By Ashley Luthern
IN THE PAST, THOSE SURROUNDING MIDDLEWEIGHT BOXER Kelly Pavlik labeled local reports of the ex-boxing champ checking
himself into rehab for alcohol dependency as “vicious, ugly rumors.”
On Friday, his father and co-manager Mike Pavlik Sr. sought a national media audience — Yahoo! Sports — to announce that Kelly was at the Betty Ford Clinic for alcohol abuse.
What’s still not clear are the specific circumstances that led to a family intervention by Pavlik’s parents and wife, Samantha, that ultimately landed the 28-year-old boxer at the Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Nov. 4.
But his family also told Yahoo! Sports on Friday that Pavlik spent time in alcohol rehab earlier this year before he lost to Sergio Martinez on April 17 in Atlantic City, N.J., thus supporting long-held speculation that Pavlik has been battling demons outside of the ring almost from the moment he won the middleweight title in 2007.
Now, some of those closest to Pavlik are hoping for the best while admitting some of the worst. The chairman of Top Rank Boxing said Pavlik is in the right place.
“It’s clear that alcoholism is a disease, and Kelly and his family were astute enough to pick up on that,” said Bob Arum, whose company promotes Pavlik’s fights.
“I’ve known a number of my friends who have gone to Betty Ford and invariably, they’ve been cured. I have high hopes for Kelly. ...I visited the place when a friend of mine was there. I’m familiar with the course of treatment, and it seems to have a high
success rate,” Arum said.
The news culminates recent turbulent times for Pavlik, who withdrew from a Nov. 13 bout against Bryan Vera at Cowboys Stadium on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard because of a rib injury.
Just last month, Pavlik (36-2, 32KOs) told The Vindicator, “Right now, I’m feeling great. The snap is back and everything’s fine.”
But weeks later, the fight was canceled.
“The decision was made when we came home from a press conference in New York on a Tuesday, and that Wednesday [Oct. 27] we canceled the fight,” said Jack Loew, Pavlik’s trainer.
“The fight was definitely canceled because of the ribs and no other reason,” he said, adding that the situation “just escalated from there.”
INCIDENT AT LEMON GROVE
On Oct. 31, Pavlik was asked to leave The Lemon Grove Café in downtown Youngstown for unruly behavior.
“On Halloween night, he was extremely disrespectful to a female patron, and we had to kick him out,” said Jacob Harver, owner of the cafe, who declined to comment further.
The Nov. 13 fight cancellation was officially announced Nov. 1. Shortly after that, Pavlik’s family conducted the intervention, according to Yahoo! Sports.
“[Pavlik’s lifestyle] was affecting his training, but all I can hope for, is for him to get better. Forget about boxing; I want him to get healthy and be a good husband and father and man,” Loew said.
BOOM BOOM’S VIEW
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, the former WBA and NABF lightweight boxing champ and Youngstown hometown hero, said Pavlik’s leap to fame in 2007 added fuel to Pavlik’s personal problems.
“I love the kid, but he had demons before he became champion and that’s known on the street. He didn’t all of sudden become an alcoholic. When he became a champion, he exacerbated it,” Mancini said.
Mancini also contended that, in general, people expect themselves to fail and are unprepared to handle success.
“Growing up in a place like Youngstown definitely can be an added pressure. He’s a big fish in a small pond,” he said.
Mancini said the same determination that makes Pavlik a strong competitor will help him overcome his addictions.
I would tell him, look, you gotta get yourself healthy. You have that mindset that you used to become a champion, and that same mindset will help you be successful to straighten yourself out. You can do it,” he said, adding that he hopes people will forgive and understand Pavlik’s struggles.
Eric Ryan, Covelli Centre executive director, a friend and business partner of Pavlik’s, expressed similar sentiments.
“As a friend of Kelly’s, I’m very happy he’s getting help. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” Ryan said.
Ryan noted that many athletes have problems similar to Pavlik’s because of their fame.
“Sports psychology isn’t a billion-dollar industry for nothing,” he said. “Kelly’s done a lot of wonderful things and has been great to our community. He obviously has a problem, and I’m glad he recognized it and is getting help.”
PAVLIK RESTAURANT CLOSED
Ryan also addressed rumors of the 13th Round, a restaurant in Struthers he co-owns with Pavlik, shutting its doors permanently.
He said he and Pavlik had decided to sell the restaurant a while ago, and a sale is pending. It is currently open only for previously scheduled concerts. Although the sale should be finalized in the “very near future,” Ryan declined to comment on the buyer, saying only that it would remain a restaurant.
“Quite honestly, it has nothing to do with the other news about Kelly. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“At the end of the day, he’s just a guy going to get help. If it were anyone else, we would be praising him.”
Rumors of problems with alcohol and visits to rehab have dogged Pavlik in recent years. In June 2009, Pavlik’s father vehemently denied an Internet report that his son was in an alcohol-rehabilitation center.
“There’s absolutely no truth to that at all,” Mike Sr. told The Vindicator at the time. “Those are vicious, ugly rumors and there’s more than that out there.”
Initially, the Pavliks tried to ignore the rumors in hopes that they’d go away.
Later, Mike Sr. said, “We figured they were so absurd that they didn’t need to be addressed. But they’re actually gaining momentum now.”
THE BURDENS OF FAME
Pavlik’s co-manager, Cameron Dunkin, admitted then that Pavlik had been struggling with the burdens of fame and had even met with a sports psychologist.
Calls to Dunkin were not returned Saturday.
“I don’t know if he’ll ever fight again,” Dunkin told Yahoo! Sports.
When asked if his son would fight again, Mike Sr. on Saturday night told The Vindicator, “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to Kelly.”
Dunkin said Pavlik wasn’t determined to be chemically dependent on alcohol in the spring, but has been declared dependent this time.
Loew said Saturday that Pavlik will remain in rehab for “as long as it takes.”
Sports editor Rob Todor contributed to this article.
TIMELINE | Ups and downs for Kelly Pavlik
May 19, 2007 — Memphis, Tenn.: Pavlik defeats Edison Miranda by knock-out in the seventh round. The fight was a WBC eliminator bout.
Sept. 29, 2007 — Atlantic City, N.J.:Pavlik defeats defending champion and previously unbeaten Jermain Taylor on a seventh-round knock-out to win the world WBC/WBO boxing championship.
June 7, 2008 — Atlantic City: Pavlik defends his middleweight title against Gary Lockett. According to Vindicator articles, at the 1:40 mark of the third round, after Pavlik’s third knockdown of Lockett, referee Eddie Cotton stops the first middleweight title defense of Pavlik’s career, putting an end to the bout.
Oct. 18, 2008 — Atlantic City: Pavlik loses a non-title match to Bernard Hopkins in a 12-round unanimous decision. Pavlik later says he took antibiotics in the days leading up to the fight after being diagnosed with bronchitis on the night of Oct. 14, 2008. He also had an inflamed bursa sac in his left elbow throughout training camp.
Feb. 21, 2009 — Youngstown: Pavlik defends his title and knocks out Marco Antonio Rubio at the Chevrolet Centre, now the Covelli Centre.
Oct. 21, 2009 — Youngstown: Pavlik’s Dec. 5 fight with Paul Williams is postponed as the middleweight fighter struggles to rehabilitate from a staph infection in his left hand. It’s the second time the fight is postponed. Ultimately, it is canceled.
Dec. 19, 2009 — Youngstown: Pavlik knocks out Miguel Espino in the fifth-round of a match at the Beeghly Center on the campus of Youngstown State University.
April 7, 2010 — Rancho Mirage, Calif.: After two weeks of treatment, Pavlik leaves the Betty Ford Clinic, according to a Yahoo Sports! report that quotes Pavlik’s manager Cameron Dunkin.
April 17, 2010 — Atlantic City, N.J.: Pavlik loses his middleweight title against junior middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. in a unanimous 12-round decision.
May 2010 — Youngstown: Pavlik tells The Vindicator he’s taking the summer off.
Late September 2010 — California, Pa.: Pavlik begins training in seclusion for his Nov. 13 bout with Brian Vera, on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito main event at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
Oct. 27, 2010 — Youngstown: Trainer Jack Loew decides to cancel the Nov. 13 fight because of Pavlik’s rib injury.
Oct. 31, 2010 — Youngstown: Pavlik is escorted out of a downtown bar/cafe for unruly behavior.
Nov. 1, 2010 — Youngstown: The fight cancellation is publicly announced.
Nov. 4, 2010 — Rancho Mirage, Calif.: Pavlik enters the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment for alcohol addiction.
Nov. 26, 2010: Pavlik’s father, Mike Pavlik Sr. and Pavlik’s co-manager, Cameron Dunkin, are quoted in a Yahoo Sports! article confirming Pavlik’s treatment at Betty Ford.
Sources: Vindicator files, Yahoo!Sports