COMMENTARY | A few days ago, I wrote an article chronicling the sad state of boxing's senior circuit and how the sport is helpless to stop these fighters from putting themselves at serious risk.
Saturday, boxing gave us the flip side of that issue-- and a very rare flip side-- when former undisputed middleweight champ, Kelly Pavlik, announced his retirement.
The 30-year-old native of Youngstown, Ohio became the undisputed middleweight champion by beating Jermain Taylor back in 2007 in a spirited effort that saw him pull himself off the canvas to stop the defending WBC and WBO titlist. From there, the entertaining and affable blue collar battler seemed on the road to mainstream stardom before injury and a well-publicized drinking problem turned a two-year chunk of career into a mess of canceled fights and sub-par performances.
But Pavlik was a hard fighter to keep down, both inside and outside the ring, and fought through adversity in order to make another run at the main stage with new trainer, Robert Garcia, behind him.
However, it was clear that the fire was no longer there. Listless performances against second and third-tier tune-ups brought down his stock considerably and the recently-canceled Andre Ward 168 lb. championship bout would likely have been an ugly, one-sided affair if Pavlik couldn't muster at least some of his old enthusiasm.
"When you stay in the sport too long you have health problems. That's a big, big thing for me," Pavlik told Dan Rafael of ESPN. "I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about in the future. I'm talking about when I'm 55 or 60. What's gonna happen to me then? Why take any more chances, especially in that sport. It's a brutal sport and you never know what can happen.
"I won the world title, I defended my title, I was champ for three years and I made good money. Why take the chance of medical problems? That's a big part of it. I also don't think the drive is there anymore. I'm moving on to a new chapter in my life."
Pavlik insists that he's fine, economically, with a partnership in a shopping mall and plans to open a gym in the near future, and that the desire to spend more time with his wife and two children is the real driving force behind his plan to retire. He's also making it clear that his past struggle with alcohol abuse has nothing to do with the decision to hang up the gloves.
The former world titlist leaves behind a twelve-year professional career and a record of 40-2 with 34 KOs, highlighted by wins over Jermain Taylor (twice), Edison Miranda, Marco Antonio Rubio, Jose Luis Zertuche, Bronco McKart, and Fulgencio Zuniga. His two losses- a shockingly one-sided decision loss to Bernard Hopkins and a spirited, blood-spattered decision loss to Sergio Martinez-- will also go down in the career ledger of the earnest, two-fisted fighter from Youngstown.
Pavlik's biggest legacy, though, may be that of a fighter who got out at the right time and for the right reasons.
From the perspective of a fight fan, the loss of a compelling performer is never a good thing, but Pavlik was smart enough to recognize that the fire was gone and realistic enough to know when he was done as a main stage fighter. Assuming he doesn't "get the itch" and come back for another run, everyone should be fine with his decision.
"I'm tired of leaving my family [for training camp]," Pavlik said. "It comes to a point where you just don't want to do that anymore...my family is more important at this stage...I had a pretty good career. I was 40-2 and I only lost to two of the best guys, Martinez and Hopkins. I'm content."
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.
Dan Rafael, Kelly Pavlik announces retirement, ESPN