Jason Leach caught up with former unified middleweight champion of the world Kelly Pavlik to discuss his recent happenings and boxing.
Kelly Pavlik is an American professional boxer who’s now retired. But while he’s retired from the ring, his thoughts are still flowing about the sport he loves.
From 2000 through 2012, Pavlik was one of the more entertaining boxers of the decade. In 2007, he won the WBC, WBO, Ring Magazine and Lineal Middleweight titles by defeating Jermaine Taylor. He successfuly defended those titles three times.
Pavlik was nice enough to sit down with ESNY’s Jason Leach to talk about his current goings on and what’s new in the boxing world.
JASON LEACH: Alright, so champ, I just want to know what you have been up to lately?
KELLY PAVLIK: Man I’ve been busy. You know really busy – I got obviously, you know we’ve been putting out there a lot the podcast show that we’re doing, me and James Dominguez. It’s called the “Punchline with Kelly Pavlik and James Dominguez.” I’ve got other little investment things that I’ve been doing – staying busy. Also, I’m working out, keeping myself in shape, and kids with baseball. So all in all, I try to find breaks and things to kick my fee up, but … it’s going pretty smooth right now.
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— KPavlikPunchline (@KPavlikPunchlin) April 17, 2017
LEACH: That’s good to hear. Now I understand you were at the Lomachenko/Soso fight on Saturday, right?
PAVLIK: Yes, I was.
LEACH: What did you think of Lomachecnko and his performance, and where would you rank him on the pound for pound list?
PAVLIK: You know what, no matter what I say, man, it seems like I take heat, but I think the guy, you know, there’s going to be haters out there, and I see that already. You know I’ve noticed on social media there are people already bringing up fighters from the past and guys in different weight classes, and say, “oh this guy would beat Lomachenko” and instead of giving the man credit, okay and giving him the credit he deserves, people just want to try to find ways to say, “no, he’s not a Mayweather.”
In my opinion, if you know sports, if you know an athlete, if you know boxing, it’s very apparent to see that this kid is almost one of a kind. You know, and I mentioned to overall boxing, Floyd Mayweather is going to be pound-for-pound one of the greatest boxers of all time. Definitely top three of all time, just not now. But … as an overall boxer, you know obviously he has unbelievable skill and athletic ability, but he was also smart and everything else. I was just pointing out one general thing like – athlete. Just the speed of his footwork, you know a lot of fighters have great footwork. You know, it’s how quick he makes his feet move effortlessly. Then the way he dodges punches. A lot of fighters will lure you in to throwing certain punches so they could roll one way, make you just shoulder roll. This kid just dodges punches in midair, spins out at you after he makes you miss, and hits you.
But if you really wanted to settle down and be a banger, he probably could eventually have 24 or 30 wins with 1 loss with 20 some knockouts.
He’s just an unbelievable fighter, and the more I watch the more I abandon, not to begin off saying, “yeah, but who’s he fighting?” … to like his amateur record … wins only one loss, and in the amateurs, it’s the politics and everything else that goes along with it. To only have one loss, he just quite an amazing fighter, and I can’t say any ore on it.
LEACH: And his loss was a split decision against a guy who was overweight in his second professional fight. So, you know, Lomachenko was at a disadvantage in that fight. Since then, he’s been phenomenal. He actually made Nicholas Walters quit, and I don’t think anybody thought that would be the outcome of that fight.
PAVLIK: That was pretty much the same situation with the last fight, too. Two guys actually quit. You know, they didn’t get dropped. Walters, I think, was just a tad bit more out of frustration, but I think the frustration was also in Soso’s corner too in this fight. His kid was just getting peppered, and hit and they knew that there was nothing else that he could do. He was not going to be able to lay hands on Lomochenko. If he did, it wasn’t going to be anything of power or bring him back into the fight. So to do that to two fighters in a row, then like I was saying about the power, I mean you could just see when he threw a hard one, to the body or even to the head how hard that was. If he wanted to do that the entire fight, he could have stopped him or knocked him out.
LEACH: Absolutely – absolutely. Now another question, this September is actually the 10-year anniversary of you winning the middle weight title against Jermaine Taylor …
PAVLIK: (sighing) Uh, I know
LEACH: Time goes by quick – it’s crazy.
PAVLIK: Oh my god, does it ever!
LEACH: Funny enough, that was actually the first fight I saw live. I was actually there in Atlantic City. So I just want to get your reflections on that night. Are there any plans on celebrating the anniversary?
PAVLIK: No, you know, my home buddy was actually my attorney and things like that. He worked for worked for Steve Pavlik. He’s now going to be running for the governor of Iowa. He mentioned something about maybe having party or get-together, and everybody watches it. All the people that were involved with it, the fans and things like that. So yeah, you know, I don’t know we’ll see what happens. I’m not going to go throw a party for it. That would look a little tacky. I just can’t get over the fact that it’s been that long. To me, it seems just like yesterday that that happened.
LEACH: It’s truly amazing. Now, what are your thoughts on the current middle weight division? Triple G just had a close, questionable victory over Danny Jacobs.
PAVLIK: As I’ve mentioned before in previous interviews, before that Jacobs fight even happened, my big thing was always with Triple G. He has the potential to be an all-time great. He has power, pretty good speed, he seems like he has a good chin, but he hasn’t been tested by a natural middle weight – a naturally big middle weight. I’ve always said, “what’s going to happen when he hits somebody and they hit him back?” What I mean by that just not like hitting them in the back … and then somebody and don’t go down or don’t go on the run, and actually fire shots back of their own. I think we’ve seen a little bit of that with the Danny Jacobs fight. Personally, I don’t think Danny Jacobs is a rule beater. I think he’s a very solid middle weight, and he puts a test to Triple G. If they rematch, who knows, maybe … a bad night for Triple G. I don’t know, but I don’t want to take no credit away from Danny Jacobs. I thought Danny Jacobs fought a great fight. He stayed in there, and if he’d stayed in there a little more, who knows, he may have taken him another round or two. I had that fight scored. I thought Triple G won that fight. I think the knockdown was a big difference in that fight. But if they would have gave it to Jacobs, I wouldn’t have been shocked — I wouldn’t have said that was a wrong decision neither. So it was one of those fights where it could have went either way and there wouldn’t have been too much of an argument.
LEACH: Now, if you were still fighting, what would be your approach to fight Triple G? What would be your game plan?
PAVLIK: Mine would have been kind of like handle Miranda? You go back and look at … Miranda was like Triple G when I fought. He was one of the most spirited fighters in the middleweight division. Notorious for not being blocked, and … once I went in there and did what I did to him … they lost that reputation. Although … never that good. You know what I mean? So, it kind of sucked for me because I never got full credit for it. Not that I care, but Anderson Myers wasn’t that type of fighter. I don’t think Myers is as skilled as Triple G. Triple G should some things in this fight, too. You know like he don’t have snap on his punch. He’s more power punch and wide. It seems like his arms get to peek quickly. Just like this last fight, one thing I did notice like in the Kell Brook fight even after the second round he’s swing his arms out to stretch them out. I don’t know if that falls on the strength and conditioning coach, you know – what ever his regimen is. But my way would be the same way I fought Miranda. You know, I would go at him – I would make him fight, and I would make him have to keep fighting, too. He would have to throw more than the few amount of punches that he usually averaged around. Usually, he liked to set his opponent up and making his guy, which everybody did out of fear for his power. You know, I would come right there, and again, I’m a big middle weight, and I could hit, and then not only that, I average a lot of punches for a middle weight – per round. I think I showed that I have a very good chin. So it would be that same thing it would come down to a war of attrition or whatever of whose chin was better.
LEACH: Also, I think he had the advantage in hand speed over Triple G. If you two ever were to fight, I would give you the advantage in hand speed.
PAVLIK: I’m not cryin’ by no means, I’m just stating the obvious, you know, what people said that my hand speed wasn’t that good. But it was fast enough to land on these guys, and put ‘em out. So I have to say the same thing with hand speed – Triple G, I don’t think he’s as fast as people had him at one point with his hand speed. He was more getting close and positioning himself to throw the right punches at the tight time.
LEACH: Right – to me, personally, I think his hand speed is kind of slow. He’s more of a heavy-handed puncher, because you rarely see an explosive, fast knockout from him. It’s more like an accumulation of punches. That’s my opinion on Triple G. I mean, I think he’s great, but a lot of people see his punches coming.
PAVLIK: Yeah, don’t get me wrong on that. I can … he’s going to have to fight people to know he hits hard. I agree with you, it does seem more like a lock, you block you down, stalk you, and break you down type of thing. But every punch he hits people with they carry that punch for the entire fight. He has the heavy hand. I mean if he hits you on the shoulders, it looks like that sh*t hurts – in the other fighter’s eyes. And that’s one thing I can say, but you know that’s how Miranda was, and believe me, I felt it. But my thing was to back him up because the more I let him stay set and get the torque and the turn, and everything else into the punch the more that was going to hurt. It would be better to have him punch out the back foot. Believe me when I tell you that it supports my strength, and that’s why I did it to these people who couldn’t back Miranda up. With my strength and power, I think Triple G would have went backward. Maybe not the entire fight, but there would have been good points I that Triple G would have no choice.
LEACH: Right, OK. Now, one thing about boxing, unfortunately, there’s been questionable decisions. As a former boxer, would you be more open to letting there be open scoring, so you knew where you stood in the fight as far as the judge’s scorecard is concerned? Because boxing and MMA are the only sports where you don’t have a scoreboard, so you don’t really know where you are in the fight.
PAVLIK: Somebody else mentioned that to me recently. That’s a good question. I don’t think that it would make a difference. I mean, it would help the fighter if he seen that he was down – he would go out and fight harder. I think if anything, it would kind of bring a fighter down a little bit or false hope, because he’d go out saying “I’m down two rounds.” And he can go out and fight his ass off and believe that he won that round. The judges are going to score it the way they want to anyways. I mean if you go back to the Olympic trials for a perfect example. They did that in the Olympic trial in 2000 when I fought when I fought Anthony Hamstraw. Going into the last round I was up 10-7. OK, now I know this ain’t computer scoring or anything in the pros, but I was up 10-7, that’s what score we got. And then I went into that last round I buckled him – he almost got a standing eight count, and we went to war that last round. Both of us were landing big shots, not even like little slaps, I’m talking about heavy-handed punches. I didn’t get one point that round. They gave him five. So, I was kind of thinking that was the last round. Only two minutes later I find out that I won, which I believe I did, and to find out that they didn’t give me a point in that round. So the same thing goes for the pros, you know. You could go out there and say you’re down one round, and you’re going into the championship round. So, in your head, you’re going to say, “I need these last two rounds, convincingly.” You go in there and you do get the best, and you thought you won, and you turn around and you lost both those rounds. So, it’s not going to make the fight any different. What I mean by that as to the outcome – the judges are going to score the round how they want to score it. If the fans can see it on the TV, while they’re watching the fight, they’re still going to believe like they do now – that a certain person won that round, but the judges are still going to give it to who they want.
LEACH: Good point! I didn’t think of it like that. Who would you say was the toughest opponent you ever fought in the ring?
PAVLIK: Hopkins was great, he was a great fighter. The only reason why it’s for me to say that is because that was not 80 percent Kelly that night. It was documented what was going on as far as being sick before the fight, and then the injury in camp for that fight. I would have to say overall it’s him as far as brain generalship, brain smarts, and things like that. He would make certain moves – I knew he was going to make them. I knew what I wanted to do to counter, but from my head to my hands I couldn’t make that transition. Not because he was too quick or I was too slow – I was just very lethargic the night of the fight. Even with that being said, Bernard was probably by far the savviest, the slickest fight I have ever fought. He didn’t have to make moves like Lomachenko or Floyd Mayweather; he knew how to make moves without getting hit – without being flashy. He’d throw punches and as he was throwing those punches he was coming in and grabbing. You’d throw punches at him while he was on the ropes – he would do a shoulder roll to pick them off. Just a very overall smart fighter – great fighter. Obviously, he’s going to go down in the record books for that.
LEACH: He’ll be in the Hall of Fame now that he’s finally retired.
PAVLIK: I wish he would have two years ago.
LEACH: Yeah, his last fight that was kind of hard to watch. You hate to see a legend go out like that, but it happens.
Ok, champ just to get your opinion on a couple of upcoming fights. What do you think of Chavez Jr. against Canelo?
PAVLIK: I don’t really like picking fights, because my thing is… First of all, on any given night you don’t know who’s going to show up or what could happen. With this fight, it’s kind of hard because one way I look at it, Chavez has had a lot of inactivity. I think Canelo is a good, talented fighter. On the other hand, one advantage, I’ll jump back to the Jacobs vs. GGG fight. I believe that weight that Danny Jacobs put on – that big amount of weight helped him. I think the same thing in this fight Chavez. Chavez is a bigger guy and he walks around and runs at a heavy weight. Your body gets used to carrying that weight. So that could be … it is going to be a big advantage for Chavez. I’m more curious to see the ring rust and everything else come up with Chavez against a guy like Canelo. It’s going to be interesting. To me if Canelo goes in there and wins that fight and dominates, I think he should take the … with Triple G. I think that fight would be more … that’s one of those fights that’s just hard for me to put into money.
LEACH: Do you think he’ll have a hard time making it to 164.5?
PAVLIK: (Sigh) I don’t’ know. He’s over there with my buddy who’s training him. From the reports I’m getting – he’s fit, and he’s training his butt off. He may be able to make it, but at the same time no matter how hard he’s training it depends how heavy he was at one point and how much he had to come down at the beginning of training camp. From that past that he’s had, and his weight problems, I don’t know. He might have a hard time; I don’t think he would have took that fight at 164. Maybe he could have bumped it up two or three more pounds, but then again, Canelo may not have accepted it. It’s hard because I’m not one sit there and those decisions – put that out there on fighters like that. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes as far if there is anything or if he’s just naturally a big kid or if it’s because he likes to eat or what it is. Hearing what he goes through to make weight and how hard it is for him to lose weight, he may have some trouble. That’s what I was getting into. After he does make weight, just like Jacobs did – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what Jacobs did putting the weight on. If he makes the contractual … weight, I think he’s going to move up. He’s going to gain some weight come fight night … get him out.
LEACH: Absolutely! Speaking in term of boxing and weight what are some of the things that go on behind the scenes as far as the negotiation of a fight such as weight, whose name is on the promotion – some of the things that fans aren’t privy to seeing? Have you ever encountered a difficult negotiation in a fight with the terms?
PAVLIK: You know what, that I haven’t. I can be honest with you. I don’t really know to that point. I could tell you just knowing boxing and behind the scenes what happens in negotiations, and chances are whoever may be the manager/trainer may jump in and also say something to the manager or promoter. “Hey Bob, listen my guy’s going to be heavy. You think we could knock this weight up? We don’t care about the title or this or that, let’s just come in at … catch weight. Throw it to the other camp. See if they want to fight at this catch weight. If not, we’ll swing it a pound or two.
If I could have gone back and done it, I think I would have with the Martinez fight, because that was my last fight at middle weight. I would have probably signed that fight at 161 or 162. Believe me, that one pound would have made a world of difference in that fight. I could have just been like, you know what, after I make weight, I’m not fighting middleweight no more. So, take the belts. I’m going to fight at 161 where I would catch weight. But because I wasn’t a fan of that, and I said that’s wrong, I’m going to make the 160. I could have easily negotiated and took it at 161.
LEACH: OK. I have two more questions for you, champ. What is your prediction about Andre Ward and Kovalev 2?
PAVLIK: I don’t know, Kovalev is a bad dude. He just is. I think he’s a great fighter, and he’s got that power that could change a fight any which way a fight is going. He’s just got that power. Bust at the same time, if you seen Ward, the first half of that fight was definitely all Kovalev. Ward’s a very smart fighter along with his talent, you seen how he changed his game plan a little bit and took those later rounds.
With Ward having all this time, I’m sure he’s going to watch films, and breakdown what he did, and go over other fights Kovalev had, and he may come with a great game plan the second time around.
The same thing may happen with Kovolev. Kovalev’s just a good fighter. Anytime you hit like Kovalev does it could change any game plan. Ward may have a new game plan going into this fight, but if Kovalev lands a good one that may change.
I’m glad it’s happening – it’s good for boxing.
LEACH: Yeah, it rarely happens you get a rematch right away. It’s definitely great. Who do you think won the first fight?
PAVLIK: I thought Kovalev won by a couple rounds. I could have accepted a draw; I did not think Ward won.
The second half of that fight there weren’t any clean punches landed on both parts. When Ward would land some of those clean body shots, which was one or two a round that was enough for him to steal the round. In my opinion, that don’t win a round. A lot of those body shots that he did land on Kovalev were when he was still in a crunch. Personally, I couldn’t give Ward the round because of that reason alone. When actually, in my opinion, Kovalev was coming forward and Ward was still trying to move away a little bit.
Sometimes in scoring a fight, the aggressor looks like he’s winning the round.
LEACH: Last question, if you could change one thing about the sport of boxing, what would it be?
PAVLIK: I’d have to say the judges. I don’t really want to get into the promoter part of it, so I’m not going to say that. Making big fights happen has always been a business, and that’s the way it goes.
I have to say the judges. If you have to bring fighters in to judge the fight or people who are not influenced by who’s putting the show on or the fight card on.
I could understand a fight like Kovalev and Ward as a close one. If you want to give it to one guy or if you want to give it to the opposite guy, that’s understandable. Some of fights are just bad, and it’s obvious that something was behind it.
You could have a 10-year-old kid go in there and judge these fights, and they would get it right because its so one sided. The judges turnaround and give it to the fighter who should have not won the fight. For instance, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez last fight. He didn’t dominate the fight super bad, but I thought he won that fight, and clearly. They didn’t give it to him.
LEACH: I thought he won five out of the last six rounds.
PAVLIK: Yeah, I thought there was a point where the referee was going to step in and stop the fight. He was hitting that kid with so many hard, clean punches. That was a bad decision.
If you go back to the first Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley fight, that was just a horrible decision.
LEACH: That was a straight out robbery.
PAVLIK: It was sickening how bad that was. I try to justify it in my head (being a boxing fan) and I watched it two times after trying to give … and I like Bradley he’s a hell of a fighter – true champion – true heart. I was trying to toss rounds at him and I couldn’t do it.
I think they have to do something for that because it is hurting the sport. It is. If they don’t find a way to stop it or fix that problem, I don’t know what’s going to happen.
LEACH: It’s definitely not good for the sport.
PAVLIK: No, it’s not because it makes you almost not really want to … you have a fighter you really like or true fans of that fighter, and people who come to see him and people who want to go to those fights, and shit like that happens. It’s bothering and it’s not fair at all. That is literally like a robbery.
LEACH: Think about it. You put in an eight-week training camp. You diet. You work hard. You win. When you’re in the ring – fighters know who won, and for the judges to give it to somebody else based on their on the A-side, it’s very sickening.
PAVLIK: You’re right, because the judges don’t know what goes into a training camp. Not only the physical of the training, all the hours a day, and the wear and tear, the fighting/sparring, you’re dieting and everything else, the hopes that you have going into this fight, you go and accomplish it, and they take it away from you. It … to ruin a fighter. It is robbery – call the cops there’s a robbery in the house. There’s something not right here.
It’s bad, and I just hope they find something quickly to fix that.
LEACH: I’m with you. It’s hurting the popularity. No one likes fighters getting screwed.
PAVLIK: Again, in a closer fight, like a Ward or Triple G fight, those fights are close enough those could go either way. That’s not that bad o that’s acceptable, but some of these other fights it’s just too???
LEACH: Yeah, disgusting. Alright champ I want to thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Just let everyone know where we can listen to your podcast?
PAVLIK: We’ll know by this Friday. Everything will be airing this Friday. We’ll have the links up. It’s going to be on my Facebook and Twitter, my buddy’s Facebook. The new producer is doing a heck of a job, and it should be on YouTube by Friday.