By Lyle Fitzsimmons

Kelly Pavlik makes it perfectly clear.

Though his career doesn’t always get plaudits and non-boxing issues tend to obscure a championship resume, he’s got zero problems sleeping at night five years after throwing his last punch.

“I had a stellar career,” Pavlik said.

“I was 40-2. I lost to two all-time greats. People say ‘Kelly’s demons and stuff ruined his career.’ No. When other fighters lose to so-so fighters it’s because they just got beat or they didn’t have a chin or something like that. I lose to two all-time Hall of Famers and two very good guys and people say ‘If he didn’t do this and he didn’t do that he would’ve still been something.’”

But while it might be difficult to rewrite revisionist history, the Youngstown, Ohio native – still just 35 years old after a half-decade away – is finding that post-ring success is the best revenge.

An 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son keep the former middleweight king plenty busy these days, alongside a burgeoning interest in powerlifting, a fledgling career as a boxing podcaster and the requisite time spent overseeing a financial portfolio that’s making sure the bills get paid.

“I tell people all the time it’s just amazing that somebody with so many problems hasn’t had to throw a punch in five years, and hasn’t had to punch a time clock,” he said. “I take vacations. I go anywhere I want. So somewhere along the line something right was being done.”

Pavlik’s career ended with a one-sided decision over Will Rosinsky on the undercard of a Nonito Donaire title bout on July 7, 2012. It was the last of a four-win streak that followed a 160-pound reign which had ended two years earlier after a narrow loss to Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City.


The Rosinsky win was just three months after Pavlik’s 30th birthday, but it wound up as the finale thanks to a series of high-profile matches falling through and a gradual ebbing of the ex-champ’s will to continue a nondescript grind while sacrificing time with a young family.

“Toward the end, there were no real big fights out there,” he said.

“The Super Six was still kind of tied up and I was just moving into the super middleweight division. I was just sitting there waiting to see what was happening. I kind of lost a little bit of the heart for it, especially when the Andre Ward fight fell through and he got hurt.

“I lost only two fights to all-time great fighters and -- nothing against the guys, I love them to death – but then I’m fighting Aaron Jaco, Scott Sigmon and Rosinsky in my last three fights. There was nothing really big out there and I just didn’t want to leave home to go train for months and months and months for meaningless fights.”

Pavlik trekked down south last weekend to do commentary on promoter Terri Moss’ inaugural show in Atlanta, and said the fight that fans most often want to chat with him about is the dramatic title-winning stoppage of Jermain Taylor in September 2007.

Taylor blasted Pavlik to the canvas in the second round and appeared seconds away from an intervention by referee Steve Smoger, but the challenger got through the round and eventually turned the tables on the WBC/WBO champ in the seventh – while trailing on all three scorecards.

“Boxing groups and certain sports writers have that as a top-10 fight of the decade between 2000 and 2010, and as I got older sometimes I’d watch it and I’d be like, ‘You know what, maybe that was,’” he said. “(A local news station) asked about the Taylor fight, and was there anything you would have changed. I said absolutely nothing. Of course, I didn’t like getting dropped in the second round, but that fight wouldn’t be what it was without that having happened.”

Pavlik followed the win with a unanimous decision in a catch-weight rematch five months later, then squeezed in three successful title defenses – stoppages of Gary Lockett, Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Espino – around a disheartening loss to Bernard Hopkins, then 43, in a 170-pound bout.

The move up to face Hopkins, Pavlik said, came after an injury cost him a chance to face rising welterweight Paul Williams, who wound up as Martinez’s initial challenger in 2010. A persistent perception, however, was that Pavlik had somehow sidestepped the volume-punching Georgian.

“I lost out with the Paul Williams fight, which somehow turned to me ducking Paul Williams,” he said. “So I ducked fighting a welterweight guy who wasn’t a very powerful puncher and jumping up two weight classes, and when I fought Hopkins I jumped up two weight classes to fight him. I was so afraid and ducked a 147-pounder to go fight a light heavyweight. That’s right there what bothers me about some of the boxing people and their mentality.”

The frustration, though, doesn’t last too long.

And whenever the urge for a comeback arrives, perspective plays a role.

“When you turn pro, your main goal is you want to make money, you want to be financially set and you want to be champion,” Pavlik said. “I accomplished those. With two young kids, how selfish would that be for me, when there weren’t any big things going on, to take the time away – and if I got seriously hurt, lost my vision – how would my kids feel when they got older? Like ‘Dad, why did you keep fighting?’ It would be selfish on my part to keep going and doing it. When’s enough enough?

“I retired at 40-2, with only two losses to Hall of Famers. People are going to have no choice – when they’re sitting at a boxing banquet or maybe someday at the Boxing Hall of Fame and they’re mentioning people’s records, and they’re shouting out 48-7 and 29-5 – and with numbers like that they scream out 40-2 with 34 KOs. I’d rather sit pretty with that.”

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This week’s title-fight schedule:


WBA cruiserweight title – Ekaterinburg, Russia

Denis Lebedev (champion/No.7 IWBR) vs. Mark Flanagan (No. 6 contender/No. 39 IWBR)

Lebedev (29-2, 22 KO): Fifth title defense; Lost IBF title belt in most recent fight (December 2016)

Flanagan (22-4, 15 KO): First title fight; Five straight wins by KO/TKO (12 total rounds)

Fitzbitz says: It’s been a good week for unheralded Australians in against established world champions, but Lebedev isn’t venturing into Flanagan’s backyard, so he should be OK. Lebedev in 8

Last week's picks: 2-1 (WIN: Easter, Ancajas; LOSS: Pacquiao)

2017 picks record: 46-17 (73.3 percent)

Overall picks record: 868-291 (74.9 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz