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Bert Sugar: Pavlik’s image has been hurt

Published: Sat, August 6, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.


Boxing Hall of Fame member Bert Sugar wonders if Kelly Pavlik has lost the desire to pay the price outside the ring in order to excel inside of it.

By Joe Scalzo


Before Bert Sugar became a legendary boxing historian, he was a not-so-legendary amateur fighter, waking up at 5 a.m. for 5-mile runs, counting beer cans along the side of the road, wondering whether the pain outside the ring was worth the pain inside of it

“There comes a time when you just figure, ‘Enough’s enough,’” he said. “Fighting is still not the most pleasant way to earn a living.

“It’s fun, but it’s not pleasant.”

Sugar, 74, is working on a book about working in the advertising business in the “Mad Men” 1960s but this week he’s also kept his eye on the ongoing Kelly Pavlik saga. While he’s reluctant to “play psychiatrist without a license,” he wonders whether Pavlik has lost the desire to pay the price outside the ring in order to excel inside of it.

“Many athletes ... say, ‘I climbed the mountain — to hell with it, I’m going home,’” Sugar said, speaking by phone this week from his home in New York. “He’s fought since he’s a kid and has spent half his life in the ring.”

Pavlik made headlines this week, both for canceling Saturday’s bout with Darryl Cunningham at the Covelli Centre and pulling out of a planned November bout with IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute. The reason for the cancellations, Pavlik said, was his unwillingness to fight Cunningham for $50,000 and Bute for $1.35 million.

Those cancellations, along with previous cancellations against three other fighters, have hurt his image in the sport, Sugar said.

“It becomes a wariness after awhile, doesn’t it?” Sugar said.

Pavlik’s saga is certainly not new to boxing, or sports in general, and Sugar believes he will one day regret his decisions.

“Not immediately but all of us do [live with regrets],” he said. “He’ll look back and say he could’ve, would’ve, should’ve done something different.

“But Kelly, look, he’s not had a silver spoon in his mouth. His life has been hard and he might just want to reflect on the lulls and kick up his shoes and say, ‘That’s it.’ Some can do that.”

Others can’t. Sugar said Sugar Ray Leonard came back because he missed the spotlight.

“When you hear people chanting your name, it’s sort of an opiate,” Sugar said.

If Pavlik’s career peaked with his wins over Jermain Taylor in 2007-08 — and considering the arc of his career over the last 31/2 years, there’s reason to believe it has — Sugar believes Pavlik will be remembered as a good, but not great, fighter. He said a fighter is measured, in part, by who he beats. Sugar Ray Robinson, for instance, beat 23 former, present and future champions. Pavlik has faced three champions and lost to two of them.

“He might be the answer to a trivia question: Who was the last white middleweight champion?” Sugar said. “How do I rate him? As not in the 20 middleweight champions of all time.

“He’ll be remembered as one of the most exciting fighters of the last 20 years. But ‘The Ghost’ looks like he’s about to become a ghost.”


1arod(263 comments)posted 3 years ago

Tell us something we don't know Bert.

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2Craigles(1 comment)posted 3 years ago

They tried to make him go to rehab, but he said, no, no no!

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3MichaelG93(79 comments)posted 3 years ago

I'm shocked by how so many haters we have in the valley. Read some articles, get Kelly's perspective before you go to all these conclusions. I've read on numerous boxing sights and don't agree with Kelly's decision but he made good points. You just paid me $275k to fight after a 13 month layoff and now you want me to fight for $50k? If I don't win the $50k fight, I'm not getting the $1.35k payday. I don't know...... If I was working for $80k at a job and somebody told me that I'm going to do the same job but now I'm going to make 18K (same percentage as Kelly was getting cut) I probably would have said I'm not interested. Plus, when he was on top, everybody was Kelly this and Kelly that.... Now, everybody is driving the bus over him. Brighten up people. The world isn't falling because Kelly called these two fights.

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4db(280 comments)posted 3 years ago

Kelly who?!?

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5arod(263 comments)posted 3 years ago

MikeG93, It's a tough economy he should take what he can get. Let me ask you this, where is his next paycheck going to come from? Not boxing...

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6TT8(1 comment)posted 3 years ago

Haters? No, just people disappointed in his decisions and what he could have been and represented for Y-town. As far as fighting for less money....any fighter coming back from a long break ( example, Sugar Ray) doesn't make as much money fighting lesser opponents! He needs to redeem himself in the ring and outside the ring. You wont find any town like Youngstown that will support their own like we do. So, to say Haters, no, just hard working people who know what it takes to earn their money. Tell me outside the heavyweights and Pacquio and Cotto, who is making a million dollars ? Lastly, we all know that Ray Mancini was the perfect example of how a fighter should respresent his town. I think we all expected Kelly to do the same!!

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7walter_sobchak(1891 comments)posted 3 years ago


He was to fight in his hometown for the very people that have supported him in his entire career. But, although we have to accept hard times in the area, Kelly can't take a step back and rebuild his stature. Maybe he couldn't have beat this cupcake and didn't want to be embarrassed in his hometown even though he seems to have no trouble with making himself look pathetic regularly. I'll bet that advanced ticket sales were well below what was expected of the Y-town sheep. To schedule an indoor fight in August when many are on vacation and on a weekend when weather is typically good doesn't make sense.

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8DOLE2(594 comments)posted 3 years ago

Wallmart greeter

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9redvert(2056 comments)posted 3 years ago

Good point arod, who is this Bert Sugar anyways??? Oh that is right, he is a well known respected expert on boxing. I kinda think his opinion carries more weight in the boxing world than what some local such as this arod character would say. No disrespect toward locals, it is just a fact that locals may be unintentionally biased.

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10Lifes2Short(3875 comments)posted 3 years ago

“Not immediately but all of us do [live with regrets],” he said. “He’ll look back and say he could’ve, would’ve, should’ve done something different."

Enough said.........

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11arod(263 comments)posted 3 years ago

Red, my point was we didn't need this expert to tell us Pavlik made a mistake. I personally know Mr. Sugar so I don't need you telling me who he is. There is no bias on my part, I supported the kid on his way to the top, now he can get a real job like the rest of us.

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12tunney(1 comment)posted 3 years ago

in never realized that bert sugar was brilliant untill i meet him in miami and if anyone can rate pavliks place in history it bert sugar. having said that - i know that kelly did what he felt was best for himself and in the end thats the only person he is accountable to - not arum , showtime or the people of youngstown . quiting the fight game too soon is light years ahead of having one to many .

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13redvert(2056 comments)posted 3 years ago

arod, if your initial post wasn't written as asarcastic sounding comment I would not of replied.

You could of just as well commented that Sugar agreed with the local consensus.

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14redvert(2056 comments)posted 3 years ago

Michael, Pavlik's job was to win fights, that is what he was paid to do. Since Pavlik's job performance was unsatisfactory recently his boss (promoters) said we are putting you on probation (non union job of course) and lowering your salary until you can prove that you once again are contribution to the bottom line of this company. If you do prove your worth we will give you a big pay increase and you will see bigger dollars in the future. Pavlik said "no" or in other words, said I want the big bucks whether I prove myself or not, after all, I am


Kelly, don't expect any calls from Top rank or any other promoters!

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15Lifes2Short(3875 comments)posted 3 years ago


"i know that kelly did what he felt was best for himself and in the end thats the only person he is accountable to - not arum , showtime or the people of youngstown . quiting the fight game too soon is light years ahead of having one to many ."

Then why don't he just come out and say he don't want to fight no more, instead of doing what he did?
He dogged Top Rank, promoters, his manager, his fans, Covelli Center, Youngstown, Darryl Cunningham, Lucian Bute and the Boxing world, etc....backing out at the last minute. That is totally unprofessional and bush league, and all over $$$$$. Pitiful.

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16Homes(1 comment)posted 3 years ago

Bert must have forgotten how many times Sugar Ray Robinson ,who he considers the best of all time, backed out of matches over money or not feeling in peak condition.Kelly hasn't been the same fighter since his fight with B-Hop.He should get a new trainer period.

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