Kelly Pavlik and the Rehab Controversy

Late Wednesday night, a rumor shot through the boxing world that middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik had checked himself into a rehab center for alcohol abuse. As is usually the case, the source of the rumor was the internet, and a story written by Pedro Fernandez at RingTalk.com.

After reading Fernandez’s piece, I made some efforts to substantiate his story and got no hard proof either way, although I did hear quite a bit of rampant speculation. It’s been rumored for some time now that Kelly likes a drop or two, and most folks that I talked to seemed to think it was hardly surprising news. But I had no connection to anyone with hard evidence, so I decided not to write a story.

Yesterday, Pavlik’s co-manager Cameron Dunkin told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that there is no truth to the rumor. "He’s not in rehab. He hasn’t been in rehab. It’s not true," Dunkin said, adding, "Pedro Fernandez is a scumbag. These guys write it, and everyone on the Internet went with it. They're not journalists. They're not accountable to anyone. Who gives this guy any credibility?" In another article at the Warren Tribune Chronicle, Dunkin explains that he believes the source of the rumor can be traced back to the fact that Pavlik recently visited a sports psychologist to deal with stress issues.

Later on yesterday, Kelly’s father, Mike Pavlik, was quoted by the Youngstown Vindicator as saying, "Those are vicious, ugly rumors. … We figured they were so absurd that they didn’t need to be addressed. But they’re actually gaining momentum now." Pavlik’s trainer since childhood, Jack Loew, echoed these sentiments, and mentioned that he’d just seen Pavlik the day before digging a pond at his house.

For his part, Pedro Fernandez is sticking to his guns, writing in a comment at Ring Talk that, although he refuses to name names, he is certain that his source for the information has legit confirmation that Pavlik is in rehab. Fernandez goes on to take a stab at Dunkin, writing "he's lucky he ain't in prison after Operation Matchbook!" referring to a 2002 FBI investigation into fixed boxing matches in which Dunkin was named on a warrant to search promoter Bob Arum’s office. Dunkin was never charged with any wrongdoing in that case.

Across the internet, comments are popping up from people claiming to be from Pavlik's hometown of Youngstown writing that the fact that Pavlik is in rehab is common knowledge in the city, and that his management and his family are trying to cover up the news now that it has made it on to the internet. The main evidence indicating that something is awry is that in the midst of all of this, Pavlik himself has been nowhere to be found. All it would take is a YouTube vid of Pavlik building that pond in his yard, or a statement to the press from his gym, anything that showed him out and about in the world and not in a rehab clinic. Instead, there’s his manager, father and trainer speaking out, but no Pavlik.

If it is a big cover-up, though, then they’ve done a hell of a job so far. Pavlik may not be Lindsay Lohan, but he’s certainly a very big star to some, and in this day and age, keeping news of an athlete’s stint in rehab out of the blogdome is not an easy task. On that score, if Pavlik actually is in rehab, his team might as well give up the ruse, because there are no secrets anymore, not for someone who occupies even the faintest glimmer of the spotlight. If the steroids era has taught us anything about public relations, it’s that once you’re caught, you’re best served fessing up unconditionally as soon as possible. Along with a truckload of daily lies, the truth always finds its way onto the web.

Then again, if Pavlik’s NOT in rehab, well, we have a nasty little addendum to the recent Raul Ibanez steroids furor, and another exhibit in the growing suspicion out there in the world that blogs – bold, irresponsible, and hellbent on pageviews at the price of all mayhem – are the source of all evil.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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