Former middleweight boxing champion Kelly Pavlik has been in the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., since Nov. 4 for treatment of a problem with alcohol, the fighter's father, Mike Pavlik, told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.
The 28-year-old slugger's boxing career is in doubt, said co-manager Cameron Dunkin, who said, "I don't know if he'll ever fight again."
After an intense eight-hour conversation early this month with his parents and wife, Samantha, Kelly Pavlik opted to admit himself to the clinic and seek treatment to cure a problem that Mike Pavlik said began shortly after his son won the middleweight title by knocking out Jermain Taylor in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 29, 2007.
Mike Pavlik said Kelly's problem is with beer, not drugs.
It is the second time this year that Pavlik has entered rehab; he only stayed two weeks the first time. Dunkin said Pavlik defended the middleweight title against Sergio Martinez on April 17 in Atlantic City, about 10 days after being released from the world-renowned clinic the first time.
Dunkin said Friday that Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs) wasn't determined to be chemically dependent upon alcohol in the spring, but he has been declared dependent during this stint. Dunkin said Pavlik plans to remain in treatment for as long as necessary in order to permanently resolve his problem.
"Three months, six months, whatever it takes, he's going to do it," Dunkin said.
Mike Pavlik, who also serves as his son's co-manager, said he was not aware if Kelly has been diagnosed as an alcoholic.
Kelly Pavlik was slated to face Bryan Vera on Nov. 13 at Cowboys Stadium on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito undercard, but he withdrew on Nov. 1 with a rib injury.
Pavlik's longtime trainer, Jack Loew, said the injury was legitimate, but said that Pavlik disappeared shortly after pulling out of the fight.
Mike Pavlik said his son was the biggest star in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and he was unable to handle the trappings of fame.
"We're trying to help him get back on his feet and back on the right track," Mike Pavlik said. "It's been ongoing since shortly after he won the title. I guess what happened is that he was not prepared for what came with the title. Winning the title was one of the greatest moments in his life, but at the same time, it could have been the worst moment in his life. I'm not complaining about him winning the title, but it was instant stardom after that and the demands on his life became so hard and so intense that he couldn't deal with it.
"The kind of kid Kelly is, he doesn't want to say no to anyone. It was kind of like the Mickey Mantle syndrome here. Everywhere he went, everyone wanted to buy the champ a beer. He didn't want to disappoint anyone or say no and it wound up causing him a pretty serious problem."
Mike Pavlik said his son visited people in the hospital in Youngstown, particularly children, and he was frequently an emotional wreck afterward. One man desperately wanted to see Pavlik, so the boxer complied with a visit to the hospital. The day after meeting Pavlik, the man died. It tore up the fighter, Mike Pavlik said, and Kelly Pavlik increasingly drank to soothe his feelings.
There have been whispers for several years about Pavlik's wild lifestyle, his nights of carousing in his hometown. The fighter decried the rumors and in a Nov. 25, 2009, interview with Yahoo! Sports in Las Vegas, he denied he had a problem with either drugs or alcohol.
"If I lived in a bubble and you rolled me in my bubble to church, there would still be somebody who would say, 'Oh my God, Pavlik was drunk and got in a fight in the church parking lot,' " Pavlik said. "It's not true, but someone says it, it gets around and it gets crazy. There are like three, four guys in the NFL right now who are from Youngstown. There's at least one who is in the major leagues who's from Youngstown, but they don't live here anymore. I still do.
"I don't hide anything. I like to play darts and when I'm not training, I'll go with three or four of my buddies and play darts and have a couple of beers. It's what I like to do to relax. There are boxers who like to smoke crack. There are some who take [cocaine] and others who drink. Me, I like to have a few beers while having fun with my friends. But someone sees me and tells someone else, 'I saw Pavlik at the bar,' and all this [stuff] starts."
Mike Pavlik said he had "lots of conversations" with his son about his destructive lifestyle in the three years since he won the title, but Mike Pavlik said he wound up rationalizing Kelly's behavior because he didn't want to think the worst.
"You always assume it's just going to go away," he said. "You think it's just a temporary thing and that it's going to pass. We had many midnight sessions where we talked to him about it. He'd always say, 'I'm not hurting anyone. If anything, I'm only hurting myself.' But he never would really admit he had a problem. But finally, the way things have gone, he understands what he has done. He's hurt his wife, he's hurt his kids, he's hurt his family, Top Rank, a lot of people.
"I was making excuses to cover the problem. I realize that. I'm a parent and I love my son and like any parent, I was trying to be protective. Only a few people who were very close to Team Pavlik really knew what was going on, and we all figured it would pass. But it's not, not unless Kelly did something about it. And we had that long conversation [earlier this month] and after about eight hours, he decided he needed to do this."
Loew said he noticed that the lifestyle Pavlik was leading was negatively impacting his boxing career for the last three or four fights. He said Pavlik wasn't as committed to his conditioning as he once had been.
Loew believes Pavlik will return and can be better than ever, but said he needs to take his time and be cured before he thinks of boxing again.
"He's such a tremendous athlete, he'd go out the night before and still come [to training camp] the next morning and do some freakish things," Loew said. "But the bottom line is that he's got to take care of his body. He had some nagging little injuries in the last three, four fights that came back to haunt us. He's getting older and he's not getting any younger.
"In between training, taking two or three months off and not doing the right thing, it caught up to us. We had eight weeks of a training camp and four weeks of it was just getting him back in somewhat of a shape so he could get over the soreness from the first two weeks. Then we just had a couple, three weeks left to actually work on boxing."
Loew said he had confronted Pavlik several times after hearing rumors about the fighter's late-night escapades. Pavlik would deny them routinely and Loew chose to believe him.
"I'd hear a rumor that he was doing this or that and I confronted him," Loew said. "I can't tell you how many times I did that, because I care about this kid and I was hearing these things. But when I'd confront him, he'd say, 'C'mon, Jack. There are so many rumors in Youngstown. I didn't do that.' And who do you believe? Unfortunately, I chose to believe him."
But all sides are now in agreement that helping him treat his addiction is their No. 1 priority.
Dunkin said boxing doesn't even matter at this point.
"The thing that is important here and the thing we're all concerned about is Kelly Pavlik the man, not Kelly Pavlik the boxer," Dunkin said. "This has been going on a long time. He has a major problem and it's not going away. He may not fight again and he definitely won't unless he gets his affairs in order regarding the booze.
"My advice is, forget the schedule, forget boxing and get away from all of the [expletive] and get your life back together. That's the important thing. [Expletive] boxing. We all need to worry about helping Kelly get well."
Mike Pavlik concurred and said he's not giving boxing "a second thought" right now. He said he's felt helpless as he watched his son decline and said he's pleased he's finally seeking assistance.
"My whole concern for him is for him is to get healthy and be a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good citizen and a respectable man," Mike Pavlik said. "That's what I want from him. We're all supportive of that goal. As a father, it's destroying me to see this. Here is somebody that God has shed His blessing on and he had everything right at his fingertips.
"To watch somebody you love destroy themselves bit by bit, it's like standing on a pier watching somebody very close to you drown and you don't know how to swim and you have no life preserver, no nothing, to give them and you have to stand there and watch them drown. That's the feeling I got from it.
"But if we look at the good side, he's getting help now. This is what he needs and these people know what they're doing. I just hope good comes out of this and Kelly puts this behind him and becomes the man I know he is."
- Kelly Pavlik