In modern boxing, the greatest fighters fight the least. They command so much money that it's hard for promoters to pay them more than two or three times a year.
For a select few fighters, that type of arrangement works.
For far more of them, though, the idle time is nothing more than an invitation for disaster. Their skills erode and so does their discipline. They wind up in trouble and, ultimately, they lose a fight they would otherwise have easily won.
Kelly Pavlik, the former middleweight champion and recovering alcoholic, knows all too well about the downside of having too much idle time and too much money.
He wound up in rehab, and his life, let alone his boxing career, was in jeopardy.
He's now in the midst of a comeback and will fight Will Rosinsky on Saturday in the opener of an HBO-televised doubleheader at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
It's his second fight in a month and some have speculated that it might be too much too soon.
The question really, however, is whether Pavlik can afford to sit out. Pavlik is one of a large contingent of fighters who is better off being active. He needs to be in the gym, refining his prodigious skills and avoiding the temptations that go along with lots of down time.
Sugar Ray Robinson, the greatest fighter who ever drew breath, fought every 10 days to two weeks during his prime. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was unquestionably at his best when the time between his bout was measured in days and weeks, not months and years.
The best thing trainer Robert Garcia, manager Cameron Dunkin and promoter Bob Arum could do for Pavlik is exactly what they're doing: having him fight as frequently as possible and staying around the gym the rest of the time.
If he was physically injured, he'd need time off. But he spent the better part of seven rounds June 8 bouncing punches off Scott Sigmon's head and taking little in return.
Pavlik has long been known for his devastating punching power, but he also has prodigious boxing skills. When he's active and working on his game, he is a threat to beat anyone.
He left longtime trainer Jack Loew and his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, where he existed in a bubble and couldn't seem to stay out of the headlines or, worse, trouble, and relocated his training camp to Oxnard, Calif., to work with Garcia.
It's been the best thing that could have happened to him, and that has nothing to do with Loew. The all-boxing environment at and around Garcia's camp has done wonders for him.
"It was definitely important [to come out to Oxnard to train]," Pavlik said. "I am not here to knock anybody or anything like that, but I wasn't going any further where I was. We had a meeting in New York with Bob and Cameron and we had this conversation and a move had to happen and it was very important. I am learning, hungry and rejuvenated to get back into it.
"You can never quit learning in this sport and I'm learning again and that's very important. On the personal part, when I get out here, I don't have any distractions or headaches. I am able to focus on what I'm here to do and that's been very important."
Pavlik has a big name and a lengthy history of success, but that hasn't stopped Garcia from picking apart his game and forcing him to repetitively drill weak areas.
The difference is that he's getting back to the fighter he was in late 2006 and early 2007, when he was in the midst of his run to the middleweight title. He was almost an unstoppable force at that stage.
Garcia is demanding he round out his game, and Pavlik, rather than complaining, has complied.
That's the kind of attitude necessary to get him back into the hunt against the elite of the super middleweight division.
"I knew I had a left hand my whole entire career, but I learned I could use it now," Pavlik said. "That's what we work on a lot, even on the mitts. A three-piece or four-piece combo – and it's repetitious. It's not once or twice in that round and you're done. Your body gets in that habit, the motor reflex of throwing that combo. And counters that we are working on. Robert reminds me constantly about them.
"Being a tall fighter, I never threw too many uppercuts and people don't expect uppercuts from tall fighters. That's another thing we've been working on a lot: Bending your body, turning your hips and throwing the uppercut. There are so many different things, on the inside, the jabs. It's hard to explain, but the biggest thing is that it's always repetitious. We don't just do something then forget about it. We work on it round after round."
The key will be for Top Rank and Dunkin to keep him active and keep him in the mode where he's hungry and eager to show to work every day. Only good can happen if he fights six or eight times a year.
If he gets back into the fighting twice a year routine, there's going to be plenty of temptation to slip back into old habits, both professional and personal ones.
And the last thing a talented but fragile guy like Kelly Pavlik needs is to slip into old habits.
He's on the perfect path now. Hopefully, his handlers recognize that.
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