By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Cameron Dunkin was relieved Saturday when Kelly Pavlik agreed to let everyone else know what he had told his manager last month.
“I was happy when he said he would retire because I knew how hard it was to get him to train,” Dunkin said during a fight card Saturday night in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. “He wasn’t motivated anymore. He has some money and he wants to do something else. He wants to spend some time with his family.”
The 30-year-old Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs), a former middleweight champion from Youngstown, Ohio, was supposed to face undefeated WBA/WBC super middleweight champion Andre Ward on Jan. 26 in Los Angeles. That fight was postponed six weeks ago because Ward suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery.
HBO Sports executives wanted to reschedule the Ward-Pavlik fight, but Pavlik told Dunkin he wanted to end a 12-year pro career in which he made millions. Pavlik told espn.com in an interview Saturday that he didn’t have the desire to train and that he worried that he would jeopardize his long-term health if he kept boxing.
“He was putting money away and he was smart,” Dunkin said. “We talked about it his whole career with him, me and his father. He’s not rich by any means, but he’s got enough money where he wouldn’t have to do anything for 12-15 years and live on a couple hundred grand a year, which isn’t bad. That gives him time, because he’s so young. He’s only 30, but he’s got to do something. That’s why I want him to stay in boxing. He’s just a great guy to be around. He’s a great kid.”
Pavlik upset Jermain Taylor by seventh-round knockout in September 2007 to win the WBC and WBO middleweight championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The then-unbeaten Taylor dropped Pavlik in the second round of that bout, but Pavlik persevered and scored the most noteworthy win of his career.
“That night was really something because he wasn’t even really supposed to be there, much less win,” Dunkin said. “For him to get off the deck like that was special, because when the fight started we hadn’t seen Kelly in any trouble at all. And all of a sudden, he’s down. I’m sitting next to his father and I’m looking at him, and we’re shocked, like, ‘What the [heck] are we going to do now?’ And to get Kelly up like that and have him do what he did, it was amazing.”
He defeated Taylor by unanimous decision in their rematch in February 2008, but Pavlik suffered a lopsided loss to Bernard Hopkins, then 43, eight months later at Boardwalk Hall. Pavlik stopped Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Espino in his two fights in 2009, but sought treatment for alcohol-related issues before his next fight against Sergio Martinez.
Argentina’s Martinez out-pointed Pavlik in their April 2010 middleweight title fight. Pavlik sought more treatment later in 2010, but won four fights from May 2011-July 2012 to revitalize a career beset by fight cancelations, injuries and trips to rehab.
“The things that amazed me about Kelly were that he had no fear,” Dunkin said. “He always kept telling me to get the best guys out there. He wanted to prove himself. He just never backed down from anything. I was really proud of him for that.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.