Kelly Pavlik remembers the dark days when his best friend was a bottle. He also remembers the good days when he was on top of the boxing world as middleweight champion.
For Pavlik, the choice is simple: He wants a return to glory.
A recovering alcoholic, the 29-year-old Pavlik has emerged from a two-month stay at the Betty Ford Clinic in California, shed his partying ways and is back in the gym in an attempt to reclaim a world title — this time as a super middleweight.
“I’m a more mature person in all aspects of my life. I take nothing for granted. I see the big picture,” Pavlik said Friday on a teleconference to promote his May 7 fight with Alfonse Lopez at the MGM Grand Garden, which will be part of the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley WBO welterweight title main event.
Pavlik (36-2, 32 knockouts) hasn’t fought since losing his WBC and WBO middleweight belts to Sergio Martinez on April 17, 2010. He was partying too much, and his life was spiraling out of control. But in November he came to grips with his drinking and entered rehab.
He left the clinic in January, determined to resurrect his career.
“The biggest change I’ve made is that I can focus on my career again,” Pavlik said. “I’m enjoying my life again.”
Pavlik’s longtime trainer, Jack Loew, sees the change. “Every time Kelly came into the gym, he worked hard, no matter what he was going through,” Loew said. “I’ve got a clear-headed kid to train now. That’s the biggest difference.”
Pavlik said there have been times during sparring when he felt his timing was off. But he said that’s to be expected after so much time away from the ring.
“Everything’s falling into place,” he said. “My energy level is totally different. I can do things in the gym now that I couldn’t do before. I’ve probably sparred more for this fight than for some of my title fights. My power is still there. I’ve always been naturally strong, so that’s not an issue.”
Pavlik said he’s not in a position to look past Lopez (21-0, 16 KOs), the WBC Continental Americas super middleweight champion.
“To be honest, it’s one of the most important fights of my career,” Pavlik said. “I have to go out there and look good.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promotes Pavlik, said he won’t rush his fighter to get him a title shot.
“We’ll see how he does May 7,” Arum said. “Then we’ll talk to his team and go from there. He’s in with a tough fighter in Lopez. But if Kelly gets by Lopez, there are a lot of good super middleweights there for him to fight.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.