Pavlik full so I don’t miss Oleg

September 25, 2007 3:29 AM
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No use crying over spilled milk when we still have Grade A cream.

Yes, the postponement of the Oct. 6 Oleg Maskaev-Samuel Peter heavyweight title bout is a loss to boxing’s once-loaded fall schedule. At least it removes a dueling date since it was going to oppose the Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera rematch.

But Maskaev’s back injury does not hurt next week’s terrific middleweight title fight between Jermain Taylor and the challenger he has been disparaging, Kelly Pavlik.

Taylor-Pavlik, a battle of tall and powerful undefeated sluggers on HBO from Atlantic City, is part of another dueling date. Except that Showtime’s light-heavyweight title defense of Bad Chad Dawson took a major hit because of another injury to undefeated challenger Adrian Diaconu.

Epifanio Mendoza, the last-minute Colombian replacement, makes this nothing more than a chance for Dawson to strut his boxing skills before scoring a knockout. At least there won’t be any temptation to try and watch both fights at once.

Of course, if you listen to Taylor and his trainer, Emanuel Steward, you might not think much of the 160-pound title bout. Personally, I am having trouble coming to a conclusion on this one. Taylor, usually mild-mannered and polite, but perhaps chafing under the criticisms of his latest performances, basically said of Pavlik, "He’s nothing."

"I’ve been watching his tapes and I know I’m supposed to say he’s a good fighter," he told an international teleconference last week. "But he’s not. I don’t see it. I don’t see him doing nothing."

Steward chipped in with, "He’s standard, over-rated, all of that."

Taylor’s promoter, Lou DiBella, accused Pavlik of being white, as if that was his only talent. Pavlik, who has indeed been brought along very carefully by Top Rank and its cagey matchmaker, Bruce Trampler, took the insults with aplomb.

"They think I’m a slow white kid from the Midwest and I just come straight ahead," he said.

They also think he never moves his white-face from side to side. They believe he will be right there for Taylor to hit, that the champion is no over-rated puncher like Edison Miranda — obliterated by Pavlik last May 19.

Pavlik kept insisting in his half of the teleconference that head movement was one of his strengths. Against Miranda he could come straight in because the mad bomber was wide open down the middle. He said Taylor was an entirely different case and there would be major adjustments.

The odds are close to pick’em, though I suspect Taylor will wind up as a slight favorite. That they are this close is partly a reflection of the May 19 show in Memphis, stolen by Pavlik with his crushing knockout of Miranda. In the main event, Taylor struggled against his third straight left-handed opponent. In fact, he gained only a split decision over Cory Spinks. On my card, watching from the comforts of home, I had it a dull draw.

Taylor is not that far removed from being a welterweight.

Before Spinks, Taylor was forced to retreat from another junior middleweight Kassim Ouma. Kassim recently announced he would henceforth be a welterweight. Ouma had put terrific, if light-fisted, pressure on Taylor, who normally throws maybe 50 punches a round. Pavlik, like Ouma, punches way more often. Unlike Ouma, he punches with power.

Before Ouma, Taylor was quite lucky to get a draw with the then reigning junior middleweight king, Winky Wright. Like most neutrals, I thought the Winkster did enough to win. And, before THAT, there were the two close calls with old Bernard Hopkins. In fact, Taylor hasn’t had a knockout since stopping the (shall we say, over-rated?) Daniel Edouard in February, 2005.

Spinks, who is hard to hit cleanly, was knocked out by welterweight Zab Judah in their rematch after being knocked down and badly hurt in the 12th round of their first encounter. The Next Generation’s genes, after all, do not include a strong chin

Whether or not Taylor won his fights with future Hall of Famers Hopkins and Wright, he proved an elite boxer by keeping them close. Until Hopkins, like Pavlik, he had not beaten anyone other than the usual collection of old-timers (he had William Joppy, Pavlik was fed Bronco McKart) and riff-raff. So s do we believe our eyes and think Pavlik could be something special?

I’m out on a limb believing my eyes. I agree Miranda was a dangerous puncher, but nothing more. There was something about Pavlik’s performance that night that led me to think he is quite capable of greatness. On the other hand, Taylor’s bright promise seems to have stalled since he dispatched his original pro trainer, Pat Burns, for Steward.

Pavlik lost to Taylor in the 2000 Olympic Trials, but both guys professed to not remembering anything about the fight. It didn’t matter — Pavlik was only 17, Taylor a "man" of 21. Now Pavlik is 25 and he could be THE "man."