By Joe Scalzo
On Saturday, “The Ghost” said goodbye.
Citing health concerns and waning motivation, Kelly Pavlik announced his retirement from boxing after 42 fights.
“I did it for 12 1/2 years and I had a helluva run,” said the 30-year-old South Side native. “This [decision] has been coming for a little while.”
Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs) is best known for his seventh-round knockout of Jermain Taylor in September 2007 to win the WBC and WBO middleweight titles in Atlantic City. He defeated Taylor again five months later in a non-title bout and made three successful title defenses before losing to Sergio Martinez by unanimous decision in April 2010.
Pavlik won four more fights, including three in 2012, but opted to retire when this month’s scheduled super middleweight title bout with Andre Ward was canceled due to Ward’s shoulder injury.
“He reached the highest level of the sport and it was really kind of incredible to watch,” said his friend and former training partner Billy Lyell, a Niles native who has fought several champions himself. “It’s a big world out there and to be the best of the best, I don’t think people from the area realize just how good he was.”
Pavlik boosted Youngstown’s reputation as a boxing hotbed, becoming the latest in a long line of champions that includes Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Harry Arroyo, Jeff Lampkin and Greg Richardson.
“He’ll be remembered as having an outstanding career and being an outstanding fighter,” said his promoter, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who once promoted Mancini. “I have fond memories of my time with Kelly.”
Pavlik’s career was damaged in recent years by injuries and two stints in rehab for alcohol abuse, but his personal struggles were offset by his professional popularity (his fights in Atlantic City drew thousands of Youngstown fans) and his success.
“I think Kelly could have went down as one of the greatest middleweight champions of all time,” said his longtime trainer, Jack Loew. “That’s how good he was.”