"The middleweight division is nowhere near as strong as it has been in the past," said Cameron Dunkin, Pavlik's manager. "Who is out there that would make a big fight? Abraham and Sturm are the other champions, but nobody here knows them, they are not big pay days."
For the moment, Pavlik (31-0, 29 KOs) is set to fight one of his mandatory challengers, 31-year-old Brit Gary Lockett (30-1, 21 KOs) on June 7 in Atlantic City. How the sanctioning body ranked the Enzo Calzaghe-trained Lockett as a number one challenger is anybody's guess. Lockett, who has fought only in the UK, is unranked by two other sanctioning bodies and is 20th with the other. The opponents Lockett beat in his last three fights hardly earned him a title shot: Kai Kauramaki (13-13), Lee Blundell (23-4-2) and Ayiteh Powers (11-4-1).
"Kelly is taking his mandatory and he is getting hammered for it," Dunkin said. "The writers think nothing of Lockett. But if Kelly doesn't fight Lockett he loses his WBO belt. He doesn't want to lose that belt. He loves those belts. People are saying, 'Why are you fighting this guy?' But who do you fight? Who is out there? Tell me the names of the people."
For now, Dunkin is resigned to the fact that in order to get a money fight for the 6'2 1/2 Pavlik he will have to go up in weight, where he has been mentioned by both Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr. as a possible opponent.
"Super middleweight is a whole different thing," Dunkin said. "You've got some big fights there, but those 168-pound guys are old. I am not sure that anyone at 168 would become a defining fight for Kelly."
Should Pavlik fight at super middleweight, it would not be a permanent move by any means. "Kelly is willing to bounce back and forth between 160 and 168, but he wants to keep his belts at 160," Dunkin said. "Kelly is a true middleweight. He has no problem making 160. In fact, last Friday (May 16) he was walking around at 163 1/2 pounds. We had to shut the gym down for the weekend to keep him from losing more weight. It's unfortunate that he has to change divisions just to make a fight."
While Dunkin, who was voted the 2007 Manager of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, is frustrated by the situation, he reports that Pavlik apparently is not.
"Kelly is training harder for this fight - and I know you hear this bullshit all the time - but Kelly is fired up to fight Lockett," Dunkin said. "He just loves to fight, loves the action, the event. I never have to worry about Kelly's interest lagging. He waited seven years for a title fight and never lost focus, never complained."
Throughout Pavlik's journey to the top he did not get the hype or publicity that Duddy and Lee had. "Nobody believed in him when he was coming up. They just saw him as this big, overprotected white kid," Dunkin said. "(Edison) Miranda was a sensational victory (2007) because nobody thought he could win. Why, I don't know. Miranda was a name only in the little boxing community, not someone the public would perceive as a big deal. If Kelly broke Abraham's jaw (4th round) like Miranda did, do you think he would run away from Abraham like Miranda? He would have taken him out.
"Then Kelly fights a sensational fight against Taylor, knocks him out. But after the fight they say Taylor no longer wants to do this, and it tarnished the victory. If Kelly fights Abraham or Sturm, so what? People will say they are just European fighters, who have they beaten?"
It is ironic that Calzaghe has prominently mentioned Pavlik as a possible next opponent, because the Welsh fighter was for many years in the same bag as the Youngstown, Ohio middleweight. The super middleweight division which Calzaghe has dominated for almost 11 years has been one lacking in quality opponents. The last time 168 had superstars was in the early 1990s, when Jones, James Toney, Nigel Benn, Iran Barkley, Michael Nunn and the man Calzaghe dethroned, Chris Eubank, were champions.
"In some way, Kelly is in the same boat that Calzaghe was," Dunkin said. "Calzaghe was criticized for his opponents. Before the Lacy fight, people thought he was a fraud, a white European fighter who would get destroyed by Jeff Lacy."
Despite the barren landscape that Pavlik finds himself in, Dunkin is confident that his fighter will secure his legacy one day.
"Kelly is just 25, and look what he has accomplished already. He wants to fight six or seven more years," Dunkin said. "Someone eventually will come along; there is always somebody who will emerge. Not every Andy Lee will fall through. I just wish a young Vargas was coming up, or a De La Hoya, a young Hopkins, a Toney or a Jones. But I'm not worried. Kelly is a throwback to the old-time fighters. He will fight anyone."
With no palace revolt on the horizon, King Pavlik will have to settle for ruling a domain populated by a long list of those "anyones."