Pavlik's comeback is under way
Dan Rafael [ARCHIVE]
ESPN.com
April 2, 2012
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Saturday at San Antonio

Kelly Pavlik TKO2 Aaron Jaco

Super middleweight

Records: Pavlik (38-2, 33 KOs); Jaco (15-3, 5 KOs)

Rafael's remarks: The comeback is under way for Pavlik, and so far, so good for the former middleweight world champion, who looked sharp in his first fight in 10 months and just his second bout since losing the title to Sergio Martinez via bloody decision in April 2010. Granted, Pavlik, who turns 30 on Wednesday, was not facing a very threatening opponent in Jaco, but he looked very strong nonetheless.

Pavlik, as we all know, has battled alcohol abuse that landed in rehab. He has had issues with his promoter, Top Rank, after blowing off a Showtime fight last summer by dropping out a few days ahead of time for no legitimate reason. And there was also a DUI arrest. But he appears to have things under control. At least for now. He left his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, where he is a huge fish in a tiny pond, and split with career-long trainer Jack Loew to relocate to Oxnard, Calif., and begin training with Robert Garcia. This was their first fight together and Pavlik did everything Garcia, Top Rank and manager Cameron Dunkin could have asked for.

He looked in tremendous shape and was powerful with his left hand while not even needing to employ the destructive right hand that has been his calling card. Jaco, 35, of Sarasota, Fla., never stood a chance. Pavlik rocked him early in the first round with a left hook and it seemed to be only a matter of time before he got rid of Jaco. Late in the first round, Pavlik dropped Jaco with a solid left hook to the chin. Jaco buckled and went down to a knee on a delayed reaction, but was up by eight. Pavlik continued to show patience in the second round, but dropped him again with a clean left hook. Jaco was in far worse trouble from this knockdown, although he was up quickly. He used the ring ropes to help him make it to his feet by three, but he was shaky and did not want to continue. Referee Jon Schorle can clearly be heard on the audio after he had called it off 45 seconds into the round saying, "I said, 'How you doing?' He said, 'I'm done.'" Jaco, now 2-3 in his last five bouts, was taking a massive step up in competition and fighting for only the second time since 2006.

Afterward, Pavlik was pleased with his performance, saying, "I was calm, relaxed, had good energy, bounce -- everything was working. I thought he was looking for a right hand so I got him with my left. I feel good and I am back." Garcia was happy with what he saw as well: "The plan was to stay calm, work off the jab, then get to work. Kelly did everything at a high level." And Jaco also gave Pavlik credit: "Game plans are great until you get punched. I never felt power like that. He is a great fighter and a great man. I don't hate him and he doesn't hate me. It was too much power for me to handle."

Pavlik's next fight could headline an ESPN "Friday Night Fights" card in Las Vegas on June 8, the night before the big Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. HBO PPV card that Top Rank is promoting. Assuming Pavlik's next fight is indeed on "Friday Night Fights," it surely will be easier for fight fans to find after the absolute disaster of the television for this card. Top Rank originally announced that Pavlik would be on a "Top Rank Live" card (its series that has moved from Fox Deportes to Azteca America this year), but that Pavlik's fight would not be part of the broadcast. The week of the fight, however, Top Rank said Pavlik would open the telecast at the behest of Azteca America. Then there was confusion over the start time. Top Rank said it would begin live at 9 p.m. ET but that some markets would air it on one-hour delay at 10 p.m. ET. However, when it came to fight time, Azteca America did not show the card. Instead, it carried live coverage of a club card from Mexico with no sign of the Pavlik fight to be seen. Apparently, the fight did air in Mexico, so at least it wound up on YouTube. Top Rank seriously needs to iron out its "Top Rank Live" situation. Many fans wanted to see Pavlik's return and wound up with nothing but wasted time waiting around for it on Azteca America.

In the main event, Garcia-trained featherweight Evgeny Gradovich (13-0, 7 KOs) of Russia stopped Frankie Leal (17-6-3, 10 KOs) of Mexico in the 10 round of an action fight. Leal left on a stretcher for precautionary reasons.

Saturday at Cancun, Mexico

Sergio "Yeyo" Thompson TKO2 Jorge Linares

Lightweight

Title eliminator

Records: Thompson (22-2, 20 KOs); Linares (31-3, 20 KOs)

Rafael's remarks: This will go down as one of the worst decisions ever in terms of a fighter taking a so-called "tune-up" fight before a far more significant bout that was already set. Perhaps it was not as a bad as the all-timer, in which Tommy Morrison, who had an $8 million deal done to challenge Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship, took a "tune-up" fight against Michael Bentt and got waxed in the first round in 1993. But this is pretty close as Linares blew a July 7 money fight on Showtime to challenge lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco in a rematch by getting stopped inside two rounds in a poor performance that puts his career as a serious fighter in jeopardy after losing his second bout in a row by knockout and getting severely cut for the second fight in a row.

In October, Linares faced Mexico's DeMarco for a vacant lightweight belt on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson HBO PPV undercard at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. For most of the fight, Linares was having his way with DeMarco. He was quicker and is superior in terms of talent. But Linares got cut and DeMarco makes up for whatever he lacks in technique with a huge heart. He never stopped going at Linares, whose face was covered in blood. He was running out of gas and was eventually stopped in the 11th round in one of the biggest upsets of 2011. A rematch was ordered, but with the caveat that DeMarco would be permitted to take an interim defense first, which he did on March 17, knocking out Miguel Roman in a dominant performance. Linares, however, also opted for an interim bout and Golden Boy matched with Mexico's Thompson, 26, who has a glossy record compiled against mostly woeful or novice opponents.

The first round was competitive and exciting. Thompson landed several solid shots that pushed Linares back and marked up the area around his left eye. But Linares also rocked Thompson with a left hook near the end of the round.

After a cautious start to the second round, Thompson nailed Linares with a right hand that rocked him and sent him into the ropes. Thompson went for the knockout and unloaded more than a dozen punches, several of which missed. But several also landed and Linares emerged from the frenzy with blood streaming from a cut over his left...
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