So many people had written Kelly Pavlik (36-2, 32KOs) off after his embarrassing loss to Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City in 2008. After a long road to ring recovery with a pair of Ohio-based fights, Pavlik was again sidelined--physically and in public's eye--prior to his scheduled match with Paul Williams, this time by a staph infection.
Plagued by these problems, Saturday night was a long-time coming for the Ohio fighter as he stepped into the ring to defend his middleweight title against Sergio Martinez in front a crowd who travelled from Youngstown to see Kelly's return.
It must have also felt like a recurring bad dream tonight against Sergio Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs), who dealt Pavlik his first loss in the middleweight division. The fight bore a slight resemblance to Pavlik's fight against Hopkins,whose high-output and faster punches proved too much for Pavlik.
Throughout the entire fight Pavlik was unable to pull the trigger on his trademark right hand enough to throw off Martinez's game. Weaving around the ring, continually moving out of the range of Pavlik's most damaging shots, Martinez pressed the action early, forcing Pavlik to doggedly stalk him around the ring.
It wasn't until the middle of the fight when Pavlik found his rhythm, winning several rounds and scoring a suspect, if not awkward, knockdown in the seventh. But Martinez seemed to have a stronger game plan, saying after the fight that he expected Pavlik to come out stronger the second half of the fight. But by the beginnings of those later rounds the trails of blood that would inevitably keep Pavlik from any further momentum had started. By fight's end, his right eye was a lake of blood, visible to even the farthest seats in the house.
"I tried but it was very hard to come back after him," said Pavlik. "I couldn't see out of my right eye. I wasn't
hurting but he just had a lot of volume. "
Within a few rounds, the surge that in a brief glimmer of the Kelly Pavlik that dismantled Jermain Taylor three years ago in their rematch here in Atlantic City was gone and along with it his middleweight title.
In the opening bout, a 168-pound title fight between reigning Montreal hometown hero, Lucian Bute, and one-time "the next Mike Tyson," Edison Miranda, proved to be a short but exciting affair.
Bute, whose first controversial win of Librado Andrade was made whole by his easy victory in their rematch, comes with a hometown idolization of Arturo Gatti proportions. Fans in his adopted town of Montreal flock to his fights, at which he makes entrances that would make Vladimir Klitschko blush.
The crowds were pleased as Bute dispatched with a strong-looking and much improved Miranda in the third round. After two rounds of feeling each other out and Miranda setting the pace, the Puerto Rico-based Miranda reverted to the crowd-pleasing but dangerous taunting, posing and teasing for which he is sometimes known. No sooner did the words, "he's improved" pass through the lips of boxing press did Bute's soaring left uppercut slice through Miranda's gloves and sent him sprawling to the mat, eventually deemed unable to continue by the referee.