Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pavlik proves little against shaky competition in return to Atlantic City

By John McMullen

Atlantic City, NJ (The Phanatic Magazine) - If you left the couch to fix a late night snack last night, you missed about 10 minutes of actual boxing on HBO.

Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and Company were being forced to pretend the middleweight title bout between Kelly Pavlik and WBO mandatory challenger Gary Lockett was more than a glorified sparring session for the champ and to their credit, it was...I'm sure Pavlik is tested far more in the gym than he was on Saturday night.

The undefeated "Ghost" (34-0, 30 KOs) battered and bruised Lockett (28-2) until the overmatched challenger's corner threw in the towel at 1:40 of the third round in front of nearly 6,000 Pavlik supporters at Boardwalk Hall.

Perhaps that was apropos since the only reason Lockett was receiving a title shot was because of his cornerman's name -- Enzo Calzaghe.

"Gary has good power. My jab was working and it stopped him in his tracks," Pavlik said. "I was hitting him with good shots."

Pavlik, returning to Atlantic City for the first time since capturing the WBC/WBO middleweight title in a shocking, seventh-round knockout over Jermain Taylor in September of last year, used his height and reach advantage to keep Lockett, a Wales native making his American debut, at bay en route to his first title defense.

"I just didn't see the shots coming," Lockett said. "He punches hard. It wasn't the one punch it was an accumulation. He's a fast fighter. The shots I hit him with were not enough. It was the accumulation of punches that got me."

And with Floyd Mayweather Jr. "retiring" again, that leaves Pavlik in the mix for boxing's mythical pound-for-pound title. But, this bout told us little about Pavlik and more about the boxing industry. Loathe to give away anything for free (yes, the boxing world thinks HBO is free TV), Pavlik was given a tomato can and to his credit -- ran right through him.

"If they wanted me to fight Godzilla, I will fight Godzilla," Pavlik said.

The night should have been saved by the WBO Super Bantamweight title match between Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel Lopez and Mexican champion Daniel Ponce De Leon. By and large, lighter boxers are far better technically and more entertaining, at least to the hardcores. Problem is, the undefeated Lopez (22-0, 20 KOs) had other ideas and came out of the gates firing, blitzing Ponce De Leon (34-2) and netting a first round TKO at 2:25 to win the title.

"I told everyone I had what I had to become champion," Lopez said. "I think I proved a lot to people tonight. Every fighter has a lot to show. I knew I had confidence and I would do this tonight."

"He surprised me," De Leon added. "I came to the ring very confident. He got me with a very good shot. I think I could have continued, but the referee did his job. I'm okay. Hopefully he can give me a rematch."

The best match of the night was on the undercard as England's Kevin Mitchell (27-0, 20 KOs) kept the WBO Intercontinental Junior Lightweight crown with a fifth round TKO win over Walter Estrada (30-6) of Columbia. The more experienced Estrada gave Mitchell some trouble in the early rounds but it was clear Mitchell was the stronger and more powerful fighter, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

In other action, Los Angeles' Demetrio Soto (4-0, 4 KOs) kicked off the night in grand fashion with a 58 second knockout of Gustavo Mejia (2-3-1) in a super lightweight bout..

New Jersey's own Jorge Diaz (5-0, 4 KOs) stayed undefeated with a boring unanimous decision over Gino Escamilla (5-2-1) in bantamweight action, and journeyman Eberto Medina (3-3-1, 1 KO) dispatched of Arman Ovsepian, making his pro debut, in a super welterweight bout.

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