for Kelly Pavlik, who returns to the ring for the first time in over a year when he makes his debut at super-middleweight next month.
The all-action hero of Youngstown, Ohio, who held the undisputed middleweight crown from September 2007 up to his loss to Martinez, completed his fall from grace when he checked into the Betty Ford Clinic late last year.
It remains to be seen whether Pavlik, by his own admission a party animal, has truly beaten his demons. During a conference call this week, he neglected to mention the 'A' word once. He implies his affliction was not so serious.
Having spent much of 2010 also recovering from a severe reaction to antibiotics used to treat an infection, Pavlik is in no mood to hang around. He returns on the Pacquiao-Mosley undercard on May 7 against unbeaten Texas puncher Alfonso Lopez.
"I think I treated it (my alcoholism) at an early stage," said Pavlik. " It didn't get to the point where I couldn't function without alcohol. It just got to the point where I got in the party mode and it kept escalating.
"I do everything the same. The only difference is I don't drink. I don't believe in changing a lifestyle or doing stuff to keep yourself even more unhappy - that leads to even worse problems.
"If I can't drink any more it's not going to make me unhappy. I'm not going to be a miserable person because I can't drink. I just got caught up in a lifestyle of going out and partying and I needed a kick in the ass before it got too late."
Pavlik blazed onto the world scene in September 2007 when his stoppage win over Taylor transformed him instantly from an all-action club fighter into an all-American hero, and some said the saviour of an ailing sport.
Pavlik lived the dream, soaking up the the acclaim and cementing his status as the undisputed middleweight champion and one of the most marketable fighters in the business when he beat Taylor in a less explosive rematch.
In October 2008 Pavlik lost for the first time as a professional in a questionable non-title contest with Bernard Hopkins: Hopkins was always likely to tie the young Pavlik in knots, and the defeat tarnished his status as a dynamic champion.
Two more low-key title defences led him up to a projected big-money showdown with Paul Williams - cancelled due to his illness - before he was beaten by Martinez, who has since done everything to underline his status as a worthy successor.
Pavlik's move up to the 12-stone division raises some interesting possibilities, with the 'Super Six' lumbering towards an underwhelming conclusion and division number one Lucien Bute offering the prospect of a huge fight in Bute's native Canada.
First, however, Pavlik must get past Lopez in what looks on paper to be a surprisingly dangerous comeback assignment: Lopez has stopped 16 of his 21 professional victims, albeit almost entirely journeymen.
"This is a very important fight for me to cement my name back out there again," added Pavlik. "That's why I'm taking this fight so seriously. I think this is one of the most important fights of my career."
Perhaps, ultimately, the success or otherwise of Pavlik's boxing comeback will be determined by the extent to which he truly acknowledges the extent of the fight he faces outside the ring.Tags: Kelly Pavlik , Alfonso Lopez , Pavlik-Lopez , Pavlik vs Lopez