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Bernard Fernandez: Boxing success hasn't spoiled Kelly Pavlik

HEY, KELLY PAVLIK! You're the undefeated world middleweight champion and the recipient of seven-figure purses after years of fighting off-television for chump change. So, how is your lifestyle different?


You're the undefeated world middleweight champion and the recipient of seven-figure purses after years of fighting off-television for chump change. So, how is your lifestyle different?

Pavlik (33-0, 29 KOs), who defends his WBC and WBO 160-pound titles against Wales' Gary Lockett (30-1, 21 KOs) in the HBO-televised main event Saturday night in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, considered the question, and answered as one might expect of a blue-collar kid from a Rust-Belt town who figures he's splurging if he picks up the dinner check.

"Haven't you heard?" said Pavlik, tongue in cheek. "I got me three Rolls-Royces, four Bentleys, a 7,500-square-foot house with 10 bedrooms and gold bathtubs."

After the laughter subsided, Pavlik noted that, other than having to field more interview and autograph requests, his circumstances aren't much different from before he pummeled then-champ Jermain Taylor into submission on Sept. 29, 2007.

"I don't need a lot of fancy stuff," he said. "I got an 1,100-square-foot house, the same car that was given to me through an endorsement deal.

"Simple things keep me happy. I didn't have anything for 25 years, so I know what it's like to do without. My main concern is my daughter and her future."

For too many fighters who come up the hard way, the breakthrough to wealth and fame is like a traffic light turning green, a signal to speed onto life's Rodeo Drive and spend, spend, spend.

Except that tomorrow might bring a rainy day, and the wise man hedges against a career drizzle by marshaling his resources as prudently as he did when he was just another hungry kid hoping to make it to the top.

Which is why Pavlik, 26, and his longtime trainer, Jack Loew, remain in gritty Youngstown, Ohio, where steel mills long ago were shuttered as America's mighty industrial past devolved into its fraying economic present.

Like another Youngstown native-turned-world champion, former WBA lightweight titlist Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, Pavlik was raised to understand the value of an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

And if that pay is now up to $2.5 million, which is what Pavlik will receive for squaring off with Lockett, make no mistake: He intends to earn every penny of it the old-fashioned way, with sweat and determination.

This is Pavlik's first defense of the titles he won in Boardwalk Hall, after he arose after a second-round knockdown to stop Taylor in seven rounds. On Feb. 16, he outpointed Taylor at a catchweight of 164 pounds.

Combination punching

It's a very busy weekend for boxing, with local fight fans able to choose from several options, both live and on television.

In addition to Kelly Pavlik-Gary Lockett, Saturday's HBO-televised co-feature in Boardwalk Hall pits WBO super bantamweight champion Daniel Ponce de Leon (34-1, 30 KOs) against No. 1 contender Juan Manuel Lopez (21-0, 19 KOs).

Showtime takes on HBO head-to-head with an attractive doubleheader in Uncasville, Conn. WBO welterweight champion Carlos Quintana (25-1, 19 KOs) defends in a rematch against the man from whom he won his title, Paul Williams (33-1, 24 KOs), before WBC super welterweight champ Vernon Forrest (40-2, 29 KOs) swaps punches with Sergio Mora (20-0-1, 5 KOs).

On Friday at the Blue Horizon, Harvey Jolley (8-8-1, 5 KOs) fills in for injured Cuban cruiserweight Elieser Castillo (30-6-2, 17 KOs) as the opponent for Adam Harris (10-0, 7 KOs) in the main event. At the Sovereign Performing Arts Center in Reading, junior lightweight Urbano Antillon (22-0, 15 KOs) vies with Jose Leonardo Cruz (12-2-2, 8 KOs) in the featured bout.

ESPN2 kicks things off tomorrow night in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Yusaf Mack (24-2-2, 15 KOs), a Philadelphian relocated to New York, vs. Daniel Judah (22-2-3, 10 KOs) for the vacant NABA light-heavyweight crown.

Eddie was always ready

Eddie Perkins, the "other" living fighter who will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday (former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes is by far the bigger name in the Class of 2008), was born in Clarksdale, Miss., and grew up in Chicago. But for much of his professional career (1956 to '75), the former WBC/WBA super lightweight titlist went wherever the big fights were.

Perkins, 71, had 99 bouts - he posted a 75-20-2 record, with two no-contests and 22 victories inside the distance - and it wasn't just talk when he said he'd fight anyone, anywhere.

Ever-ready Eddie punched for pay in Mexico, Venezuela, Italy, France, Japan, Jamaica, Canada, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica, the Philippines, Australia, Guyana, Ecuador, England, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Austria, Chile, Puerto Rico and Germany.

Keen on Keenan

You won't find Keenan Smith, a 17-year-old featherweight from Southwest Philadelphia, anywhere in USA Boxing's top 10 rankings for his weight class for the first quarter of 2008. No surprise; through last March, the spindly southpaw had only two Open Division bouts.

But Smith used his jab and lateral movement to defeat New England's Ryan Kielczweski, 5-0, last month at the National Golden Gloves Championships in Grand Rapids, Mich. He hopes for a berth on the U.S. boxing team for the 2012 London Olympics.

"I give opponents a lot of angles, a lot of head movement," he said. "My game is to outbox people. I can stand and bang if I have to, but I'd rather stick and move."

Ballot boxers

Three former world boxing champions are among the 37 athletes on the ballot for the fifth annual Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction class.

Those selected will be enshrined on Nov. 11 at the Hyatt Regency Penn's Landing.

The late Tommy Loughran (116-30-13, 17 KOs), the legendary light-heavyweight titlist who was 81 when he died in 1982, is a holdover from the pre-1958 candidates. New names on the ballot for 1958 and after are light-heavyweight champ Matthew Saad Muhammad (39-16-3, 29 KOs) and two-division titlist Meldrick Taylor (38-8-1, 20 KOs), who won a gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. *

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