May 19 -- FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Winner: Kelly Pavlik TKO-7
"Exposed" is one of those terms that gets thrown around a bit too much by fight fans and reporters, but in this case, I think it was appropriate.
Middleweight sluggers Edison Miranda and Kelly Pavlik have very little in common. Miranda fought his way out of extreme poverty in Colombia, and is one of boxing's most inspiring rags to riches stories, because as a child, Miranda barely even had rags. Kelly Pavlik was representing the fallen steel town of Youngstown, Ohio, trained by a guy (Jack Loew) who has no other fighters and maintains a 9-to-5 job.
But they came into their fight showing similarities. Both were heavy power punchers who looked for the knockout before anything else. Both had troubling defensive lapses. And both were fighting for the right to become the next in line for the true middleweight championship, held by Jermain Taylor. Taylor, on this night, would face Cory Spinks in a yawn-inducing main event that was harshly criticized by the HBO commentary team and boxing fans around the globe.
Most of us knew going in that the real reason to watch the HBO telecast was Miranda-Pavlik. At 30-0 with 28 knockouts, Pavlik was the underdog to most, since it was Miranda (28-1, 24 KO) who had become a star earlier. Miranda had lost just once, in a brutal, grueling clash against IBF titleholder Arthur Abraham in Germany, a unanimous decision failing that saw him break the champion's jaw in the process. He followed that up in December 2006 with a highlight reel, first round knockout of Willie Gibbs on Boxing After Dark, then went to battle with Allan Green in March 2007, recovering from an eighth round knockdown to floor Green twice in the tenth and final round, winning via unanimous decision.
Pavlik had made his HBO debut in January, with an impressive though slightly troubling win over Jose Luis Zertuche, via eighth round knockout on a crushing straight right hand, his best punch. While the fight was exciting, should it have been? That was the lingering question I know I had before Pavlik's bout with Miranda. Would those times where he literally abandoned defense and ate shots in order to throw them bite him a little too hard against a lethal puncher like "Pantera"?
Either way, I was sure it was going to be a quality showdown, a real old west type of gunslinging affair. In a preview for the fight, I said the following:
I was wrong about everything but the Fight of the Year-caliber potential. It, apparently, wasn't too much to ask of these two guys to just stand in there and slug. And Miranda was proven to not even be close to the more advanced boxer of the two.
Kelly Pavlik spent the pre-fight hype period talking about how Miranda was "a bully," and that he planned to "bully the bully." It seemed like a novel idea, in theory, so long as he didn't get his head knocked off. But Pavlik and trainer Jack Loew knew what everyone knew, which is that Miranda is a cowboy headhunter, and they also must've seen something that told them he would be prone to getting rattled.
From the sounding of the opening bell, Pavlik did what he said he would do. He bullied the bully. He worked Miranda to the body, backed him down, and kept him on his back foot, a position in which Miranda seemed almost incapable of fighting. The first three minutes were everything that this fight could have been: a knock-down, drag-out brawl, but Kelly Pavlik was owning the ring. He drilled Miranda with the trademark straight right, landed a left hook, and pounded him in the corner. Miranda, to his credit, did all he could do, which was fight back with fury. The two received a standing ovation at the end of the round.
The second was better for Miranda, who started landing brutal punches of his own. Edison hurt Pavlik pretty badly, and the two threw bombs like they were never planning to fight again. I gave the second to Miranda, and they were given another standing ovation.
At that point, with his nose bloodied, Kelly Pavlik turned up the heat. While the pace slowed some, the shots weren't any less vicious. Jabs were rare on both ends, as it was a power punching display all the way. Pavlik dominated the third and fourth rounds, and in the fifth, Miranda showed some signs of life with his right hand. Little did I know, that was all he had left in the tank.
In the sixth, Pavlik scorched Miranda with a bomb of a right hand, and the Colombian was down. Up at eight, and infamously lax referee Steve Smoger let it continue. Miranda was all but out on his feet. Pavlik put him down again, and again, Miranda got up, and barely survived the round. With a one-point deduction for spitting out his mouthpiece on the first knockdown, Edison Miranda was on the sore end of a 10-6 round.
The seventh round was clinching time for the pride of Youngstown. Miranda found himself backed into the corner once more, and Pavlik showed him no mercy. He caught him flush again, and kept on throwing until Steve Smoger had seen enough. Seventh round TKO, Kelly Pavlik.
A brilliant, star-making performance for Kelly Pavlik, and a crushing, though very gutsy loss for Edison Miranda. We weren't even aware that Pavlik had something even more sensational in store for us four months later.
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