Rush on HBO subscriptions locally preceded the fight.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — They’re murmuring his name at coffee counters and in bowling alleys, in the classroom and dentist’s chair.
As the Valley returned to work and school Monday, it was still reveling in the come-from-behind victory of its own Saturday, Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik, world champion.
Perhaps no one is prouder than Daniel Armeni, the middleweight boxing champion’s dentist.
Armeni climbed on the roof of his Midlothian Avenue Family Practice on Sunday to hang a 20-foot handmade banner that said “Welcome Home Champ.” Below it, a second sign read: “Thank you Kelly and Jack,” a nod to Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, also an Armeni patient.
His receptionist, Marilyn Martino, said she was happy not to see any damage to the 25-year-old fighter’s teeth during post-match interviews.
“We love Kelly,” said Martino. “He’s always supported Youngstown and we’ve always supported him for that.”
Sean Pregibon, owner of Youngstown Sports Grille, couldn’t be happier about Saturday’s results. He estimates 1,000 fans had crowded into his South Avenue bar and restaurant to witness Pavlik deliver a knockout to Jermain Taylor in the seventh round.
Hanging on every word
Fans were almost as eager to hear Pavlik’s victory interview after the fight as they were to see him trading blows, Pregibon said.
“A thousand people — and you could hear a pin drop,” he said.
The crowd would burst into cheers with every reference to Youngstown, he said.
“It was electrifying,” he said. “He’s been the talk of the town.”
Pregibon likened underdog Pavlik’s come-from-behind victory to the “Rocky” movie series. They were doing the same at Camelot Lanes on U.S. 224 in Boardman.
Donald Whitacre, 84, paused from his senior league game to reflect on the victory.
“That kid’s great,” he said. “When he went down in that second round, I thought, ‘Oh brother.’ But he got up. ... I thought he was gonna kill that guy.
“He does a lot of good for this Valley.”
In the alley’s pro shop, employees were hanging Sunday’s Vindicator front page in a window.
“I thought it was a great fight,” said owner Carl Hurd, who said Pavlik is a customer of the store. “I thought he was down in the second round and he got up.”
The Pavlik buzz made its way to Boardman’s No. 71 firehouse, as well. Two of the department’s firefighters made the trip to Atlantic City for the match. Secretary Jill Fonner said she was thrilled just to watch a win, even on TV.
“We’re all so excited he won,” said Fonner. “We just think it’s great he did such a good job.”
HBO subscriptions up
Pavlik fever is the likely cause in a surge of local subscriptions to HBO, the network that carried the fight, according to Armstrong’s director of cable marketing, Dave Wittmann. The company, which services about a third of the Mahoning Valley, added 750 subscriptions last week, he said.
“We’re glad [Pavlik] won,” said Wittmann.
A humble act of recognition was being planned at The Ghost’s alma mater, Lowellville K-12 School, as well. Principal Sam Ramunno said he was planning a “Kelly Pavlik Day,” although Ramunno said he wanted to check with the school’s most famous 2000 graduate before finalizing a date.
In addition, all of the school’s 680 pupils signed a letter of congratulations to the middleweight boxing champion, he said. All day Monday, the school’s marquee flashed the words, “Congrats Kelly ‘The Ghost’ Pavlik World Champion.”