Pavlik should dispense with Espino

December 15, 2009 5:10 PM
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But at -2000 it’s not worth the backing

Oy vey. So, nu, I was guilty of premature celebration by proclaiming Hanukah’s arrival in time for Dmitriy Salita being turned into a 76-second latke by Amar Khan. In any case, season’s greetings with best wishes for another year in which to get even.

This upcoming week does not hold any magic potions for producing some more Hanukah gelt in time for Christmas shopping (how’s that for ecumenical?). The feature bout, if you can call it that, next Saturday has Kelly Pavlik in his Youngstown hometown against Miguel Espino.

Pavlik, you remember him: the middleweight champion who has spent most of the year living up to his nickname of "Ghost."

He ended 2008 by getting nearly shut out by the aged Bernard Hopkins – over the weight, so he could keep the 160-pound trinket he took from Jermain Taylor – then began this year with an easy ninth-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Rubio in February. Since then, it might look as if Pavlik has been ducking out of fights since twice he called off scheduled meetings with Paul Williams because of staph infections and complications on his left hand.

You’d have to lay maybe 20-1 on him against what looks like another cupcake in Miguel Angelo Espino this Saturday as part of a Bob Arum split-arena pay-per-view card. And you’d be crazy to risk any money on a guy with questionable hands and questionable fortitude. His hands weren’t going to let him fight Williams on Dec. 5, but two weeks later they’re healed enough to fight someone else?

But I will not jump on the Ghost. Williams, who fought Dec. 5 and was all out to beat a junior middleweight title-holder in Sergio Martinez, still retains the No. 3 spot, behind Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., on my pound-for-pound list. That was due in no small part to the skills of Martinez, for whom I must make room in my top 10 (for the time being, he’s hereby tied for tenth with Miguel Cotto) because I can’t kick out Cotto or the men directly above him, in ascending order Chad Dawson, Arthur Abraham and Nonito Donaire.

Any fighter with hand problems has to be given some leeway. It is understandable that Arum and Pavlik’s camp opted for what looks like the safety of an opponent who has only nine knockouts on a 20-2 – 1 record. Cupcake maybe, but not chopped liver. Espino has won 11 in a row since suffering his lone two losses – a majority decision in 2003 to then undefeated Daniel Edouard, then a unanimous verdict, but all by a single point, in a five-round match with Peter Manfredo Jr. in the 2004 Contender series. What’s more damning, perhaps, is an earlier draw with Carl Cockerham and I do not use that name lightly. What’s more, Espino has suddenly five stoppages in a row. The Californian might be a good test to see where Pavlik is, and how close he could be to perhaps taking on Williams.

Certainly, the somewhat anxious-looking Williams looked vulnerable against Martinez, who has nothing like the punching power of Pavlik. In any case, this weekend’s card is for study only. In the best match of Arum’s show from Ciudad Obregon, Humberto Soto should easily defeat the aged Jesus Chavez, who nonetheless usually makes for entertaining bouts.

Elsewhere in Mexico, Cristobal Cruz is about a 12-1 favorite to retain a featherweight title against Ricardo Castillo and I see no reason to take any buyback rate.

NOTES: Congratulations to Fast Eddie Schuyler, the great Associated Press boxing writer, for his selection to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY. Also, to Shelly Finkel, manager of the last quarter-century… My early lean for March 13 is to Mayweather. He obviously is very confident, the way he quickly agreed to 50-50 terms… You know, a draw is not that improbable. And not because it would help the rematch – it’s just that this could be that kind of close fight… Julio Cesar Chavez Lite (Junior for you new readers) was caught using the same diuretic I’m on. No big deal. I guess he wasn’t light enough for his last appearance and needed to lose weight the easy way… Anyway, season’s greetings to all.