By Todd Franko (Contact)
Published December 18, 2009
For the second time in 2009, Kelly Pavlik will play host to a middleweight title fight in his hometown.
Unlike the first time around last February, when many of the 7,000 seats at the Covelli Centre sold out within minutes, this seats Saturday night at Youngstown State University will fill up only if tickets are given away.
Except for Tiger Woods and the members of the Cleveland Browns, no athlete needs 2009 to end quicker than Pavlik.
The fight vs. Miguel Espino is a continuation of what 2009 has been for Kelly — a disaster. I appreciate the sales challenges of putting on a fight the week before Christmas. But luring people to this fight would have been tough had it been in November or October.
There is an air of Pavlik Fatigue in the Valley brought on by less-than-championship-like qualities displayed this past year.
At least Kelly managed to push aside the payday concerns he floated earlier this year to take mere thousands of dollars for this fight.
I'm guessing that 1,500 to 2,000 people will creep into the 7,000-plus-seat Beeghly Center Saturday. I would like to be wrong, but I'm believing my hunch is closer to right than wrong.
I base that on ticket availability online as of Thursday (you could still by blocks of the priciest and costliest seats in the house).
I also base that on a quick survey i did Thursday of people I know who could not stop talking about the February fight. This time, they could not care any less. One guy just decided to go on Thursday because nothing else was exciting on Saturday night.
Team Pavlik and Top Rank could do themselves some good by being more forthright about lagging sales. Maybe if enough hometown heartstrings were pulled, everyone could be spared the national spectacle of an empty hometown Beeghly on the international PPV.
Like a pitcher or hitter taking a Class A baseball assignment to get back into shape, Team Pavlik has to accept all that comes with Saturday's fight choice — including the 5,000 empty seats. They need to resist judging the fan base too harshly. The fans appear set to give Pavlik what was deserved.
But the beauty of the fan base is that when they see value, they will be back.
But Pavlik needs to come back. It starts with a win Saturday and a 2010 that is more like 2007 than 2009.