Already, the anticipation is 'electric'

The city is ‘electric’ for the Pavlik fight, says a downtown restaurant manager.


Vindicator Staff Writer

YOUNGSTOWN — Stacy Baltes waited patiently as her credit card was run through the cash register.

After the card had been approved, the Austintown resident had the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for her husband, Kevin: the new Kelly Pavlik T-shirt.

And Pavlik is definitely in demand.

“Every time Kelly has a fight, the week or two before the fight, we get really busy,” said Walt Kishton, owner of Shirt Wizard in Boardman.

Team Pavlik released its new T-shirt design last week, and area vendors are having a hard time keeping it on their shelves. Kishton said he’s sold hundreds of the $25 shirts in the past week. The design features a ghost wearing boxing gloves on the front, and “Backyard Brawl” on the back.

And while Ohio Edison restores power to the last few homes after last week’s storm, an electricity has been flowing through the city for weeks. Downtown business leaders say they can already feel the excitement.

“There’s a lot of buzz right now with people being downtown again,” said Frank Buonavolonta , a manager of the Buffalo Wild Wings on East Federal. “Everybody is expecting a big night.”

The Chevrolet Centre will seat about 7,000 fans, the largest crowd since the facility opened in October 2005. The center expects a sellout for fight night as many of the tickets were gone minutes after sales began Jan. 10.

When Pavlik takes on Marco Antonio Rubio for the World Boxing Council/World Boxing Organization middleweight championship Saturday at the Chevy Centre, the city will be rocking. The event begins at 9 p.m. with six fights on the undercard. The Pavlik/Rubio fight is expected to begin shortly after 11 p.m.

The center will be home to 7,000 boisterous boxing fans, but the city expects to welcome many more.

Buonavolonta said Buffalo Wild Wings will have a heated, inflatable tent set up near its Federal Plaza location. Live bands will perform from about 5 to 9 p.m., and then the fight will be broadcast. The prefight events and the broadcast of the fight will be free to the public.

“I think it’ll be electric,” Buonavolonta said. “First of all, it’s boxing, and boxing is exciting enough. But second of all, you have a local kid.”

Buonavolonta added since the Chevy Centre is so close to many downtown businesses, the hours leading up to the fight should resemble a tailgate party.

“When you have 7,000 people down here for a fight, it’s going to be big regardless,” Buonavolonta said.

The city is also doing its part to help create a buzz for the fight.

“We’re working with Team Pavlik and area businesses to help promote the fight,” Mayor Jay Williams said. “We want an electricity flowing through the city.”

With the fight comes national media and the opportunity for the city to flex its muscles to a much bigger audience.

The mayor is urging downtown businesses to leave the lights on during the fight to help showcase the city. Williams said by lighting up the city for the fight, it puts forward a “warm and inviting image of downtown” for the media.

Lyndsey Hughes, downtown director of events and special projects, said businesses have been cooperative and supportive of the idea. She also has several ideas for the week leading up to the fight.

One plan involves projecting a large picture of Pavlik on the side of a building similar to what is done in major cities such as Boston and Cleveland, she said.

“It’s a really, really cool aspect and it’s relatively cheap,” Hughes said. “You have this icon and you’re shining it onto a beautiful backdrop.”

She added that time and budget constraints have limited what the city is able to do.

Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said the department will have additional officers on hand during fight night. Officers will be stationed inside the center as well as in the parking lot and at the downtown events, he said.

Chief Hughes said it would be “the largest contingent of extra officers at the Chevy Centre since it opened.”

He added small skirmishes are expected, but the department doesn’t anticipate any major problems.

Williams said he was excited for the fight and what it means to the city.

“Every time they say Youngstown, Ohio [on TV] ... it’s difficult not to crack a smile,” he said.

Because “Youngstown is the face of the Mahoning Valley,” the area spotlight will show the nation the city’s personality,” Williams said. The city is full of blue-collared, hard-working people who have been down but continue to fight, he said.

“Kelly personifies that,” Williams said.

A fan of boxing, Williams said he’ll attend the fight.

Though he wouldn’t give an official prediction, he said he expects “The Ghost” to come out victorious.

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