Middleweight world champion Kelly Pavlik took some shots at Showtime's super middleweight tournament when speaking to The Vindicator's Joe Scalzo recently. They were quick and to the point:
"Why would I be in that tournament when I’m a middleweight?" he said. "They never asked me and I never wanted to join.
"Let them beat each other up. Let them ruin their careers for peanuts."
This is exactly the sort of thing that this tournament will hopefully play a part in fixing. This is exactly the sort of "protect me and my record" talk that has produced countless uninteresting fights, useless mandatories, worthless title belts, and unmemorable "champions" in the last however many years of boxing.
This sort of idea is why MMA has so easily leapfrogged boxing to become the No. 1 combat sport in the States.
It's not Kelly's fault. Really, he's saying what he should be expected to say, what many good businessmen/fighters would say about this tournament. He's conditioned to think this way because it's the way he's been brought along in the sport. Too many fighters -- warriors, runners, all of them -- are so concerned with their own bottom line that it hurts the sport on the whole, and they have to be concerned with it because it's all they really have.
What I'm talking about is the "Let them ruin their careers for peanuts" bit. The money coming into those fights is good. It's not absolute top level, but where is Kelly Pavlik about to make so much more? HBO offered $2 million for a Pavlik-Felix Sturm fight. That's nothing. HBO declined Pavlik-Rubio and the scrapped Pavlik-Mora. It looks as though Pavlik will fight on PPV again in October, since there is literally no opponent I can think of off the top of my head that would get Pavlik back on HBO.
Great fighters lose when they fight great fighters. It happens. It has happened throughout the history of boxing, still happens when guys take risks, and happens all the time in MMA. Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva have lost fights and are regarded as probably the two best pound-for-pound fighters in mixed martial arts. They are main eventers in UFC.
You get return business -- and it's about business, right? -- because you do something interesting. Kelly Pavlik was a guy with a ton of momentum when he beat Jermain Taylor, but it has withered and died. Beating Taylor again didn't do the business hoped for on PPV, and his follow-up fight with Gary Lockett was a total dud in every way. He then tanked on PPV with Bernard Hopkins and has only wrangled and fought Rubio since then.
What's he going to do that tops any single matchup in that tournament? His unnecessary bashing of Showtime ("They’re going to burn their whole career and for what? Nobody watches Showtime.") is also highly questionable. What's HBO got going that's better? And when does he think he'll be back on the network?
Boxing has to get the sport and its fighters away from this overly protected nonsense. If Kelly Pavlik had gone out and fought Arthur Abraham and lost a good fight, we'd still want to see him again next time. There is not a single man near the top of the pound-for-pound lists that has not lost a fight, unless you include Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose entire career has been ridiculed by a large portion of fans because he doesn't take any chances.
Does Pavlik want to be that guy? I get business, I get money, I get what he's saying. But is Pavlik just money or is he a fighter? Is he looking for a legacy? Is he looking to be remembered as a guy that fought all comers?
I find this to be a bit of a PR boner for Kelly and Team Pavlik. None of it sounds good at all, and some of it sounds a bit like jealousy. The boxing world is ecstatic about this tournament, and right now I dare say few people are too interested in what Kelly Pavlik does next. It's not all his fault. He can't make his horrible weight class better than it is.
But he's attacking something that deserves the utmost praise. Getting those six guys to agree to fight for these "peanuts" and improve the sport for the sake of the fans and every single one of those fighters (at least in my view) was no easy task. It's same ol', same ol' for Pavlik right now, while six other guys are actually competing with one another to make a bigger splash.