By Jordan Ingram
Kelly Pavlik’s not as wet behind the ears as people think.
When Bernard Hopkins (42-5-1) steps into the ring at Boardwalk Hall next Saturday night, underestimating his opponent would be a fatal mistake.
Heading into the 20-year anniversary of his first bout in Atlantic City, the Nicetown native doesn’t intend to take the gritty undefeated middleweight champion lightly.
“Kelly Pavlik can walk in Philadelphia and, though he might get into a fight or two, will earn [people’s] respect win or lose because that’s the mentality he brings to the table. I recognize that and that’s why I know what I’m going to have to do to him in the ring. He won’t quit, he’s not going back down, and he’s not going to become a boxer all of a sudden.”
Pavlik (34-0) established a solid body of work well before dismantling Jermain Taylor to capture the middleweight crown.
Six of his past eight fights had championship implications including a seventh round technical knockout of the hard-nosed Edison Miranda.
The middleweight champ feels that these underrated experiences could pay dividends in his fight against the wily veteran.
“[Jose] Zertuche didn’t have the name of a Hopkins or Winky Wright, but he was a fighter that was tough, rugged, I won that I learned a lot from, said Pavlik. “We then turned around and fought Edison Miranda, who nobody fights, and stopped him. I think I’ve touched every aspect of type of fighter and my experience is pretty wide.”
The 26-year-old Youngstown product has slowly but surely starting carving out his own niche, separate from fellow local hero Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
The huge question will be whether the power puncher is as effective moving up to 170-pounds to fight Hopkins. Pavlik says that he walks around at the catch-weight but it’ll still be an adjustment for the 6-foot-3 pugilist.
A huge amount of pressure will rest on the champion to defeat Hopkins, who some feel is over the hill.
Hopkins thinks that his upcoming fight will be a perfect opportunity to prove to nay-sayers that he is truly ageless.
“Kelly Pavlik is a perfect opponent because he wants to knock Bernard Hopkins out…at least that’s what he says,” said Hopkins. “He’s going to find it difficult early and that’s what’s going to change the fight.”
Pavlik will be receiving a baptism-by-fire when he fights the defensive-minded Hopkins. In the past, power punchers such as Felix “Tito” Trinidad and Glen Johnson expected to finish off the former undisputed middleweight champion but both met the same results.
Hopkins scored TKOs over Trinidad and Hopkins in the 11th and 12 rounds of the two fights respectively. The former Graterford Prison residee warns that if Pavlik only looks for the knockout, his fate could be sealed as well.
“Tito” had one bullet in the chamber and it was the left hook, said Hopkins. “If Pavlik thinks that he’s going to beat Bernard Hopkins just because he has a right hand he’s a fool.”
In “The Ghost” win over Miranda, he had opportunities to hurt him because of his brawling style. As evidenced in Miranda’s recent loss against number one middleweight contender, Arthur Abraham, his lack of defense has led to many of his defeats.
When Pavlik fights the Philly native, his offense might be off-set by Hopkins’ penchant for not getting punched. During Hopkins’ recent fights, his strong defense has created for tough, controversial decisions against Wright and Taylor.
While Hopkins would love to stop Pavlik in order to keep the fight out of the judges hands, he doesn’t plan on getting out of character to ensure the victory.
“I would love to knockout everybody I fight and have a press conference but it doesn’t go like that all the time,” said Hopkins. “Would I put pressure on myself to be out of character to force something that’s not there…no because I’m too much of a savvy veteran for that. What I will do is leave no question about who wins this fight.”
Hopkins thinks that a huge factor for bad decisions has been the conflicting styles of judges. The Executioner feels that different types of fighters yield various results in certain cities and with a 10-1 record in Atlantic City, Hopkins feels he’s on a roll.
“At the end of the day, I think that certain states appreciate certain [boxing] styles more than others,” said Hopkins. “I believe Atlantic City appreciates skill, boxing, and aggression. I lost my first fight in AC but I rebounded, and I’m ready, willing, and able to show my greatness to my fans come October 18th.”