Arum Disses Tommy Hearns, Lives

By George Kimball


Arum Disses Tommy Hearns, Lives

NEW YORK --- Even Kelly Pavlik seemed to wince when he heard his promoter boast with an eye toward Jermain Taylor’s trainer Emanuel Steward, “With all due respect to Tommy Hearns, Kelly Pavlik is the best puncher I’ve ever seen in the middleweight division – and unlike Tommy, he has a chin to go with it.” In the face of such sacrilege and heresy you halfway expected to see Bob Arum struck by a lightning bolt right there on the spot.

Both Arum and his co-promoter Lou DiBella spent time extolling Pavlik’s virtues during Wednesday’s press conference at the New York chapter of BB King’s Blues Club. By all accounts the youngster from Youngstown is polite and well-spoken, and he packs enough of a punch to be considered a worthwhile challenger.

“But the best part of it,” said middleweight champion Taylor, who defends his title against Pavlik in Atlantic City Saturday night, “is that he’s not a southpaw.”

Fresh off a nonstop diet of Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma, and Corey Spinks, Taylor had gone nearly two years without so much as SPARRING with a righthanded boxer.

“This time,” said the champ, “I couldn’t wait to spar. I couldn’t wait to get in there with a normal guy.”

During Taylor’s sit down with the press, publicist Norman Horton was moved to wonder aloud, “Who’s the last guy to fight southpaws back-to-back-to-back?”

If he meant other middleweight champions, Vito Antuofermo’s name sprung to mind. The Mosquito fought Marvin Hagler once and Alan Minter twice in consecutive fights in 1979-80. But the record has to belong to Roy Jones, who a decade ago fought FOUR lefhanders in a row – Lou DelValle, Otis Grant, Richard Frazier, Reggie Johnson – and then, after a one-fight break against an orthodox foe (David Telesco), faced three more southpaws – Richard Hall, Eric Harding, and Derrick Harmon – in succession.

Relieved though he may be to be at least temporarily rid of lefties, Taylor nonetheless pronounced his ordeal a valuable experience.

“I know they were ugly fights,” he said of Wright-Ouma-Spinks, “but I learned a lot.”

Indeed, Taylor, or so he claims, was able to put the experience to use and found himself an improved boxer against orthodox opposition, in the form of Aaron Pryor Jr., Ray Smith, and Kevin Engle, who along with stablemate Kermit Cintron provided most of his sparring for the Pavlik fight. (After three southpaws in a row, Taylor was beginning to see Andy Lee in his sleep.)

“Now,” he said, “I can see punches coming better. I’m slipping a lot more. I think the whole thing did me good.”

In preparation for next Saturday’s fight, Steward packed Taylor off to the Poconos in early August. After a solid seven weeks of isolation in the Pennsylvania woods, Jermain seemed to be blinking like Rip Van Winkle when he suddenly found himself in the middle of Times Square.

“You couldn’t get in no trouble up there if you wanted to,” said Taylor. “As far as I’m concerned, Manny is the best trainer in the world. I’ve learned a lot from this camp. It’s the first time I’ve ever sat down and watched tapes. All you had to do up there was sit down and think about boxing.”

One tape Taylor did not see was that of his 2000 amateur bout against Pavlik, whom he defeated on his way to the Sydney Olympics.  Although both contestants are wont to downplay the significance of that earlier meeting, Taylor would have liked to have a look at it, but coach Ozell Nelson was unable to come up with a copy.

Pavlik says he has a game plan. He has three of them, in fact.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen until you hit somebody, how they’re going to react,” he said. “That’s why we have three scenarios. We’ve prepared for everything – but it could all change after one punch.”

Pavlik, who is undefeated, has knocked out 28 of his 31 professional victims, but seems offended that he is considered by some a one-dimensional fighter. He lists his principal attributes as “conditioning, power, and underestimation of my speed.

“I think my boxing ability isn’t recognized by a lot of people,” he said.

Of course, if Pavlik really wanted to flummox Taylor Saturday night, he could come out boxing lefthanded.

“We could switch up,” he smiled, “but there’s no need to. We trained very well the way we do now, and we’re going to show (Taylor) some different things he hasn’t seen.”

Pavlik reportedly went old-school at his own training camp, enhancing his strength by banging tires with a sledgehammer.

“Don’t make no difference,” shrugged Taylor. “He’s not going to try to lift me, is he?”

Although Pavlik’s impressive 7th-round stoppage of Edison Miranda (on the Taylor-Spinks undercard) got him into this fight, it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk – and, Steward reminded Wednesday’s gathering, “As far as I’m concerned, Miranda never was nothing. He’s a good fighter, but you can’t compare him to the guys Jermain Taylor has fought. This is like jumping from junior high school to college.”

“We just made some stupid mistakes in the Miranda fight,” said Pavlik. “When you fight Miranda, a guy who throws punches  from all different angles, you don’t want to be on your toes with your chin up in the air trying to dodge punches, because you’re going to get hit with some that you can’t see. With Taylor we know what’s coming.”

And Miranda, claims Pavlik, probably more closely resembles Taylor than any of his other opponents.

“If you’ve watched Miranda in a lot of his fights, including the last one, they both come in with their head on the right hand, and they both keep the left hand down and jab with kind of a half-uppercut,” said Pavlik. And Miranda wasn’t that slow of a fighter, believe it or not. The people who are picking Jermain Taylor because ‘Kelly Pavlik is too slow’ are going to be surprised.  I’ve had sparring partners who were a lot quicker than Jermain Taylor.”

Does Pavlik’s style concern Taylor?

“Not really,” said JT. “He’s a strong fighter, and he fights off strength, but it don’t mean nothing when you’re going into that ring going after the middleweight championship of the world. I’m just going in there and putting a whupping on this boy. I don’t care what his style is, what he’s going  to go in there and do. I’m ready for whatever he bring. Whatever he got, I got something for it.”


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