STANDING BY hislocker shortly after stopping Jermain Taylor with a seventh-round knockout lastSaturday night, new middleweight king Kelly Pavlik couldn't bring himself toshake a reporter's hand. "Sorry," said Pavlik. "Toughfight."
The reddened fistPavlik proffered by way of greeting told the story of the evening's contest. Aseries of devastating rights to Taylor's skull helped Pavlik claim theundisputed middleweight title in Atlantic City and may even have shocked somelife back into boxing. Despite boasting a 32--0 record and a high knockoutpercentage (90.6), Pavlik, 25, was a heavy underdog against the flashy Taylor.That status looked deserved when a 15-punch flurry by Taylor sent Pavlikcareening to the canvas in the second round. Pavlik, however, wouldn't staydown ("I wasn't hurt that bad," he says) and fought Taylor evenly forthree rounds before unleashing a right that rocked Taylor into the corner.Pavlik moved in quickly, lifting the champ with uppercuts until referee SteveSmoger waved the winner off.
Can this one bouthelp a struggling sport? Boxing failed to capitalize on the buzz created by theOscar de la Hoya--Floyd Mayweather showdown in May: The most-watched fight inhistory was followed by snoozers like Taylor's win over Cory Spinks in May andBernard Hopkins's outpointing of Winky Wright in July. Pavlik, however, putsonly opponents to sleep. His straight-ahead style is reminiscent of fellowYoungstown, Ohio, native and former lightweight champion Ray (Boom-Boom)Mancini, and with 29 knockouts in 32 pro fights Pavlik is dropping opponents ata higher rate than Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran did. Against Taylor hefought in classic fashion, jabbing stiffly to create opportunities for hispotent right. "Double jabs, then rights," says Pavlik's trainer, JackLoew. "That was the strategy all night."
Pavlik's bullishstyle has networks interested. Taylor's contract guarantees a rematch, andthere will be calls for Pavlik to challenge the winner of the Nov. 3 MikkelKessler--Joe Calzaghe super middleweight bout. "The fans appreciate how hefights," says HBO vice president Kerry Davis. "Which is why we'rehoping to be part of as many Kelly Pavlik fights as possible." Apart from anew champ, boxing may have a new salesman.
Another Kind of Fighter
ONE DAY in the spring of 2006, three cancer patients atChildren's Hospital of Austin posed with Lance Armstrong for an SI cover storyabout his efforts to raise money for cancer research. One of the kids was SeanMack (right, standing), a 16-year-old from Round Rock, Texas, who in '03 hadbeen diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Sean's mother, Leslie Brown, washappy and proud for her son, even though, she says, "I didn't know he'd beon the cover" of the May 8, 2006 issue.
In the photo Mack is smiling, his left elbow resting onArmstrong's shoulder. The relaxed pose belied his fighting spirit. Three monthsafter the picture was taken, Mack was taken off life support; after lying stillfor a few minutes he sat up and said to his mother, "I'm not goinganywhere." (His doctor was so surprised that "his knees wereshaking," says Brown.) Mack walked out of intensive care two weeks laterand lived, unexpectedly, until June 12 of this year.
Brown, a single mother, is working part-time, but withmedical and funeral bills piling up, she was evicted in July and is living in amotel with Sean's twin brother, Steven, and her daughter Sierra, 10. LastFriday a foundation was set up to help Brown. Donations in Sean's memory can besent to:
Sean Mack Memorial Fund/First Texas Bank
500 Round Rock Avenue, P.O. Box 5
Round Rock, TX 78680
AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES (FIGHT)
CHIN UP Pavlik (right) has networks and promoters dreaming of a brighter future.
MICHAEL O'NEILL (COVER)