Healthy Pavlik ready to defend middleweight titles

Kelly Pavlik figured with all the bad luck he has had in 2009, a change of scenery might result in a change of fortunes.

The WBC and WBO middleweight champion has moved his training camp from his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, to Las Vegas for his Dec. 19 title defense against Miguel Espino. Pavlik said there were too many distractions and, with such an important fight, the last thing he needed to deal with was being around friends, family and hangers-on.

“The main thing is to get focused,” Pavlik said of his decision to train at the Top Rank Gym. “This is a very big fight for me. Espino’s a very good fighter, and I have to be ready.”

Pavlik, 27, had suffered a staph infection in his left hand, which was treated and then returned.

Pavlik was hospitalized for four days after he had developed an allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was taking to treat the infection.

It forced a second cancellation of his fight with Paul Williams. He hasn’t fought since his ninth-round technical knockout over Marco Rubio on Feb. 21 in Youngstown.

“Believe me, if I could have fought Williams, I would have,” Pavlik said. “But because of what happened, there was no way I could.”

Pavlik drove to Cleveland in early September for a doctor to examine his hand. He wound up in a hospital bed because the infection had morphed into MRSA, which is resistant to antibiotics and, if not treated promptly, can result in death.

His temperature had spiked above 104 degrees, and had he not decided to see the doctor that day, Pavlik said he’s not sure he would be alive today.

“When I got scared was when two days after the stitches came out when we treated the staph infection the first time and it came back,” he said. “Going back into the hospital was really scary.

“I’ve tried to live my life, but when you go through something like that, it makes you more cautious.”

Pavlik insists his damaged left hand is 100 percent and the staph also is behind him.

“I’m moving forward. I’m not looking back,” he said.

Still, his critics insist he hasn’t been the same since Bernard Hopkins dominated him at 169 pounds in October 2008. Pavlik said all it does is motivate him to prove everyone wrong.

And he still wants to fight Williams.

“I never duck anybody,” said Pavlik, who is 35-1 with 31 knockouts. “I moved up two weight classes to fight Hopkins. I’ve fought (Jermain) Taylor twice. I fought (Edison) Miranda. That’s why I laugh when Williams says I’m afraid to fight him.

“I would love to fight him, anytime, anywhere.”

BLANKENSHIP GOES PRO — UNLV junior Bradley Blankenship has announced he is turning professional and has signed with Cameron Dunkin as his manager and Kenny Adams as his trainer.

“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Blankenship said. “I don’t have a lot of experience, and I’m not getting any younger, so this was the right time. And Cameron has a record of managing world champions, and I feel honored that he would bring me into his camp.”

Blankenship turns 21 on Dec. 11. He has had 33 amateur fights and made it to the semifinals of this year’s national Golden Gloves tournament at 165 pounds. However, Blankenship said he will fight professionally as a welterweight.

“It’ll be nice to fight guys my size,” he said. “Middleweight is too big for me. Everyone is 6-foot-2.”

SILVER NUGGET CARD — The North Las Vegas Center Ring Boxing Club will hold an amateur card on Saturday at the Silver Nugget Casino. The card will have 25 bouts and admission is $10. First bell is 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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