By Joe Scalzo
A few weeks ago, Kelly Pavlik and Jack Loew were driving on I-80 near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border when they stopped at a toll booth and were immediately recognized by the collector.
“She held up traffic until she found something for him to sign,” said Loew.
Since then, Pavlik has gone virtually unnoticed, holed up in training camp in rural California, Pa., where his life revolves around sleeping, eating and boxing, not necessarily in that order.
“There’s not much else to do,” said Pavlik, speaking by phone earlier this week. “You walk around the room here and you see the ring. You eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and you’re constantly staring at the ring.
“It’s definitely all boxing here.”
Added Loew, “You smell it all day.”
Pavlik is three weeks away from his bout against Bryan Vera, a 164-pound bout scheduled for 10 rounds on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight Nov. 13 at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
It’s a comeback bout for Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs), who lost his middleweight title in a unanimous decision loss to Sergio Martinez in April. Pavlik was dominated in the final four rounds of that bout, which he blamed on having to lose 35 pounds in eight weeks after coming into training camp heavier than he had ever been.
After taking the summer off, Pavlik came into training camp around 175 pounds, one sign he was serious about regaining his stature in the boxing world after two lackluster years. The other sign was his commitment to training outside Youngstown, something he attempted before his last two fights — in Las Vegas and Florida, respectively — only to return soon afterward.
This time is different, both because the facilities are better (Roy Jones Jr. has trained there before several fights) and because Pavlik, a notorious homebody, is close enough to return home periodically, whether it’s for his good friend Mike Cox’s wedding, a chiropractic appointment (Pavlik has regular back adjustments) or just to see his wife and kids. California is located about an hour south of Pittsburgh and they can make it back to Youngstown in less than two hours.
“He’s not 3,000 miles away,” Loew said. “That’s a very comfortable thing for him.”
Pavlik works out three times a day, mixing in running (both in the nearby hills and the local high school track) with bike riding (when his legs are tired), sparring and gym work. The toughest thing is finding something to do at night, where a trip to Wal-Mart or — if they’re really lucky — a night at the bowling alley breaks the monotony of watching TV.
“At times it gets boring because there’s so much downtime after working out and there’s nothing really close,” said Pavlik. “You sit around, you go to Wal-Mart, you take a good, long drive. That’s pretty much it.”
Added Loew, “Believe me, we’re 25 minutes away from anything.”
The flip side is, Pavlik has been able to work without distractions. He doesn’t have to worry about getting stopped for autographs at the grocery store or interrupting his runs to talk to a fan.
“Half these people,” said Loew, “don’t even know what boxing is.”
Ideally, the narrow focus will pay off not only against Vera — a B-level fighter who has lost four of his last five bouts — but in the future as Pavlik weighs whether to try to regain his middleweight belts or move up to super middleweight, where big names such as Lucian Bute await.
“It’s been a very peaceful camp with a lot of good, hard work,” said Loew. “Everything is going good.”