Champ aims to combat falsehoods


Vindicator sports staff

YOUNGSTOWN — Friday morning, Kelly Pavlik’s father, Mike Sr., received an urgent phone call from a friend wondering if he was OK.

“He said there’s a rumor out there that I’m dead,” said Mike Sr., who also serves as co-manager for his son. “Hey, I feel pretty good for a dead man.”

That was just the latest rumor. Over the past few weeks, the middleweight champion — and other members of Team Pavlik — have heard dozens of stories about Pavlik’s behavior, ranging from speculative (Pavlik was pulled over for a DUI) to worrisome (he was arrested for carrying a gun) to downright scary (he stabbed someone).

None are true, Pavlik said.

“There’s like 500 stories. Which is it?” said Pavlik, who appeared at a book signing before Friday’s Mahoning Valley Thunder game at the Covelli Centre. “It’s ridiculous. It’s actually starting to become a joke.

“I’m just waiting for the next phone call to find out what I’ve been up to.”

Those rumors, combined with the stresses of fame, prompted him to visit a sports psychologist in Cleveland a few weeks ago. He said the session “definitely helped.

“Obviously, with the rumors and everything else going on in my career, there’s a lot of demands,” said Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs), who has not fought since a 10th round knockout of Marco Antonio Rubio in February. “It was good to talk about things.”

Added his father, “When you’re a professional athlete and a world champion, there’s always bad with the good. Some of it was starting to get to him.”

Pavlik is still trying to strike a balance between rewarding his fans and protecting his privacy. He finds it difficult to do simple tasks such as grocery shopping or taking his daughter to Chuck E. Cheese’s without being mobbed with autograph and photo requests.

Some have suggested he move outside the Youngstown area — most notably, former lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, a Youngstown native who trained in Los Angeles during his career — but Pavlik doesn’t like to leave the Valley, even to train.

On Friday, however, he admitted the thought has crossed his mind in recent weeks.

“I love the people in this town,” he said. “They’re the greatest fans. It’s a blue-collar town and they’re the reason I am what I am.

“But when things like this [the rumors] start happening, it crosses my mind. It isn’t so much because of me, but once my kids get older, having to deal with stuff like this. I think there’s someone out there trying to sabotage me.”

The Pavlik speculation began soon after he missed a United Way benefit last month. Pavlik, who does a variety of charity work throughout the Mahoning Valley, missed the event for a “family commitment.” He said it was the first — and only — time he’s failed to show up for a charitable commitment.

“After all the things I’ve done for charity, I miss one event and now everyone is saying I’m a bad guy,” he said. “I did a charity softball game for the United Way last year with 2,000 people at Cene Park. I go to things all the time. I’m spread thin. I have a family to commit to. It’s tough.

“I don’t put my time into worrying about everyone else’s life. That’s why I’m a world champ. That’s why I have one loss in nine years.”

Earlier this week, an Internet report surfaced that he was in an alcohol rehabilitation center, something Pavlik and several people close to him vehemently deny. Pavlik has spent recent weeks installing a pond at his house in Canfield — he had a bandage on his left hand on Friday and a few scrapes on his arms, which he said was from carrying cinder blocks — and initially tried to ignore the rumors, in hopes that they would fade away.

“It doesn’t bug me that much,” said Pavlik, whose is married and has two children. “It’s more my family having to hear it.”

Ultimately, Team Pavlik decided to respond. They forwarded some of the Internet reports to Pavlik’s lawyer in San Antonio, Michael Miller, and granted interviews to several media outlets on Thursday to refute the rehab rumor.

“It just got ridiculous,” Pavlik said.

The Web site that first reported the rehab rumor,, has still not named a source or supplied evidence to support the claim. On Friday, it claimed to have purchased a video of an “apparently drunk” Pavlik falling off a stage at a Youngstown tavern. After vowing to show it, site manager Pedro Fernandez backed off, writing that he saw no point in embarrassing Pavlik.

Pavlik, however, has never claimed that he doesn’t drink. One of his favorite hangouts is a local bar called the East Side Civics and Pavlik can often be seen with a pinch of chewing tobacco in his mouth. (Friday included.)

As his trainer, Jack Loew, has said: “I’m training a boxer, not an angel.”

Members of Team Pavlik believe they know the source of the rumors, although they declined to name names.

“Jealousy, vendetta, whatever,” said Mike Sr. “We’re just trying to squash them.”

Pavlik said he is eager to get back in the ring and said his managers are closing in on a possible Oct. 3 fight against WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm in either Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Sergio Mora is also a possible opponent. Pavlik was scheduled to fight Mora later this month before the fight was postponed, reportedly due to a lingering hand injury from the Rubio bout.

In the meantime, Pavlik vowed not to lose sleep over the rumors.

“I’m going to go home and eat good and sleep good,” he said. “My frame of mind is great.”