Nearly two months have passed since former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, on the comeback trail after a stint in alcohol rehab earlier this year, bailed on a "ShoBox" fight against Darryl Cunningham the week of the bout in a stunningly unprofessional move.
It was a fight that Pavlik had requested in the first place, a fight that was intended to prepare him for a super middleweight title shot on Nov. 5 against Lucian Bute. In fact, Pavlik, who had returned with a shaky win in May, had excitedly talked about the Cunningham bout on a teleconference with reporters about a week before the scheduled fight date.
In order to help Pavlik continue to shake off the rust from more than a year off, Top Rank, Pavlik's promoter, approached Showtime and got the "ShoBox" date in anticipation of Pavlik facing Bute on the network in November. Top Rank was willing (and likely) to lose money on the Aug. 6 Cunningham fight just to keep Pavlik busy, with the idea that it could recoup its losses through the Bute fight.
Then Pavlik, unhappy with a generous $50,000 purse to fight Cunningham and the $1.35 million he would have received to fight Bute (plus an additional $25,000 in training expenses), said to hell with both fights.
He simply walked away.
Pavlik left everyone in the lurch a few days before the fight: Top Rank (which had already spent money on the promotion for the Aug. 6 card), Showtime (which canceled the "ShoBox" date and lost an A-level attraction fight for the fall), Cunningham (whom Top Rank says it threw $5,000 for his trouble), Bute (who wound up lining up Glen Johnson instead) and Pavlik's fans in Youngstown, Ohio (where the fight was supposed to take place and where $50,000 is more than most people there make in an entire year).
According to Top Rank and manager Cameron Dunkin, they've had no communication with Pavlik since -- until last week.
That's when Dunkin, who has worked with Pavlik for his entire professional career, said Pavlik called him.
"I had a great talk with him," Dunkin told me the other day. "He called and said, 'Listen Cameron, I want to fight, I really want to get back into this. I want to kick some ass. I want to fight and get out of town and go to training camp somewhere.'"
Dunkin said Pavlik was taking his family on a trip to Disney World and that when he got back he wanted to set up a training camp and work on a "game plan."
"He said, 'When I get back, let's see when something could be available, and then I am ready to go full tilt. I want to get back to where I was when I was champion of the world. I want to get my body in shape and my mind right,'" said Dunkin, recounting his conversation with Pavlik.
Dunkin, like anyone, wouldn't be crazy if he were a bit skeptical. Pavlik has said this sort of thing before. Still, Dunkin said he sensed something in Pavlik's voice that was different from the other times.
"I have heard him say it before, but not like this," Dunkin said. "He was talking and talking. I said, 'OK, if you really want to do it, if you're sure you want to do it, I'll start putting things together, but I really want to see a commitment on your training. I want the old Kelly back if you can do it -- the guy who fought Edison Miranda and Jermain Taylor twice. Try to get that guy back.' He said, 'I really believe I can do this.'"
Dunkin said Pavlik apologized for his "horrible decisions" and said, "I will fight for $10,000 -- it's not about money. I really want to do this."
Dunkin said he was excited to hear Pavlik talk with the kind of hunger he hadn't sensed from the fighter in quite some time.
"He said, 'I know I've made some mistakes, I know I f----- up,'" Dunkin said. "And then he goes, 'I just want to fight.'"
Dunkin relayed the conversation to Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who suggested that Pavlik, trainer Jack Loew and co-manager and father Mike Pavlik pay a visit to Top Rank in Las Vegas so they could sit down and talk things out.
Hopefully, Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs), whose only losses are to all-time great Bernard Hopkins and reigning middleweight champ and pound-for-pound-ranked Sergio Martinez, will do just that.
Pavlik is only 29. It isn't too late for him to try to make another run -- but he has to be clean, sober and dedicated.
If he is, boxing -- and Pavlik -- will be better for it.