Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reports tonight that former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik admitted himself to the Betty Ford Center in California earlier this month to treat alcohol issues, and that the fighter's boxing career is in doubt.
Pavlik, 28, pulled out of a November 13 fight against Brian Vera claiming an injury in October, but checked in to Betty Ford on November 4. He's been there for three weeks, and his father Mike Pavlik gave Iole the news about it today. Pavlik's co-manager Cameron Dunkin said, "I don't know if he'll ever fight again."
Iole also reports that Pavlik's first rehab stint lasted just two weeks. Pavlik had denied claims that he had been in rehab previously. Pavlik's trainer Jack Loew says that the reported injury last month was real, but that after pulling out of the Vera fight, the fighter "disappeared."
"We’re trying to help him get back on his feet and back on the right track," Mike Pavlik said. "It’s been ongoing since shortly after he won the title. I guess what happened is that he was not prepared for what came with the title. Winning the title was one of the greatest moments in his life, but at the same time, it could have been the worst moment in his life. I’m not complaining about him winning the title, but it was instant stardom after that and the demands on his life became so hard and so intense that he couldn’t deal with it.
"The kind of kid Kelly is, he doesn’t want to say no to anyone. It was kind of like the Mickey Mantle syndrome here. Everywhere he went, everyone wanted to buy the champ a beer. He didn’t want to disappoint anyone or say no and it wound up causing him a pretty serious problem."
Mike Pavlik also went into a bit more detail about the issue, saying he and Kelly discussed the problem frequently:
"He’d always say, ‘I’m not hurting anyone. If anything, I’m only hurting myself.’ But he never would really admit he had a problem. But finally, the way things have gone, he understands what he has done. He’s hurt his wife, he’s hurt his kids, he’s hurt his family, Top Rank, a lot of people.
"I was making excuses to cover the problem. I realize that. I’m a parent and I love my son and like any parent, I was trying to be protective. Only a few people who were very close to Team Pavlik really knew what was going on, and we all figured it would pass. But it’s not, not unless Kelly did something about it. And we had that long conversation [earlier this month] and after about eight hours, he decided he needed to do this."
I have said many times that I was a very big Kelly Pavlik fan during his rise. I liked his attitude, liked the way he fought, liked that he finished opponents and came forward. He was almost shockingly effective with the old 1-2 combination, jab and a right hand down the pipe. I thrilled in watching him beat the bully mentality right out of Edison Miranda, and jumped out of my seat when he came off the canvas to stop Jermain Taylor and win the middleweight championship in 2007.
But he's fallen apart since then in a lot of ways. It's not just the losses to Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez. He fought pretty well against Martinez earlier this year, and a lot of people have been blown out by Hopkins over the last 20 years. Pavlik pulled out of two dates last year with Paul Williams. He pulled out against Sergio Mora in summer 2009. He pulled out against Vera. Since 2009, Pavlik has had seven scheduled fights and shown up three times (Martinez, Espino, Rubio). Obviously it's a good guess that his out of the ring lifestyle has affected his career in a major way.
It's never fun to watch a guy fall from grace in this manner. With something that comes with the territory in the ring, that's one thing. But when it's a personal issue like this, it just seems like such a waste. Pavlik was unlikely to be heading to the Hall of Fame or anything. Few guys really make it that far, and Kelly is hardly some amazing or super special talent.
I don't know Pavlik's personal life and that's not my concern. Obviously as a fellow human being I hope he does well, gets clean, gets his life in order, enjoys his family, and all of that. But I write about his boxing career, so I'm trying to stay on that topic. I don't know if Pavlik will fight again. I'd guess he will. Fighters fight, and this has been Kelly Pavlik's livelihood. I hope he does. I hope he makes it back. And I hope he makes it back with a clear head and free from his troubles.
Best wishes to Kelly Pavlik and his family, and here's hoping we see him back in the ring when he's ready.