Pavlik setting sights on sweep of middleweight belts
LAS VEGAS -- Kelly Pavlik proved his superiority and fattened his bank account with a second victory over Jermain Taylor. Now this frugal people's champion is finally ready to go shopping
-- for two really ugly belts.
Moments after winning a unanimous decision in his rematch with Taylor on Saturday night, Pavlik reiterated his plan to add the WBA and IBF middleweight titles to the WBC and WBO championships he took from Taylor last year. He'll get started on that quest after a June tuneup fight that shouldn't be nearly as tough as the stops on his difficult road to Taylor.
"My No. 1 goal since I won the middleweight title has been to unify the belts," Pavlik said. "That's been a dream of mine since I started fighting, and that's what I'd love to do now. It's something special to be the champion that everybody recognizes, and that's a life goal of mine."
Taylor also performed well in the rematch, showing more discipline and tenacity on his way to a $3 million payday. He faced trouble only in the 11th round, when Pavlik staggered him and came close to a knockout.
"That 11th round, if there was 5 or 10 more seconds, he was out," said Pavlik, who made $2.5 million plus a percentage of pay-per-view sales. "I hit him with some big punches. He was hurt, and you could see it. I just ran out of time."
The bout was Pavlik's least dramatic fight in three years, but likely his most disciplined, according to his trainer, Jack Loew. That discipline will be necessary if Pavlik is to achieve his new dream.
"Kelly can do whatever he sets his mind to do, and we've always wanted to take [charge] of the middleweight division," Loew said.
Pavlik hopes to follow in the big footsteps of Bernard Hopkins, who held all four major middleweight belts until Taylor beat him by split decision in July 2005. Hopkins held at least three belts for nearly four years while making 20 total title defenses -- a remarkable achievement in the fractious boxing world.
Pavlik would be a huge favorite against the other two champions. If promoter Bob Arum can make the matches, Pavlik might be just a couple of years away from realizing his dream.
Arthur Abraham, the IBF middleweight titlist from Germany, is 25-0 in a career spent entirely in Europe. He won a unanimous decision in 2006 over Edison Miranda, the tough Colombian fighter who was knocked out last year by Pavlik in another action-packed bout. Pavlik also got the title shot expected to go to Miranda, and he then knocked out Taylor.
Felix Sturm, another German fighter, is the WBA middleweight champion, but has been largely unimpressive in his last few fights.
Loew sees Abraham as a "paper champion" who could easily be beaten, but Pavlik's next fight in 3½ months will be more about collecting another big payday and putting on another show to satisfy the fans who were thrilled by Pavlik's knockout win in his first meeting with Taylor, but didn't enjoy his tactical decision in the rematch.
A popular scenario has Pavlik fighting popular Irishman John Duddy on June 7 in New York for a matchup sure to draw a raucous sellout crowd. Top Rank also has talked to Don King about making a match with Felix Trinidad for another lucrative bout.
And after that tuneup fight, Pavlik wants to pursue Abraham for a fight in the fall. Abraham has a defense against Elvin Ayala in late March, and he could fight on the undercard of Pavlik's meeting with Duddy or Trinidad as a preview to their unification bout.
"It took me seven years to win the title, and I want to keep it for a while," Pavlik said. "I'll fight whoever they throw out there, whatever's the best for the sport."
The future also looks bright for Taylor despite the first two losses of his career. Trainer Ozell Nelson insists Taylor won't fight again at 160 pounds, and his move up to super middleweight could lead to intriguing matchups against Mikkel Kessler, Jeff Lacy or another former champion.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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