BOXING Pavlik set for return on Jan. 23

He will return to the ring in Kansas City.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The last time Kelly Pavlik was in a ring was July 1 at Cafaro Field. The next time for the undefeated 21-year-old middleweight from Cornell Avenue will be Jan. 23 in Kansas City, Mo., in what his agent and co-manager, Cameron Dunkin, hopes will be a "breakout year."
In that July fight at the home of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Pavlik improved his record to 18-0 with a second round TKO of Rico Cason. It was Pavlik's 17th win by knockout.
He was scheduled for a 10-round bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in September, but an old hand injury was re-aggravated in sparring, forcing Pavlik to cancel the fight.
His handlers, including trainer Jack Loew and his father, Mike Pavlik, agreed that rest would be the proper treatment. So instead of sparring, Pavlik stayed in shape with running, aerobics and weightlifting. He didn't even shadowbox.
Returned to gym
Pavlik returned to the gym in November, working the light bag and then the heavy bag. He has targeted Monday as his return to sparring.
Even with the layoff Pavlik is ranked 22nd among world middleweights by the WBC, 11th by the WBA, 14th by the IBF and 14th by the WBO.
"Without the hand injury he would be one of the top five middleweights in the world," said Dunkin, who is based in Las Vegas.
Two potential opponents for an eight-rounder in Kansas City are Brent Cooper (20-2-2, 15 KOs) from Nashville, Tenn., and Francisco Diaz (9-1, 5 KOs) from Shawnee, Kan.
"Top Rank, with the promotional rights to Kelly, are ready to move him, so he will be fighting a lot this coming year against some real good people and before the year is over he will be a thoroughly recognized fighter," said Dunkin.
"The year 2004 will be a breakout year for Kelly Pavlik."
Says hand is better
Pavlik said his right hand feels good.
"I have had some hard hitting sessions on the big bag with no pain, no problems and very pleasing results," he said. "It is time for me and all who are concerned about me to stop dragging our feet and begin moving. I am ready to fight as much as I have to against anyone."
Pavlik has a second potential fight Feb. 28 in Las Vegas, as part of an HBO show featuring Erik Morales and Jesus Chavez in a Junior Lightweight title bout.
Dunkin is also looking at a card at Struthers Fieldhouse in the spring.
"I feel good about that and I hope it happens, because I like fighting at home," said Pavlik.
According to Loew, Pavlik will head to Las Vegas for training after the January fight.
"Kelly's weight is perfect at around 164 pounds," said Loew. "He is in excellent shape, maybe the best of his career, and for the first time in the last 18 months, I can say he is a completely healed fighter."

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