Pavlik hoping title doors open
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Several golden opportunities could open up for undefeated middleweight boxer Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik of Youngstown if he can defeat Jose Luis Zertuche of Leon, Mexico, in a scheduled 10-round fight Jan. 27 on HBO at 10:15 p.m. at The Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Pavlik and trainer Jack Loew of Southside Boxing Club, who both headlined a press conference Thursday afternoon at Nicolinni's Ristorante, said that a win over Zertuche could set up a stepping-stone bout to a WBC championship fight, or even the outside possibility of a WBC championship bout with several potential opponents.
"We've heard it for so long," said Pavlik, the No. 2-ranked WBC middleweight who is promoted by Top Rank, referring to past predictions of his being close a possible championship bout. "But WBC said that if I win [this time], there will be a mandatory box-off eliminator fight [for me] against Edison Miranda, the No. 1 IBF contender."
That would mean that the winner will get a shot against WBC champion Jermain Taylor.
"But I don't know if [Miranda] will take [the fight with me]," Pavlik said. "Then Taylor would have to fight the winner of that fight. But if Taylor won't fight me, then he would have to vacate and they would advertise the purse for an opponent."
Variety of scenarios
Loew agreed that a variety of scenarios could unfold if Pavlik (29-0, 26 KOs) beats Zertuche (19-3-2, 14 KOs), who is ranked No. 8 by the WBC, in Pavlik's first bout as an HBO fighter thanks to a contract secured by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum last November.
Arum, who founded Top Rank in 1966, made the Pavlik-HBO announcement on Nov. 2 after Pavlik defeated Haitian-born Lenord Pierre, 27, of Catskill, N.Y., on a fourth-round TKO in a super middleweight bout at the Chevrolet Centre before 4,416 hometown fans and a national television audience.
Just a few days earlier, Arum had negotiated a deal in New York with Ross Greenberg, president of HBO Sports, which in effect made Pavlik an HBO fighter.
Arum said at the time that he considered HBO "the flagship of boxing."
Loew said that another possible scenario is that Pavlik could meet No. 1 WBC contender Ronald "Winky" Wright if Taylor chooses to vacate his title. But so far, Wright and Taylor have shown no inclination to fight Pavlik.
"A good showing on HBO will put a lot of pressure on the other top fighters to fight Kelly, but we'll let Arum do the [promotional] work,." said Loew, who believes that a win over Zertuche has the potential to create more favorable national publicity for Pavlik, and even put him in position to fight for the title in his next bout.
Sparring partners help
Loew feels that Pavlik is two wins away from becoming a champion, and that he gets better with every fight.
"I think you are going to see a better Kelly [fighting Zertuche]," said Loew. "He has been sparring with two of our own sparring partners -- Ted Muller of Moline, Ill., and Mike Walker of Chicago. This is the first time that we had our own sparring partners. We never had that luxury before. They [previously] would come in and then leave."
Loew introduced Muller and Walker and thanked them for helping to prepare Pavlik for Zertuche.
"I don't think you have seen the best of Kelly yet. He rises to the occasion in each fight," said Loew. "He wants financial security. He has a family now and that's what he wants."
Pavlik, 24, a Lowellville High graduate, is grateful that he has become an HBO fighter and said he has two objectives against the older Zertuche, 33, a member of the 2000 Mexican Olympic team.
"This is a great opportunity. But I will have to fight two fights: I will have to impress HBO and then go against Zertuche. If I am sluggish and just get by against him, then the critics will come out," said Pavlik.
Nears end of training
"I have been spending four or five times a day training," he added. "We will finish up this week. Then next week I will try to keep my weight down so I don't have to lose it the last minute," said Pavlik, who prefers the shorter time span between his last fight with Pierre and this one with Zertuche.
"This fight is perfect timing coming after my last fight. I didn't put too much weight on. Every week I feel better and better."
Pavlik will have distinct height (6-feet-2, 1/2-inch) and reach (75 inches) advantages over Zertuche (5-10, 70 inches).
And Pavlik said that Pierre's and Zertuche's fighting styles "are almost similar. Zertuche is more accurate as a puncher and more skillful. He has a hard head. We just have to wait for him to put his chin up."
But, Pavlik cautioned, "[Zertuche] is a brawler who doesn't throw a lot of punches, but the ones he throws are hard. That makes him real dangerous. He backs away as if he's tired and is taking a break, and then comes through with a fast left hook. We have to be careful with everything he does. We have to figure out how I am going to counter what he does."