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Injured Kelly Pavlik withdraws from Pacquiao-Margarito undercard

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Citing a rib injury suffered in training, former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik has pulled out of his November 13 bout with Brian Vera, multiple outlets are reporting, including ESPN. Pavlik-Vera was set to be the main undercard attraction for the pay-per-view fight at Cowboys Stadium between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito.

Pavlik (36-2, 30 KO) was heavily favored against Vera (17-5, 11 KO) in the fight, which was set to take place at a 164-pound catchweight. Vera, 28, was giving up not just size, but also power and polish. The Austin native has always been known to give a fine effort, but has never been a serious contender. The bout with Pavlik was designed to be a bounce-back win for the Youngstown product, who lost his middleweight crown to Sergio Martinez in April.

It's yet another setback for Pavlik's career, which has unraveled since October 2008, and I don't use that phrase lightly. That month, Pavlik was thoroughly dominated and embarrassed by an old Bernard Hopkins in a catchweight fight. It was the first loss of his career, and came at a point when many felt he could be the next American star. His fan-pleasing style, good power, and toughness was a recipe for success.

But since the loss, it's just been one damned thing after another. He came back from the loss to Hopkins to easily rout Marco Antonio Rubio in Youngstown, which was a mismatch but a credible enough fight that it's forgivable, given that Rubio was ranked in many top tens at 160 pounds at the time.

But then Pavlik was set to face Sergio Mora, a fight that didn't have a lot of interest from anyone, but again, was just good enough of a fight to get by. Pavlik, however, pulled out. Some said it was due to staph infection, others said he wasn't comfortable with his current contract with Top Rank. Pavlik did get a new deal from ArumCorp, which led to a signed fight with Paul Williams for October.

That fight didn't happen, with Pavlik pulling out due to staph infection. So they rescheduled it for December. HBO bent over backwards to make Pavlik-Williams happen, and that includes not just working hard to get that fight on their network, but allowing their schedule to be drastically altered by that fight's presence. Pavlik-Williams meant that other fights in the works were postponed or called off entirely.

And once again, Pavlik pulled out of the fight citing the staph infection. HBO scrambled and came up with Sergio Martinez as an opponent for Williams, which turned out to be a wonderful fight, and the two are set for a rematch on November 20. That replacement bout took place on December 5. Meanwhile, Pavlik made a miraculous recovery and fought Miguel Espino, who couldn't even be nicely called a fringe contender, on December 12. A rusty, unfocused Pavlik ate some shots but got Espino out in five.

This year, he's only fought Martinez, who sliced and diced him, sapping his will and leaving some -- prior critics and prior believers alike -- wondering if he really had it in him anymore. I'm certainly not saying that Pavlik does not have a legitimate injury or good reason to pull out of this fight. Guys get injured in training. It happens. But Kelly Pavlik has had six fights set up since the late spring of 2009, and has now pulled out of four of them (Mora, Williams, Williams, Vera). This is quite obviously not a house in order at this point, and if Pavlik's ever going to be a relevant top fighter again, it seems like something drastic has to change, whether that be his trainer, his management, his surroundings, or just his approach to his career.

Top Rank has not announced a replacement bout for the four-fight PPV at this time. The super bantamweight clash between Guillermo Rigondeaux and Ricardo Cordoba would appear likely to serve as the chief supporting bout now. Bob Arum says that most likely, Brandon Rios will move from the Top Rank-produced December 4 PPV and onto this show. Rios (25-0-1, 18 KO) has no opponent at this time.

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