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Amid boxing’s big names, ‘The Ghost’ is battling scary scenarios

Published: Sun, July 12, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

By Todd Franko

The Kelly Pavlik fight in February at the Chevrolet Centre was a spectacle to behold for the Valley.

I took it all in and thought, “There may be no other night as magical as this for the Chevy Centre.”

I did not consider it might also be the most magical night for Pavlik.

I now wonder if it was. I hope I’m wrong. I want to be wrong.

But situation after situation arises, and you can only wonder if “The Ghost” is being relegated a ghost in his sport.

Inside the ring, the lopsided loss to Bernard Hopkins was a tough development. But it was surmountable. He was served up Marco Antonio Rubio.

Yet, the fight went beyond the four or five rounds that many projected and was ended by Rubio’s cornermen and not by Pavlik.

But at this point in Pavlik’s career, it’s outside the ring — not inside — that a reassessment needs to occur.

The pay channels such as HBO and Showtime control much of a boxer’s success, at least where it counts: money.

When they embrace you with dollars and air time, you have arrived, and you are marketable. Example: Jermain Taylor.

HBO declined Pavlik’s fight with Rubio; the network also rejected the proposed Sergio Mora fight.

And two weeks ago, HBO offered $2 million toward a Pavlik-Felix Sturm belt-unification fight in October.

That sum assured each fighter at least $1 million, which was the source of Pavlik’s discontent published Friday in The Vindicator when he stated he would not fight for $1 million.

In this economically depressed area, that sounds like a huge paycheck.

But in boxing, it’s low-balling. HBO has offered more to lesser-titled fights.

Echoing Kelly’s sentiment was trainer Jack Loew. He said, “There ain’t no way Kelly’s fighting for $1 million.”

I asked that if that’s all that HBO is willing to offer, who’s wrong in this equation: Team Pavlik or the guys who hold the checkbook? There was no answer, but it was clear from the start of the chat that the team was insulted by the offer.

That insult grew a degree Thursday. Showtime announced a boxing tournament over the course of 18 months, and Pavlik was not part of the fighter list.

Turns out, he wasn’t even asked.

Technically, the tournament is at a notch above Pavlik’s 160 pounds. But of the six fighters on the invite list, three are big-money fighters attached to Pavlik — Taylor, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch.

All are destined for great paydays over the next 18 months if the tourney comes off. Pavlik will be on the outside looking in. He said Thursday that he would have liked to have been asked to take part.

So what’s at issue?

The problem is not inside the ring.

I think if Kelly wants more than $1 million paydays, he has to push himself onto the national scene.

Local golf events and autograph signings keep him popular with all of us. But it’s national and international exposure that will build paychecks. It requires marketing muscle he doesn’t have now.

It’s nice to keep loyal to Team Pavlik and surround yourself with family and friends who aren’t harming your image. But that approach is not the way to grow a national, marketable image.

The “plucky upstart from the Rust Belt” was a great tag on the way up. But at “The Champ” level, more marketing savvy is required.

When a title fight is on TV, so should be Pavlik talking up the sport (and himself).

When the Pittsburgh Penguins were climbing toward their Stanley Cup win, Pavlik should have been in owner Mario Lemieux’s box and on TV in between periods. Ditto for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ run at an NBA championship.

Boxing is part sport, part circus. Example: Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard.

A circus is at hand.

If I’m managing Pavlik and griping over measly $1 million offers, there’s one place I’d have him Monday.

This Showtime megaboxing tournament that will lock up big paydays for Pavlik’s peers for the next 18 months is set to have a press conference Monday in New York City.

All the fighters and all their respective promoters will be there.

And in the crowd should be Pavlik. And when all their pomp and posturing is over, Pavlik could offer one counter-punch.

“You all have your dance for 18 months. After you all lose and there’s one winner, I’ll be waiting.”

Imagine who would have the real headlines the next day.

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