by Lem Satterfield
Photo © Ed Mulholland/FightWireImages.com
That's how long Emanuel Steward believes it's going to take for ringsiders to watch Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik discover a new definition for his nickname.
For that's how long the Hall of Fame boxing trainer believes it will take his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization Middleweight champion, Jermain Taylor, to make the challenger disappear when they meet for Taylor's titles on Sept. 29 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
Reached on his cellular phone in the Poconos, N.J., on Wednesday night, where he had just completed another long day training Taylor (27-0-1, 17 KOs), Steward said Pavlik (31-0, 28 KOs) "is pretty much a media creation, the way I see it."
Steward believes that the Youngstown, Ohio, resident was elevated to an undeserved level of prominance after winning via seventh-round KO what Steward views as little more than a battle of Rock-em, Sock-em Robots against Edison Miranda on May 19 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.
"I've watched tapes of him. I'm supposed to say that he's a great fighter. But he's not. I don't see him doing nothing," said Taylor, whose nickname is "Bad Intentions."
"The only think I see good that he does is that he's a strong fighter. Other than that, nothing," Taylor said. "He's a normal fighter.I'm just telling you what I see. I'm glad the hype is there, but I just don't see it. I don't see him even on my level."
Pavlik-Miranda took place on the undercard of Taylor's successful but very ugly 12-round, split-decision over Cory Spinks, Taylor's fourth defense of the crown he won from former undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins.
Miranda's claim to fame was stopping former world champ Howard Eastman of England 14 months before facing Pavlik, who emerged as the No. 1 contender. But Miranda also entered the ring that night after having been two fights removed from a lopsided loss (109-114, 109-115, 109-116) to unbeaten Arthur Abraham, who, now at 24-0 with 19 KOs, might also be considered worthy of challenging Taylor.
"Kelly Pavlik had a great performance against Edison Miranda in his last fight, but Miranda really never was much of anything. But they [media] made it out like Miranda was some kind of a God," said Steward, who has spent the past seven weeks watching Taylor do everything from "running in the mountains," to, "sparring with International Boxing Federation champion Kermit Cintron (28-1, 26 KOs).
"Jermain boxed about three days with Cintron. And with Jermain and Cintron, man, it was like watching Sugar Ray Leonard against Thomas Hearns. I mean, they were on an entirely different level," Steward said of Taylor, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas.
"It's the first time he's not been training in a city, like Miami, Detroit, Memphis. And Jermain's looking beautiful, man, I mean beautiful," Steward continued. "They're trying to make Pavlik bigger than Jermain. But there is absolutely no way Kelly Pavlik is operating on the same level that Jermain is on right now, mentally, or physically. This fight ain't going to go but about three rounds."
Steward said he finds it ironic that, in his mind, Pavlik seems to have "gained a huge amount of credit for winning one fight," not even against a former world champion. Meanwhile, Steward's man, Taylor, "has lost credit" in the eyes of some boxing experts despite the fact that seven of Taylor's last eight fights have been against men who were either world champions at the time of they faced Taylor, or, who, at some point, were once world champs.
The lone man who was not a champion during Taylor's last eight bouts was Daniel Edouard, a contender who brought a 16-0 record with nine KOs into the ring in February, 2005, before being stopped by Taylor in 2:26 of Round 3.
"Jermain fought 24 rounds with Bernard Hopkins, who hadn't lost in 12 years. Then he went 12 rounds with Winky Wright, who is one of the best defensive fighters of his generation," said Steward, referring to the two men he said destroyed Puerto Rican legend Felix Trinidad in the ring.
"Then, you put Jermain in against Kassim Ouma, another tough, left-hander like Winky Wright. He wins against a hard guy and a tough guy who had lost his [IBF] title [to Russia's Roman Karmazin] when [Ouma] had a cold," Steward continued. "Now, it's Cory Spinks, the third southpaw in a row that Jermain is facing. Jermain has faced a lot difficult more fighters than Kelly Pavlik -- fighters that Kelly Pavlik couldn't beat."
Steward "is licking his chops to be fighting, a normal, orthdox, right-handed fighter," said ESPN's Dan Rafael, who has "spoken to Manny many times about the Pavlik fight."
"I think in some ways, they find that fighting Pavlik will be easier because he's a normal fighter as opposed to the other guys who did a lot of wierd things that Jermain wasn't used to seeing," said
Rafael, referring to Taylor's past four opponents, Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks.
"On the other hand, the 36 rounds against Hopkins and Winky Wright probably did affect Jermain's confidence because he couldn't easily deal with their styles," Rafael said. "You have to remember that, prior to the Hopkins fight, Jermain dominated [former world champs] William Joppy and Raul Marquez [KO 9]. Jermain had dominated every fight and hadn't lost a round before facing Bernard."
Against Hopkins, "now [Hopkins] is throwing elbows, charging with his head, knows every trick in the book, knows how to frustrate you," said Rafael. "Then, he fights three straight southpaws in Wright, Ouma and Spinks. Now, he's fighting a straight-ahead guy who is a right-hander. They've been up in the Poconos living, eating, sleeping and talking boxing, 24-7."
"With all those southpaws, in succession, Jermain was in a no-win situation because, against a good southpaw, especially one who runs like Spinks, you can pretty much throw the jab out the window," Steward said. "But now, we're fighting a right-hander, and, for that kind of fight, yes, Jermain's jab is going to be a great weapon. It's a hard jab. A beautiful jab. And now, everything that I've wanted to teach him how to do off the jab, we can do it."
But there are some who would take Emanuel Steward to task. There are some who believe Taylor's poor performances are more the result of a bad pairing of trainer and fighter than of the styles of Taylor's opponents.
"I think it was a mistake for Jermain Taylor to leave [longtime trainer Pat Burns]," said noted boxing historian Thomas Hauser. "Look at Jermain's performances before and after.
"Steward, who replaced Burns, following the two fights with Hopkins, clearly had a hard time reaching Taylor during his most recent bout against Spinks. At one point during the fight, Steward is heard screaming at Taylor, "That's why I didn't want to fight this guy in the first place."
"Part of that is their learning curve, getting to know each other as fighter and trainer, and part of it is the opponents they've faced. But if Emanuel is going to get the glory, he's going to have to take some blame also," Rafael said.
"Based on the results, you have to look at [Burns removal] as not necessarily a bad move, but a little disappointing. To some people who are watching, whether it's the media, HBO, boxing fans --nobody can call it a great pairing."
Taylor said he switched trainers on the advice of Ozell Nelson, and that, "What Ozell says is done. I trust his judgment. He said it was time to move, so it was time to move," Taylor said.
In his fight with Spinks, Taylor said, "I tried my best to do what [Steward] told me to do. It was in my mind to do it, even though it might not have looked like it. But it was always in my mind to do it."
"I think Manny's a great trainer, and I trust him. I'm not going to say that the criticism doesn't bother me. It does bother me," Taylor said. "But I'm happy that people think this is going to be a close fight. I'm going to whup him easily. I'm looking forward to the fight and the chance to look good for a change."
Pavlik, for his part, has chosen not to maintain his training camp on the road but at home, where his techniques, under longtime trainer, Jack Lowe, are uncharacteristic of most fighters, to say the least. They range from weightlifting, to swimming, to hitting truck tires with a sledge hammer to something involving "firehoses," and, "chains," Pavlik says in an audio interview on his website.
"These methods come from NFL players, defensive backs, ultimate fighting. It's more for explosiveness and speed and cardio. Muscle endurance," Pavlik said. "Everything is going as planned. I feel very confident. We've been training like crazy."
Pavlik said his sparring partners "have the same style and really, really good hand-speed. Actually, a lot faster than Jermain." Pavlik believes that if Taylor chooses to stand in front of him and fight, the champion won't be there for very long.
"I think [Taylor's] going to try to brawl a little bit, but once I land a punch anywhere on his body, he's going to go back to running and try to survive," said Pavlik. "We'll see how he adapts against somebody who throws so many punches --70, 80 around, if not more -- with power on each shot."
"We're going to use our head movement, our hand speed, our different angles, which will be different for this fight," Pavlik said. "We'll eliminate his jab by throwing a lot of punches. They're going to think that I'm just a slow, white kid, but I've got a few surprises for him. He's got a lot of flaws in his game."
Pavlik has a puncher's chance. And even then, it's a stretch. To say more than that, you would have to go all the way back to 2002 to find comparable credibility in Pavlik's record.
That's the year that Pavlik stopped future Contender Series champ, Grady Brewer, in the second round of his ninth fight with as many KOs in June of 2001. A little more than a year later, in June of 2002, Taylor decisioned Brewer over eight rounds to improve to 10-0 with seven KOs.
Former contender Ross Thompson (26-9-2) was beaten by Pavlik beat on Nov. 27, 2004. But Thompson was less than a year removed from a first-round KO loss to a guy named Levan Easley, who was 15-9-2 coming in. The loss to Pavlik was Thompson's third straight.
Former contender Bronco McKart was 48-6 when Pavlik stopped him in six rounds in July of 2006. Three years earlier, McKart had lost a 90-99, 91-98, 92-97 decision to aging Verno Phillips, who, at the time, was 34-8-1.
Taylor's promoter, Lou DiBella, admits, in part, the promotion has been successful because Pavlik "is white, who in the hell are we kidding? He's called 'The Ghost.'"
"Kelly has been well-matched, and he's gotten better while being well-matched, being made to be King Kong against guys who were very ordinary and caught a guy that really couldn't fight very well when that guy's hype was at its highest in Miranda. But he has gotten better," DiBella said.
"Jermain, in my mind, has proven himself to be one of the best young fighters in the world, and has the ability to take this to a Hall of Fame type of career," said DiBella. "Jermain has to get by Kelly Pavlik to do that. A lot's at stake, in terms of Jermain's legacy, and the public's perception, and Jermain knows that. All this guy has done is beaten quality fighters. A lot of them weren't pretty."
But Pavlik's promoter, Bob Arum, said his man "was thought to be cannon fodder against Edison Miranda, but then he shocked everybody but us."
"Kelly solidified his status as No. 1 contender," Arum said. "And now he's 10 days from winning the middleweight championship of the world."
Lem Satterfield covered the boxing beat for the Baltimore Sun for 18-years and is currently a freelance writer for the Los Angeles Times.