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Jack Loew: From Driveways to Press Conferences

When Kelly Pavlik got drilled behind the ear by a looping right hand from Jermain Taylor four months ago he saw stars. His trainer saw driveways.

"All I could see was a lot of driveways in front of my face,'' Pavlik's lifelong chief second Jack Loew said of the moment his fighter hit the canvas last Sept. 29 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City after a barrage of punches hit him in the face. "First thing that ran through my mind was I'd never stop paving driveways. Then once he got up and got through the round and told me he was all right and I thought we'd be fine.''

Five rounds later, Pavlik was more than fine. He was the middleweight champion of the world after leaving Taylor slumped on the floor like a pile of old linens, semi-conscious and totally beaten. The man who created that fighter was now fine too but Loew understood the grim realities of the fight game for a guy from an out-of-the-way place like Youngstown, Ohio. He knew he'd been teetering on the edge of a precipice, only a few more punches from Taylor away from looking for a new fighter to train.

"If Kelly had been knocked out in two rounds I would have been done,'' Loew said. "No doubt. They would have all blamed Jack Loew.''

This is not the talk of a man grown paranoid by the skullduggery that is so much a part of boxing. It is a man who understands that as important as he's been to the care and development of the undefeated Pavlik (32-0, 29 KO) he's also the guy some of the people around him have labored long and hard to be rid of.

That process began not long after Pavlik signed with promoter Bob Arum . Co-managed by one of Arum's allies, long-time fight manager Cameron Duncan, Pavlik was seen as a rising prospect with only one problem. His trainer had been with him since he'd started out as an eight-year-old kid with a fighter's heart and a puncher's chance to make it big in a very difficult arena.

People began to whisper in Pavlik's ear, reminding him that there were big name trainers in Las Vegas, like former Olympic team coach Kenny Adams, who had more experience than some guy who just happened to have a gym around the corner form Pavlik's house.

Arum even went public, repeatedly insisting Pavlik might never reach his true potential if he didn't leave Youngstown for Las Vegas, where Arum is based and sponsors a state-of-the-art training facility only a few blocks off The Strip. Training in Las Vegas was code for training with someone else. Jack Loew knew it. Jack Loew hasn't forgotten it.

But then again, Jack Loew also has had his day. When he resurrected Pavlik after that second round knockdown, talking to him sweetly until he knew his head was clear and then speaking calmly and directly about what needed to be done to right the ship and win the fight, Jack Loew came off the floor, too. Five rounds later, nobody was talking about getting rid of him any more.

At least not publicly.

"I've always been willing to learn from other trainers,'' Loew said. "I spend more time watching the corner than I do the fights when I'm at them. I was willing to go to Las Vegas and learn from guys like Miguel Diaz and Mike McCallum and Oscar Suarez, guys with more experience. I was good with that. I wanted what was best for Kelly but I had a problem with the idea of someone trying to force me out of the picture.

"I used to tell those guys, when Kelly wasn't improving it was because we didn't have the money for decent sparring. Nobody around here would spar with him even when he was an amateur. Why get your kid beaten up?

"Once they took care of that before the fight with (Fulgencio) Zuniga fight (in 2005 when he and Pavlik did go to Vegas to train) you could see the improvement in Kelly. We had 18 rounds of sparring for that fight. If we hadn't shown improvement against (Bronko) McKart in the next fight I would probably have been gone. I thank God every day that Kelly stayed here. They were putting so much pressure on him as a young kid but he stuck by me. He knew deep down it wasn't Jack Loew's fault he wasn't improving faster. It was the situation we were in but some guys wanted me out of the picture.''

According to Loew, that guy was Duncan, who kept trying to persuade Pavlik to dump Loew for Adams until the fighter finally made clear he would only come to Las Vegas to train if Loew was with him. To this day, those slights remain a bruise that won't heal. They may be faded with the time and the raising of Pavlik's hand as middleweight champion but they will never go away.

"Cameron wasn't trying to help Kelly,'' Loew said. "He was trying to cut me out and bring in his own guy. I don't really like to talk about it. He's Kelly's agent so I treat him professionally. It's a business. I never said I was the greatest trainer in the world but I'm the right fit for Kelly.

"I do my job. I do it the right way. I thank God every day Kelly chose my door to walk through. Cameron Duncan had to eat his words. He's not on my Christmas card list.''

2008 02 16 Pavlik Taylor profile Jack Loew

One thing still on Loew's list is driveway paving, something he got back to only two days after the biggest fight of his life. Loew had returned to Youngstown by Sunday afternoon and was back on the paver by Tuesday because that's what you do.

"I had commitments,'' he said in the way a guy raised in a Middle American place like Youngstown does. "I said I'd seal those driveways. But I slowed down. I do maybe six a day now when the weather is good instead of 10.''

What he's also done is return to his old haunt, the Southside Boxing Club on Eire Street. The weekend after he and Pavlik conspired to defeat Jermain Taylor, Jack Loew was at an amateur show somewhere in Ohio, surrounded by a bunch of eight and 10 year olds who reminded him of the one he found who was special.

"When they're nine or 10 you don't know if they have talent or not but you can learn if they've got balls,'' Loew said. "After Kelly started sparring he'd go home every other night with a bloody T-shirt but he kept coming back. He was always relentless.

"He's always been that way. His first fight I put him in with a kid (Mark Battasella) who was 20-0 and the Ohio State Fair champion. Kelly was 10. A lot of people thought I'd lost my mind. Kelly whipped his ass. He's the most competitive guy I ever met.''

That was apparent again two weeks after Pavlik defeated Taylor. On their way home from a charity event, Loew and Pavlik stopped at a familiar watering hole, Civics, for a beer and some conversation with the people who knew them best.

Pavlik began playing ping pong and was trounced. Everyone laughed but Pavlik. He smiled but Loew knew what that meant.

The next day Pavlik went and bought a ping pong table and put it in the basement of his parent's home, where he often sleeps on the sofa after dinner despite owning a house around the corner.

"A few weeks later he went back and he was the one who was laughing,'' Loew recalled.

After Taylor collapsed in his corner in the seventh round when Pavlik used the double jab Loew kept asking for to set up a brutal power punching assault, the 48-year-old unknown trainer from Youngstown had his laugh, too. He had been as sure before the fight as his fighter was that this would happen and so it came as no shock. The shock came after the fight.

"It was the greatest day of my life,'' Loew said of his moment of victory and vindication in Atlantic City, "but I was shocked after the fight that Emanuel Steward (who trained Taylor) wouldn't shake my hand.

"If you watch the tape I directly looked at him and put my hand out and he turned away. I wish the guy would have shaken my hand but he just blew me off. That great Emanuel Steward.

"I would have congratulated him. I thought he showed us a lot of disrespect. I remember before the fight he said Kelly would be competitive for one round. I can't understand that.

"He's a Hall of Fame trainer. He's got more world champions than I got pairs of underwear. He couldn't even acknowledge me? I don't know. Maybe he didn't notice me. It don't matter. We won and we'll win the rematch. I just wish he'd given me my props.''

Before the first fight, Taylor's handlers had included an automatic rematch clause if the champion lost at a catch weight of 165 pounds. When Taylor immediately exercised it and then fired Steward to reunite with his own former amateur trainer and surrogate father, Ozell Nelson, Loew was surprised.

Surprised not so much at the decision to jump back in with Pavlik, a move he says he wouldn't have advised but understands because of the competitive nature of the former champion. What shocked him was Taylor's decision to rejoin Nelson, who has him doing the old-school training workouts Pavlik has long used.

"I do my job. I do it the right way. I thank God every day Kelly chose my door to walk through. Cameron Duncan had to eat his words. He's not on my Christmas card list.''

"Jermain's swinging a sledgehammer and hitting truck tires with it like Kelly,'' Loew said. "Obviously we got deep inside that kid's head for him to do that. It's not going to work.

"First of all, you don't pick that stuff up overnight. We've been hitting tires, flipping them over, for years. He's not even swinging it right. He's changing the color of his trunks. He's pushing cars and hitting tires. We're pretty deep in his head.

"I expect Jermain to come out aggressively because we took something away from him that he'd had for a while but we'll see how he reacts neurologically when he gets hit the first time. That was a devastating knockout.''

Just as devastating, Loew believes, is that Taylor is the same fighter he's been since he fought Pavlik in the Olympic Trials in 2004, when Loew was in one corner and Ozell Nelson in the other.

"People got to realize the rap on Taylor is that he brought all these bad habits from the amateurs to the pros,'' Loew said. "Ozell's the one who taught him all that. I thank Jermain for bringing him back in.

"When he knocked Kelly down he couldn't finish him. He went wild. The amateurish side of Jermain came out. He was swinging like an amateur and blew it. I'm glad to see Ozell there.''

Not as glad as he is to see himself where he always felt he belonged. Standing behind a special fighter trainers like Jack Loew can wait a lifetime for.

"I fought in the Golden Gloves until I was 18,'' Loew recalled. "Then I got myself into a little bit of trouble outside the ring and I didn't box no more. I worked for the teamsters in a warehouse for 18 years and I worked with my old trainer until I opened a gym.

"I rented a building, built a speed bag, got some equipment. It was just a hobby. I never imagined anything like this. I had a couple of B level fighters once I thought were the shit because I didn't know. Then Kelly came along.

"If you're at the bottom rung (of boxing) you dream all your life that somebody like Kelly will come along. I truly believe as long as Kelly stays a middleweight he's got the size and the power to dominate. Kelly taking out Jermain really solidified my career. I felt it was a bigger fight career-wise for me than Kelly. If Kelly had lost I believed he'd still go on and win the title. Me? I would have been gone and forgotten.''

Jack Loew is neither now. He's the trainer of the middleweight champion, trainer of the year and a guy who got his props the way he got everything else in life - the hard way.

""Jermain's swinging a sledgehammer and hitting truck tires with it like Kelly,'' Loew said. "Obviously we got deep inside that kid's head for him to do that. It's not going to work."

Kelly Pavlik vs Jermain Taylor

HBO PPV - Feb. 16, 2008

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