Jack Loew had a near-fervent belief that he'd someday see this day. Not long after he first met Kelly Pavlik, he began to believe Pavlik would one day become a world champion.
Pavlik was a string bean of a 10-year-old, a gangly kid with unusually long arms and a cherubic face the first time he walked into Loew's South Side Boxing Club in Youngstown, Ohio.
Loew, who says he takes on anyone who walks through his doors, admittedly didn't think much the first time he laid eyes on Pavlik.
But it wasn't long before Loew changed his opinion. Loew soon found out that, despite Pavlik's innocent-appearing exterior, there was a tiger lurking within.
Pavlik's first amateur bout came as a 10-year-old against Mark Battasella, the Ohio state fair champion. Those involved in the youth boxing scene in Southeastern Ohio mocked Loew for having the temerity to pit Pavlik against Battasella.
Loew, though, knew better. He had seen Pavlik fight with a rare tenacity in the gym and knew that he'd hardly be overmatched.
"Kelly went out and whooped the kid's (butt)," Loew said.
Loew soon came to believe that Pavlik would fight for a world title. And on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, his dream will become a reality when Pavlik, now 25, challenges Jermain Taylor for supremacy at 160 pounds.
"I always knew this would happen," Loew says.
But it wasn't always a given that Loew would be in the corner working as Pavlik's trainer, as he had been from the first day Pavlik (31-0, 28 KOs) laced on a pair of gloves.
Youngstown is better known for murders than producing boxers and Loew was hardly widely acknowledged as a trainer.
As Pavlik signed a professional promotional deal with Top Rank and gave indications that he could become something special, a not-too-subtle whisper campaign began.
And the point of it was that if Pavlik was ever to reach his potential, he'd have to get rid of Loew. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum pleaded publicly with Pavlik to hire an elite trainer and come to Las Vegas to work.
But when Pavlik walks to the center of the ring on Saturday for his final instructions before getting it on with Taylor (27-0-1, 17 KOs), the man at his right side will be, as always, Jack Loew.
"I never took offense when Mr. Arum said he wanted to bring someone in to help, because first of all I have always wanted what's best for Kelly and secondly, I have always wanted to learn and get better myself," Loew said.
Before his fight with Fulgencio Zuniga in 2005, which at the time was his toughest test, Pavlik came to Las Vegas to train at Top Rank's insistence.
He refused, though, to come without Loew. It was an opportunity for Loew to see first-hand how elite trainers such as Miguel Diaz, Oscar Suarez and Mike McCallum operated in the world's boxing capital.
He was able to share ideas and get a handle on where they felt Pavlik needed to improve.
"I was good with all of that," Loew said. "I would have had a problem if someone had tried to force me out of the picture completely."
There were more than a few knowledgeable boxing persons around Pavlik who felt Pavlik wouldn't reach his potential unless that occurred.
That perception is why Saturday's fight is nearly more important to Loew's career than to Pavlik's.
If Pavlik falls flat, Loew will receive as much of the blame as Pavlik. But if Pavlik knocks Taylor out in spectacular fashion, there are going to be more than a few who believe he captured the title in spite of Loew.
Making Loew's challenge even greater on Saturday is that Emanuel Steward, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, will be in Taylor's corner as his counterpart.
"I believe if Kelly takes out Jermain Taylor, it solidifies my career, really helps my career, and probably will make some people start to look my way," Loew said. "That's why I believe that, that this fight is a bigger career fight for me than for Kelly.
"If something were to happen and Kelly were to lose, I still believe he's going to come back and get the title. But you know it, the loss will be all on me. I know that's going to happen."
But Loew gushes about Pavlik's training camp and said he's fighting for the title at the right time. He believes Pavlik is at his peak and is going to win the belt in a dominant effort.
And while he gushes about Pavlik's power and his boxing ability, he also notes with pride that he had a hand in molding it.
"All of a sudden, people who would never talk about Kelly or give him a fair shot are on the bandwagon and Kelly's the flavor of the month," said Loew, a one-time amateur middleweight who admittedly was little more than a brawler. "Kelly's getting a lot of attention now and it's deserved. But you know what? When you talk about how good he is and what he's done, remember that I've been with him since he was 10.
"I had to have done something right. Emanuel Steward has been with Jermain Taylor for (three fights) now and I don't see Jermain any better now than he was. But no one is pointing fingers at Emanuel. But they'll point them at me, I know that."
He sighed and then laughed.
"You know, the important thing is Kelly winning the title and not who did what for whom," he said. "But I'm proud to have played a part in his career. And if he wins the title, I think it has to solidify my career as a trainer."
- Kelly Pavlik
- Jermain Taylor