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Proceed with caution: Pavlik’s recovery from alcohol issues a matter of opinion

Steve Cofield
Boxing

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After 13 months away, Kelly Pavlik climbs back into the ring on Saturday night. He faces Alfons0 Lopez on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight.

If you're wondering where he's been, even Pavlik has a tough time talking about it. For that reason, the super middleweight's slaying of his alcohol problem should be handled with kid gloves.

The media takes on Pavlik's return and alcoholism this week unveiled a wide array of opinions.

The Mirror surprised us with this headline:

Kelly Pavlik has won his biggest fight - against alcohol

The Las Vegas Review-Journal went with the angle that Pavlik has seen the light:

'More mature' Pavlik emerges from rehab, pursues world title

A successful comeback makes for a great story, but only if the story is close to completion. Several writers nailed what may be the truth about Pavlik's true state heading into this weekend.

Both the RJ and the Mirror suggested it was Pavlik who finally realized it was time to go to rehab. That's not accurate.

The San Antonio News-Express said:

By the end of 2010, it took family intervention to persuade him to finally get help. He entered the Betty Ford Clinic for alcohol rehabilitation.

And the Press-Telegram used Pavlik's hometown paper in Youngstown, Oh. to tell us what really happened:

According to Vindy.com, a family intervention involving Pavlik's parents and his wife, Samantha, ensued and he was back at Betty Ford.

Why is that important? Because Pavlik didn't think he had a problem back in November and several media members believe, that even after two stints in rehab, he still doesn't think he was a full-blown alcoholic.{ysp:more}

Mark Staniforth from TheSportingLife.com noticed that Pavlik refused to say "alcoholic" during a prefight teleconference.

It remains to be seen whether Pavlik, by his own admission a party animal, has truly beaten his demons. During a conference call this week, he neglected to mention the 'A' word once. He implies his affliction was not so serious.

Some may scoff at that. Maybe words aren't that important. After all, Pavlik's actions should speak loudly. He hasn't had a drink since Nov. 2.

Robert Morales from the Long Beach Press-Telegram disagrees.

He's saying things that seem to indicate he's taking a harder look at his drinking problem this time, but he seems to have somewhat of a difficult time coming to grips with its enormity.

[...] Far be it from yours truly to decide what Pavlik should be thinking. But as a recovering alcoholic who's been off the bottle more than 20 years, one thing is for sure - any bit of denial is bad news for anyone with an alcohol addiction.

Morales was disturbed by Pavlik's answer when he was asked about having a moment of clarity back in October or early November.

"No, not at all," he said. "More or less what it was, just the route that it was going. It wasn't one experience or it wasn't a life threatening experience or anything like that. It was just the point where it came to, `Hey, it's got to stop.'

"It wasn't me getting roughed up or shooting somebody or robbing somebody to get alcohol or vice-versa; it wasn't that extreme. But it came to a point where it was like, `Let's get our head out of our (behind) and move on here."'

Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole thinks Pavlik's in denial and that some in his camp are enabling him.

Morales pointed out manager Cameron Dunkin, who suggested Pavlik mostly misses just hanging out with friends.

"I definitely think he understands he has a problem or he wouldn't be doing what he's doing," Dunkin said. "What he's saying is there are guys that get up in the morning and it just overtakes them. But he doesn't feel like that about alcohol."

"Does he miss going out with his buddies and watching the games (at the local spot)? Yes, that's when he misses alcohol. What Kelly is saying is, it's not like he gets up in the morning and says, `Man, I want a beer.' He knows he can't drink. He says, `I know it's going to ruin my life."'

His co-manager Mike Miller seems to get it a little more.

"He seems to have done a 180 (degree turn)," Miller said. "He's been taking his kids to the movies and to the park. He's being a great dad.

"But being an alcoholic, the report card is a daily event. It's all about, 'Did I take a drink today?' You don't worry about tomorrow."

It's hard to find anyone who's not rooting for Pavlik to beat this thing. He's a tremendous fighter and by most accounts, a good guy. Let's just hope Pavlik and his support system have the strength to deal with reality if it ever gets to a point where he's at rock bottom again.

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