Four Fighters Who Self-Destructed on Their Road to Boxing Stardom

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COMMENTARY | Some fighters are born stars, some achieve stardom, and some have stardom thrust upon them. However, others somehow manage to take every possible wrong turn on their road to stardom and wind up on history's scrap heap of ruined prizefighters with unfulfilled potential.

Here's a look at four fighters from the last five years or so who should've become superstars, but couldn't overcome their own drive to self-destruct:

Kelly Pavlik

"The Ghost" could've been a boxing money machine. He was an All-American, Classic-Rock lovin', blue collar middleweight with heavy hands and a knack for delivering good, entertaining scraps. Back to back thrillers against Edison Miranda and WBC/WBO titlist, Jermain Taylor not only got Pavlik undisputed middleweight champ status, but also captured the attention of an American boxing audience eager for the next big thing. However, a dull rematch win over Taylor at super middleweight and a one-sided schooling at the hands of light heavyweight champ, Bernard Hopkins stopped all of his career momentum. After the ill-advised Hopkins bout, Pavlik's personal life began to spiral out of control. Chronic injury and a reported alcohol problem flat-lined Pavlik's career and eventually turned the "next big thing" into a "where is he now?" A bloody loss to Sergio Martinez back at middleweight then cost him his lineal 160 lb. title. Despite a move up in weight and a shift over to Southern California to work with Robert Garcia, Pavlik never managed to get things back on track and opted for retirement late last year.

James Kirkland

Brutal, compelling, and dominant, Kirkland was on the fast track to a world title shot when a prison stint for parole violation saw him lose two prime years of his career. Upon release, "The Mandingo Warrior" lacked the fire that had taken him to the top and found himself knocked out in the first round of his third comeback bout by feather-fisted Nobuhiro Ishida. Kirkland was able to recover lost ground with wins over Alfredo Angulo and Carlos Molina and was again on the verge of a world title shot when he began his familiar self-destruction routine. Kirkland would turn down close to a million dollars to face Saul Alvarez for the WBC junior middleweight title and then aggressively push to break free from his entire management team after accusing his people of drugging him prior to the Molina bout. Recently, fifteen months (and counting) of inactivity was topped off with an arrest for assaulting his girlfriend.

Juan Manuel Lopez

Once regarded as the next big thing in Puerto Rican boxing, JuanMa has gone from promising world class prospect to faded "has been" over the course of less than five years. Reports of excessive partying and drastic battles with weight seemed to have aged Lopez before his time and sapped him of the magic he had back when he was a young star pursuing a world title. Two losing efforts against Orlando Salido in all-out wars also took their toll on the fighter from Caguas. Most recently, Lopez looked sadly overmatched in his TKO 4 loss to Mikey Garcia. At 29 years of age, Lopez now looks brittle, flat, and appears to be little more than a speed bump on a younger fighter's road to stardom.

Tavoris Cloud

Who could forget the ferocious Cloud who tore up Julio Cesar Gonzalez in an IBF light heavyweight eliminator and then brutalized Clinton Woods to win the vacant IBF world title? That version of Cloud looked to be on the path to stardom. He was a bright, young presence on the scene and earned his fair share of attention with those impressive performances against solid, usually durable contenders. Fast forward four years and the once-aggressive Cloud has become passive and bored, recently sleep walking his way through a unanimous decision loss to Bernard Hopkins. Victimized by a one-fight-a-year schedule courtesy of promoter Don King, the now-former champ looks to be headed straight for mid-card status.


Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Sources: Boxrec, Boxingscene

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