Commentary

Pavlik not letting success cloud the big picture

Sure, he's rubbing elbows with celebrities and throwing out the first pitch at baseball games these days, but Kelly Pavlik hasn't let his win over Jermain Taylor get to his head -- or distract him from Saturday's rematch.

Originally Published: February 15, 2008
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Kelly PavlikChris Farina/Top Rank He may be the middleweight champion of the world, but Pavlik still considers himself an ordinary guy.
LAS VEGAS -- Kelly Pavlik has achieved fame and fortune. He won the middleweight world championship in dramatic comeback fashion. Eight years into his pro career, and he is making seven-figure purses now. Yet success does not seem to have gone to his head.

"What you see with Kelly is what you get," said Jack Loew, the only trainer Pavlik has ever known.

Pavlik is still the same approachable, friendly and down-to-earth guy from hardscrabble Youngstown, Ohio, as he was before rocketing to stardom in September.

That's when Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs), who had been knocked down and almost out in the second round, and was trailing on all three scorecards, rallied to knock out Jermain Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KOs) in the seventh round to win the middleweight title in one of the most dramatic fights of 2007.

The instant fame -- how many boxers these days are the subject of a four-page profile in Sports Illustrated like Pavlik was last week? -- especially in his blue collar hometown, has not changed Pavlik, 25, even though he spent a whirlwind month after the fight being feted around the state.

Look, there's Pavlik throwing out the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians-Boston Red Sox playoff game.

Unfinished Business
TV Lineup for Saturday's HBO PPV card (9 p.m. ET) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas:

• Junior lightweights: Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 KOs), rematch, 12 rounds, for Marquez's title/vacant Ring magazine title

• Featherweights: Steven Luevano (34-1, 15 KOs) vs. Terdsak Jandaeng (29-2, 19 KOs), 12 rounds, for Luevano's title

• Bantamweights: Abner Mares (15-0, 9 KOs) vs. Diosdado Gabi (30-3-1, 22 KOs), 12 rounds

• Junior welterweights: David Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KOs) vs. Ramon Montano (15-4-2, 1 KO), 10 rounds

-- Dan Rafael

Hey, there's Pavlik tossing the coin before a Cleveland Browns game.

And, whoa! Wasn't that Pavlik, at the invitation of coach Jim Tressel, speaking to the Ohio State Buckeyes football team on the eve of their rivalry game against Michigan?

Sure was. To all three.

Pavlik is a big fan of Ohio's sports teams and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet members of each club.

"Stuff like that's awesome and I did enjoy that," Pavlik said. "And to get to meet the players. That's all awesome there."

He was particularly struck by the invitation to speak to the Buckeyes.

"Here's me, I'm probably a year or two older than these guys and they're getting ready for one of the biggest sporting events," Pavlik said. "And I was thinking 'What the hell do I say to these guys?' But they all listened. It was pretty neat."

Many of those athletes also enjoyed meeting Pavlik, including the Indians. Loew said manager Eric Wedge had to eventually remind his players that they had a game to prepare for during the excitement of Pavlik's visit.

But Pavlik has remained decidedly normal despite his newfound celebrity and a tremendous demand for his time.

"It became a little hectic and a little demanding on my free time, but that comes with the territory," said Pavlik, clearly grateful for his new fame.

He said he has lent his name and time to some 30 charity events, visited several schools in his home region and signed countless autographs since winning the championship.

"I haven't hit the stature of [Oscar] De La Hoya or Britney Spears yet," joked Pavlik, who has a daily trivia question about him run daily in his hometown Youngstown Vindicator newspaper. "It's just all how you deal with [fame] and I'm a guy that I don't like the limelight too much. I'm not [Floyd] Mayweather and people like that. But there's a lot of good that comes with it too."

Loew provided insight to just how normal Pavlik has remained on Thursday afternoon during a get together with a few boxing writers at the MGM Grand covering Saturday night's 166-pound catch weight rematch (HBO PPV, 9 ET) with Taylor.

Even though Pavlik, who is expecting thousands from Youngstown to be at the fight, has one of the sweetest suites the MGM Grand has to offer, one with a luxurious bedroom, Loew said that Pavlik has been sleeping curled up on the couch since arriving from Ohio earlier this week. That's what he also does during training camp when he leaves his own house to move into the Youngstown home of his parents, Mike and Debbie, who live a few minutes away.

And when Pavlik, who recently got engaged to Samantha Kocanjer, the mother of their 21-month-old daughter, Sydney, was browsing in one of the many expensive boutiques this week, Loew said he saw a $1,000 watch he really liked.

"But Kelly just couldn't swallow that, so he bought the $400 one instead," Loew said. After winning the title and making his first seven-figure payday against Taylor, Pavlik didn't go on a wild spending spree or party like it was 1999.

"There were no Bentleys or Mercedes and mansions," Pavlik said.

Instead, Pavlik splurged on some new tires and fixed up the recreation room in his house. Loew, who has also hit the big time thanks to his star pupil, has also remained grounded. A driveway sealer by trade when he's not training Pavlik or the few dozen amateur kids at his Southside Boxing Club, Loew accompanied Pavlik to many of his appearances and enjoyed himself. But he didn't go crazy after the win either.

"We didn't splurge," he said.

But he did admit that he and Pavlik have enjoyed "getting to play at some of the finer golf courses around town."

"Things like that have changed," Loew said. "There's a lot of perks. But we're pretty basic guys, we're back to normal. Two days after the fight I was out sealing driveways and we go play golf. So I mean everything's been kind of normal. It's just a little bit more popularity."

[+] EnlargeJack Loew
Chris Farina/Top Rank thanksJack Loew believes the return of Ozell Nelson in Jermain Taylor's corner is a good thing -- for Kelly Pavlik, that is.
But Loew must have treated himself to something after the win against Taylor, right? Come on what was it?

Finally, Loew admitted it.

He put a bid in on some new driveway sealing equipment and had central air conditioning installed in his home. And after this fight, he said he is going to take his wife on a vacation to celebrate their 25th anniversary in April.

After Taylor picked up his contractual option for an immediate rematch, Loew said Pavlik had no problem putting the victory behind him and getting back to work. Loew said Pavlik was so anxious to get back in training that he called him to ask if they could start earlier than usual. Instead of a six- or seven-week camp, Pavlik did eight weeks of training.

"We've done everything, gone everywhere, we got to see all the stars, the football teams, baseball teams we liked, and now it's time to get busy," Loew said of the attitude going into training. "We are extremely prepared for this one and we're definitely not taking it lightly. We want to keep that '0' on our record."

Pavlik began training just before Christmas and said he was able to slide back into boxing mode easily.

"Things were a little bit hectic for a while, but when training camp was getting ready to start we eased up," he said. "I try to do as much as I can, and I did. I think I did a lot after this first fight, but we've got to slow down. I can't be Superman and be spread all over the place when I'm training for this fight."

When it's over, however, there could be more first pitches to throw out, more coins to toss and more speeches to give.

Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com.