Champ fights off ring rust as he readies for Dec. 19 bout


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WATCHFUL EYE: Jack Loew watches as Pavlik spars during an open workout at Loew’s South Side Boxing Club on Market Street.

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TAMING THE COBRA: World middleweight boxing champion Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik lays a right hand into the cringing Ken “The Cobra” Sigurani at the South Side Boxing Club. Siguarani, an up-and-coming fighter, went four rounds with Pavlik at an open workout at the club Tuesday.

Pavlik's Public Workout

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Kelly Pavlik works out at South Side Boxing in Youngstown in preparation for his Dec. 19 fight.

By JOE SCALZO

Vindicator sports staff

YOUNGSTOWN — After his first public workout in months, more than a hundred fans and reporters could see the sweat pouring off Kelly Pavlik.

The rust, too.

So, to answer the question on everybody’s mind: No, Pavlik is not where he was in February.

But he’s getting closer.

“He’s getting sharper and sharper every time he spars,” said one of his sparring partners, Billy Lyell, who is a middleweight contender himself. “I worked with him Sunday and he’s sharper than he was Sunday. I think every day he works he’s getting a little bit better.

“By fight night, he’ll be ready to go and put on a good show.”

Pavlik endured his first eight-round sparring session of this shortened camp on Tuesday — Lyell and Ken “The Cobra” Sigurani each went four rounds at the Southside Boxing Club in an open workout — and while his strength and conditioning looked OK, he didn’t quite have the usual snap on his punches.

A 10-month layoff will do that.

“My conditioning feels great,” said Pavlik, who will fight Miguel Espino in a middleweight title bout Dec. 19 at YSU’s Beeghly Center. “The only thing now is to start loosening up and get the snap back in my punches.

“Today is the last day of lifting and that soreness will go away and we’ll start loosening up. By the end of the week, I’ll feel a big difference.”

Pavlik, who has finally recovered from a staph infection in his left hand that sidelined him for much of 2009, wore 18-ounce gloves as a precaution; 16-ounce gloves are standard.

His strength isn’t the issue — “The power’s still there, absolutely,” Lyell said, chuckling ­— and he was able to move around the ring well, but it was obvious he’s still battling soreness, the consequence of trying to cram eight weeks of training into a five-week camp.

“I don’t think this [Espino fight] is going to pose a threat to him as far as a loss,” said Sigurani, whose style is similar to Espino’s. “I think he’s not where he was before, but the thing is, he’s been out. He needs to come at him [Espino] and dictate things.

“When he gets back into the swing of things, he’ll hit the gym hard like he always does.”

Pavlik, who had to cancel a Dec. 5 bout against Paul Williams, would have preferred to wait until late January to get back in the ring. But when the WBC and WBO threatened to strip him of his belts if he didn’t make a title defense, he reluctantly took the Espino bout.

No one expects him to lose — Espino is ranked No. 3 by the WBC, but Pavlik will almost undoubtedly be too big and strong, even if he’s not quite 100 percent — and this fight could help him shake off the rust from the layoff.

“Espino’s got a lot of heart and he’s in great shape,” said Pavlik, who said his weight is down to 169 pounds. “That’s pretty much all I see. He’s got a lot of flaws. He gets hit a lot, but he’s got a good chin.

“You’ve got to be 100 percent ready to fight him. You can’t go in there counting on a knockout.”

Pavlik’s hand is almost fully recovered — there’s a small scar on his left index finger — and he resumed punching a little more than two weeks ago, he said. The hand was tender at first, but the combination of working with a hand specialist in Las Vegas (where he spent the early weeks of training camp) and his regular training have him back on track.

“I don’t think Espino will be able to hold up once the headgear comes off and the smaller gloves come on,” he said.

scalzo@vindy.com

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