If September 29, 2007 feels like a long time ago to you, imagine how Kelly Pavlik feels. On that night Pavlik upset Jermain Taylor to win the middleweight championship. It was a great fight, one where Kelly had to pick himself up off the floor and overcome big trouble early in the bout to score the comeback knockout win. Only three fights after establishing himself as one of the top fighters in the sport, Pavlik was dominated by Bernard Hopkins in a catchweight fight.
Pavlik managed to pick up a pair of wins before his middleweight championship run ended at the hands of Sergio Martinez. His comeback attempt on the undercard of the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley was derailed by what was announced as a rib injury. In reality, the years of rumors that Pavlik liked to drink somewhat more than "socially" were confirmed as he checked into the Betty Ford Clinic to treat his alcoholism.
Saturday night it will be Pavlik's chance to take the first step in rebuilding his career. Now fighting at super middleweight, Pavlik takes on undefeated Alfonso Lopez (21-0) on the undercard of the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley. It's been more than four years since Kelly wasn't the feature bout. This could be a godsend as there is less attention and pressure on Pavlik as he tries to balance the unforgiving world of the fight with the realities of recovering from addiction.
While some question if he has fully come to terms with his problem, Pavlik told reporters at the undercard press conference that he feels ready. "The energy level of this training camp is the best I've had in my career. I'm ready to show the boxing world that we're back and we're ready to make our stamp in this division" Pavlik said.
Kelly is saying all the right things about not overlooking a generally unknown opponent in Lopez. "The story has been done, everything has been written. But what hasn't been talked about is how zeroed in I am for this fight. This is a hungry kid, he's undefeated and he's looking to make a statement in his career. We didn't take him lightly. He's a tough kid with a lot of knockouts and he's a great opponent to come back to."