By Matt Stein: WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs) will be looking to shine against Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 37 KOs) on February 21st at n Youngstown, Ohio. Pavlik, 26, has a lot of proving to do after looking positively horrible in a 12-round unanimous decision loss to 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins in October. If there’s a plus side for this fight, it’s that Pavlik’s two middleweight straps weren’t on the line in the fight, due to Pavlik having moved up to the 170 pound catch weight.
However, Pavlik might as well have lost both of them, as he lost a lot of credibility with boxing fans around the world that saw or heard of the fight. Pavlik had a lot of trouble with Hopkins’s movement and fast hands, and was unable to catch up to Hopkins nearly enough to score with any kind of frequency.
When Hopkins would come in close, he’d quickly tag the slower Pavlik with two and three punch combinations and then get outside again. For Pavlik, who had been fortunate to have mostly stationary opponents in his prior fights, he wasn’t ready for that kind of style and had no plan B to counteract it.
It’s safe to say that Pavlik won’t have to worry about a nimble-footed opponent on February 21st, for Rubio likes to stand and trade with him opponents, and seems to take pride in knocking many of them out. He’s not much of a power puncher, though, even though he had a high percentage of knockout victories on his resume. Instead, he tends to score his knockouts by a mass accumulation of punches.
At the same time, most of his knockouts have come against low quality opposition during his nine year professional career. He’s lost to Zaurbek Baysangurov and Kassim Ouma, both occurring in 2006 in back to back fights.
Since then, he’s won nine consecutive times, beating largely marginal opposition. However, he does have some decent names on his record in his last several fights, beating Jose Luis Zertuche, Alfredo Cuevas and Enrique Ornelas. The win over Ornelas, in the WBC title eliminator in October, was an especially tough fight, as Rubio took a lot of hard shots and lost many of the rounds. However, he kept punching away and eventually squeezed out a close decision. He looked far from championship material, though.
The sad thing is, Pavlik had only recently made a name for himself in the past year, beating knockout artist Edison Miranda and twice beating middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. After those two fights, Pavlik went from being thought of as just a slugger to that of the best middleweight in the division.
In hindsight, it was perhaps a little too quick for boxing fans to crown Pavlik after only three fights and hoist him to the top of the division. Indeed, in looking at him fight, one could see that he would eventually have problems once he fought a mobile fighter with a jab, good movement and hand speed.
Taylor had the abilities to be that type of fighter, except that he made a calculated mistake of standing in front of him in the first fight and trying to trade power shots with him. The result was that Taylor ended up getting knocked out in the 7th round after getting hurt by a series of hard right hands from Pavlik. In the rematch, Taylor changed his style of boxed more, fighting much better than the previous bout, but unfortunately running out of gas in the 11th and 12th rounds and getting outworked by Pavlik, who ended up winning by a 12-round decision.
Pavlik still doesn’t quite know what happened in his fight with Hopkins, saying “I didn’t feel like myself.’ Hopefully, Pavlik can figure out what went wrong in that fight and try to work on the problem because sooner or later, he’s going to fight another opponent with the speed and movement similar to Hopkins, and unless Pavlik comes up with a plan to fix his flaws, he’ll likely get beaten again. That said, don’t expect Rubio to be that fighter. He’s limited, slow, weak and very easy to hit. Look for Pavlik to take him quickly, likely sometime in the first six rounds.
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