Not-So Great Expectations: The De-Evolution Of One Man's Commentary
By Coyote Duran, (Oct 24, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Will Hart/HBO)  
"This fight was not our first choice, but it was the only alternative we had to make a buck.” – Bob Arum, prior to last Saturday's Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik fight, The Ring Magazine, November 2008

Quite the sentiment from one of Our Sport's most prominent promoters. You hear lesser complaints from the powers-that-be about mismatches. But what did Arum's comment really mean? Was it a genuine cry of boredom-acquiescing-to-cash-flow or was it something vulnerable: Perhaps a true nervousness
about his then-undefeated World Middleweight Champion eating it?

I'd have to say the latter.

No, I'm not throwing that one out as a means to ingratiate myself to any promoter because we all recognize the basic avarice of the common, successful promoter. I'm saying that Bob Arum was really, genuinely nervous.

He wasn't confident that his man was going to beat 'The Executioner'.

In the aftermath, that's easy to say and anyone can say it when all is said and done; but when matched with the motivation, or lack thereof, to make this fight, one has to admit, there was something (or less than) there.

Mind you, the set-up and strategies were already in place at the time of The Ring's September issue and those closer to the action showed the confidence of the willing. Pavlik's trainer Jack Loew was enthused about his man facing a legend. Pavlik's assessment of Hopkins was “a good fighter" with "a lot of flaws" but one who could get banged up for not being active enough. Sounds like a man who knew exactly how to challenge and take his man apart. Properly, is another issue, obviously.

Pavlik's strengths aren't subtle and never have been. 'The Ghost's' power has always been predicated on a relative personal momentum. It may be a lousy analogy but think of a roller coaster. A roller coaster gains momentum after its first descent and picks up speed delivering its 45-60-second thrill ride; rendering even the most devout coaster worshippers breathless. Much like Pavlik.

That momentum builder, Pavlik's reach (which supplies a build-up of shattering power once applied), was straight up dusted when Hopkins, the craftiest technician in boxing today, removed it by luring in Pavlik like a mythological siren would lure in a hapless sailor. Almost all delivered from the inside, 'B-Hop's' selective force and impeccable defense made certain of such.

And 'the only alternative to make a buck' became the last failed ditch to remove a rival legend. Well, two of them, at least, if you count Oscar De La Hoya.

"Kelly isn't thrilled with the fight. But one of the incentives he has is that if he's going to fight (World Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion Joe) Calzaghe after Calzaghe beats Roy Jones. It will be 168 pounds anyway. So it gets him ready for that fight." -Arum, The Ring Magazine, November 2008

Not quite, Bob. But trash-talk comes in all forms; even the most diplomatic and studious. You hear it all the time. Fighter A says about Fighter B in a pre-fight presser: "Fighter B might be a good fighter and may have knocked out everyone else before me but he ain't never fought no one like me. He ain't gonna make it past the fourth round. You can take that to the bank." OK, maybe with less elaboration but you get the jist. It's called seeing the end without the effort. Hell, you throw a polygraph on Fighter (or Promoter) A and odds are, he'll believe his B.S. and pass the sucker.

Were Arum's sights really on Calzaghe or was his declaration of preparation (for Pavlik's) merely another empty promise of bravado? It's not clear; as any good Magic 8-Ball will tell you, because even if Arum didn't secretly think Kelly Pavlik would beat Bernard Hopkins, he might have thought the World Middleweight Champion had a 'Ghost'-of-a-chance at 168; with a seemingly depleting division on the horizon. Arum knows Calzaghe is on the way out; if he believes the 168/175-pound champ's claim of retirement, post-Jones.

It's said that Pavlik struggles to make the 160-pound weight limit so why wouldn't he do well at a weight he could make with less discomfort? It happens with many fighters that can no longer make the limit that they made their most prominent bones. They'll naturally bounce to the next weight or skip a division. Fighters like Shane Mosley, who leapt from lightweight to welterweight, skipping the junior welter class entirely, make the equation work. The late Diego Corrales, who moved from lightweight to welter as well, unfortunately, couldn't make it work. Save for the rematch against Jermain Taylor, it was unknown as to whether or not Pavlik could make a sizable dent at super middle.

Hopkins saved us the guesswork.

“It teaches us he (Pavlik) has to fight at middleweight. He doesn’t have a punch at this weight. Hopkins gave a hell of a performance. Bernard’s a cagey, good fighter.” -Arum, during the post-fight press conference.

Good double-back. In one instance, you have a fighter who's nowhere near enthused in facing an old-tired warrior like Hopkins and is more than ready to eschew whatever challenges, scarce as they may be, at middleweight. In another beating-influenced epiphany, it turns out that the non-enthused might be served best in sticking around; taking advantage of a division-exclusive punch since it certainly hasn't the 'oomph' it was once advertised as having.

It may be reluctant. It may be curmudgeonly. But, from Arum, a thank you to Bernard Hopkins might be apropos. It keeps Pavlik, now, from making a mistake in the future against a true, legitimate light heavyweight. At this juncture, the 175-pound candidates for success against Pavlik, at least for now, might be more abundant than we thought. Even if Calzaghe wasn't talking retirement (which, in any serious fight fan/writer's eyes, should be taken with a very thick grain of salt...*cough*...De La Hoya...*cough*), he would be the wrong opponent for Pavlik although Pavlik would be a much more palatable opponent for Calzaghe than Roy Jones, who winds up as a questionable answer. Go figure.

"You always regret it after a loss. He lost, but all these guys lose.” -Arum, during the post-fight presser, on whether or not he regretted matching Pavlik with Hopkins.

Jeez. That's enough to even piss me off. Way to build up a guy, regardless if you were expecting it or not. Not all 'these guys' lose. Some who escape Our Sport do so by maybe not taking the biggest challenges or retiring too early; of their own volition or, perhaps, even by the will of an injury they can't possibly return from. In a sense, it's almost like saying "F**k 'im. Another one'll come along. Odds are, he'll f**k up too and lose his zero as well." And what's Arum to regret? The post-fight fervor was pretty keen. At least that's what I heard from every single writer I've read, talked to, and slept with (my wife, smartasses). And the fans weren't too disappointed either.

And as far as all these guys 'losing', you can't deny Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s existence and impact on boxing. To some, he might fit the description of a fighter that escaped Our Sport and maybe didn't take the biggest challenges or retired too early; of his own volition but, you know what? He still accomplished more, relatively, than Pavlik did, and did so, mainly, under Arum's Top Rank banner. Just like Kelly Pavlik did and probably will continue doing. I just hope he's appreciated come post-fight time, next time or the time after that or the time after that or the time after that.

It just sucks that things didn't work out but I guess they weren't really expected to. I guess with some folks, there's just no alternative to the alternative of making a buck.

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