After light-punching journeyman Billy Lyell upset John Duddy in Newark last Friday, Jack Loew (who trains Lyell and middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik) wasn't exactly glowing in his praise for his fighter, which spoke greatly of what he thought of Duddy:
Jack Loew’s observation that Duddy “got his ass handed to him by a B fighter” might seem ungracious to both winner and loser, but Loew, who was working Lyell’s corner in Newark, also happens to be Pavlik’s trainer, and in his view the result laid bare an illusory process that had brought Duddy contender status.
“They’ve been protecting Duddy, trying to keep him clean for Pavlik, but that fight, had it happened, would have been murderous,” said Loew. “I had said Duddy was overrated, and I told Billy, ‘He can’t get out of the way of a straight punch’.”
Over at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, they're suggesting a clash between Lyell (19-7, 3 KO) and ... Pavlik, of course. Fellow Youngstown natives, trained at the same gym by the same guy, and surely it would sell out the 7,000 or so capacity Chevrolet Centre.
But are they crazy?
Look, let's even assume Jack Loew would let Lyell take this fight, which I doubt he would. Jack might not be your favorite trainer, but he's an honest chap that no doubt knows that's a blatant, money-grabber mismatch, and if his feelings add up (he describes the Pavlik-Duddy idea as having been "murderous"), then he knows there's a chance Pavlik really beats the crap out of Lyell.
Why on earth would you want the guy who has revitalized boxing in Ohio to fight another soft touch? There's a great comment on the Plain-Dealer article that sums it up nicely, by a commenter named "coreno": "If Pavlik's PPV buy-rates don't pick up soon, he'll be fighting in the vast "stadium" used for the yearly demolition derby at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. A great representative for Youngstown and northeast Ohio, but boxing fans throughout the rest of North America just aren't buying his game."
I love Kelly Pavlik as a fighter, as a guy, as a story. He's great for boxing, great for Youngstown, all that stuff.
But here goes his list of middleweight championship defenses since beating Jermain Taylor for the crown in September 2007:
- June 7, 2008: Gary Lockett, a rotten Frank Warren mandatory from the WBO. This fight was a joke. To be brutally frank, I'm glad Gary Lockett had the good sense to take a knee more than once in that fight and not get hurt badly, because that's all there was for him to do in that fight.
- February 21, 2009: Marco Antonio Rubio, the WBC mandatory. I accepted this one as a bounce-back from the catchweight Hopkins fiasco, but on the condition that Kelly would then fight a serious contender who might pose a threat to him. I know there are only a couple guys in that class at 160, too. Pavlik destroyed Rubio -- it was like a man against a boy.
- June 27, 2009: Former "Contender" champ and 154-pound titlist Sergio Mora, last seen getting the crap kicked out of him by Vernon Forrest in their rematch. Like the Rubio fight, this one is so unattractive that the networks passed and it has to go to Top Rank-produced pay-per-view. Neither of these fights have done a thing to build Pavlik's audience. The lats time he fought off PPV was against Lockett. His catchweight rematch with Taylor did a disappointing number, and the fight with Hopkins did a really disappointing number.
We've said a lot that Top Rank has done a better job of making stars than Golden Boy has, but they've kind of screwed the pooch with Pavlik. He's an exciting, powerful fighter, a kid from a working class town in midwestern America. He should've been an easy sell. Instead, it's looking harder and harder to make him a star.
About the Mora fight, while we're here: I understand it. It's decent money, they probably feel Kelly isn't taking any risk against light-handed Mora, whose boxing skills are overrated, too. But you never know, really. Mora isn't bad by any stretch, he's tougher than he gets credit for, and his defense is the best part of his game. He's going to try to take some pages from what Bernard did. I also tend to half-disregard both of the Forrest-Mora fights. The first time around, Forrest was clearly not in top shape. The second time around, Mora was clearly not in top shape draining to get down to 154 pounds. Life goes on.
But to try and follow Pavlik-Mora with Pavlik-Lyell? That's insanity. Pavlik-Lyell would be a bigger joke than Pavlik-Lockett turned out to be, and that's not a knock on Billy Lyell. He turned out to be the pug that upset John Duddy, which many people have been calling for for years now, and many others thought they'd already seen only for Duddy to get his hand raised (as for myself, I thought Walid Smichet beat him).
I know it's just an idea, it doesn't mean much, and I'm sure no one has really discussed it. But dollar signs could flash in the Battle of Youngstown. You think Bob Arum wouldn't at least take a serious look into it?
Just say no, everyone. Just say no.