The plan for troubled former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik to leave behind his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and part ways with Jack Loew, the only trainer he had ever known, was hatched in late October.
Now it's in motion, as Pavlik has left Youngstown and Loew and has been in Oxnard, Calif., for more than a week working with new trainer Robert Garcia.
Pavlik is looking forward to a spring comeback, manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com.
Pavlik (37-2, 32 KOs), who has admitted to a drinking problem and was in rehab for two months until early 2011, was arrested recently on a DUI charge in Ohio.
But that hasn't stopped him from trying to get back in shape and begin anew with Garcia, one of boxing's hottest trainers, whose stable also includes top fighters Nonito Donaire, Brandon Rios and Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (the trainer's younger brother).
"Kelly is doing great," Dunkin said. "He's happy, he's laughing and jovial. He loves it in Oxnard. He's been there a little over a week now and been training hard. He has a nutritionist working with him on his weight and he is boxing with Robert. Kelly weighed 173 pounds the other morning."
If everything continues to go well, Dunkin said, he anticipates that Pavlik, 29, would return to action in March or early April.
"One day at a time," Dunkin said. "Whenever anybody makes a change they say, 'Oh, this is the best training I've ever had' and two weeks later everything blows to s---. So I'm not getting carried away. But right now it's going better than we expected. Robert says he's so easy to train and that there are so many things he can do. Robert said, 'He's a good athlete and I think he has a lot left in him.'"
Dunkin said Pavlik hasn't sparred yet, but that he will work with junior middleweight prospect Alfonso Blanco, a 2008 Venezuelan Olympian who is managed by Dunkin, in the coming days.
Since losing the title to Sergio Martinez in April 2010, Pavlik has fought just once (in part because he was in rehab), a decision over Alfonso Lopez last May. Pavlik was supposed to return in August, but he pulled out of a Showtime "ShoBox" main event just days ahead of the fight simply because he was unhappy with the deal. With that withdrawal, Pavlik also threw away a $1.35 million deal to challenge super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute on Nov. 5.
In October, Pavlik, his father and co-manager Mike Pavlik and Dunkin met with Top Rank officials in New York to try to work things out when they decided he would leave Youngstown and Loew to train with Garcia.
Epix becomes heavyweight central
Premium cable network Epix has cornered the market on upcoming heavyweight title bouts, securing U.S. television rights to three of them in a three-week span beginning next month.
Epix will televise live -- and stream as part of a free trial on EpixHd.com -- title defenses by Ukrainian brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, along with Alexander Povetkin's.
On Feb. 18, Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KOs) will make his eighth title defense, against England's Dereck Chisora (15-3, 9 KOs) at Olympiahalle in Munich, Germany. Epix televised Chisora's controversial split-decision loss to Robert Helenius in Helenius' native Finland in December. The decision was widely regarded as one of the worst of 2011, and Chisora's performance was good enough to land him the shot against Klitschko, who scored a first-round knockout of Odlanier Solis in March 2011 on Epix's first boxing card.
On Feb. 25 at Porsche-Arena in Stuttgart, Germany, Povetkin (23-0, 16 KOs), of Russia, will make his second defense (and appear on Epix for the third consecutive fight) against cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck (34-1, 25 KOs) of Germany. He is stepping up in weight for the opportunity.
Finally, on March 3, Wladimir Klitschko (56-3, 49 KOs) will make his 11th defense, against France's Jean-Marc Mormeck (36-4, 22 KOs), the former cruiserweight champion, at ESPRIT Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany. The fight was originally scheduled for Dec. 10 but was postponed because Klitschko needed surgery to remove a kidney stone a week before the bout.
Epix will also present a closed-captioned simulcast of the three bouts on a JumboTron in Times Square in Manhattan.
"Epix was pleased with the fan reaction to its exclusive live U.S. telecasts of Vitali Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin's heavyweight title fights last year," Epix executive producer Travis Pomposello said. "Now, to be able to televise live an unprecedented three-week block of the best in the heavyweight division is as exciting to Epix as it is to U.S. boxing fans."
Chisora skewers Haye
British heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora, who will get a crack at champion Vitali Klitschko on Feb. 18 in Munich, Germany, took some hacks at countryman David Haye, a former titleholder who could be next for Klitschko if he gets past Chisora.
Haye, of course, lost his belt in one-sided fashion to unified champion Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, last July. Haye has since said he will reclaim a title if and when he faces Vitali Klitschko, for whom he would come out of retirement to face.
"Haye had his chance to back up all the prefight bull he came out with against Wladimir, but he put up that embarrassing performance and then topped it by blaming it on an injured little toe," Chisora said. "I can't see how the British public will forget about that, and now he's coming out with the same bull again by saying that he will go to war and win his title back if he gets Vitali. I think it's just embarrassing. Wladimir made a laughingstock out of him and Vitali would knock him out. Haye should just stay retired and out of the sport. He had his time and failed on his biggest night. Now I'm going to go out there and show him how to fight a Klitschko.
"One thing's for sure: I won't be going into the ring like a scared rabbit like Haye did. I'm going to give it everything I've got to win the world title."
Chisora landed the title opportunity after losing a massively controversial decision while challenging Robert Helenius for the vacant European title in Helenius' home country of Finland on Dec. 3.
Chisora (15-2, 9 KOs), 29, plans to bring home an even more significant title when he faces the 40-year-old Klitschko (43-2, 40 KOs).
"This is the most focused and prepared I've been for a fight and I'm looking forward to it," Chisora said. "It's a big job, but I'm going out to Germany with the aim of ending the Klitschko reign of heavyweight boxing, starting with Vitali."
'Fight Night' debut facelift
NBC Sports Network's new "Fight Night" series, which it is putting on with Main Events as its exclusive promoter, kicks off on Saturday night (9 ET) at the Asylum Arena in Philadelphia. However, the main event was downgraded after heavyweight contender Eddie Chambers withdrew last weekend because of fractured ribs. He was supposed to face former heavyweight titleholder Sergei Liakhovich.
However, when a suitable replacement couldn't be found on such short notice to face Liakhovich, Main Events and partner Russell Peltz put together a new main event between unbeaten but unknown heavyweights. Chambers didn't tell Main Events about the diagnosis until a week after he had suffered the injury, costing it valuable time to find a worthy substitute to face Liakhovich.
The new main event matches Philadelphia natives Maurice Byarm (13-0-1, 9 KOs) and Bryant Jennings (11-0, 5 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder. Byarm is the son of Lionel Byarm, who lost to Evander Holyfield in Holyfield's professional debut.
"I am really excited to get the chance to show what I can do on national television," Jennings said. "I've wanted to fight Byarm for a long time. I'm not worried about dealing with a southpaw. This is a perfect match for me."
Said Byarm, who now lives in Washington, D.C.: "I am so excited to be coming home to Philadelphia and fighting in front of my parents and so many friends and family. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and I plan on making the most of it."
Main Events promoter Kathy Duva was not thrilled to have to make a new main event on short notice for the debut of the series, but she said she had to do what was necessary.
"This series is about giving the fans exciting, action-packed fights where the outcome is in doubt," Duva said. "It is truly a shame that Chambers and Liakhovich cannot fight on Saturday, but athletes get injured. We tried all [last] weekend to find a suitable replacement to face Liakhovich, but truly competitive opposition could not be found on such short notice. [Monday] night, we decided that it would be in the best interests of the fans and the series to go in another direction and present a fight that will live up to the standards that we have set for this project."
Peltz said the main event will give viewers a chance to see a pair of undefeated American heavyweights, whose ranks are thin.
"I often hear people say that there are no American heavyweights," Peltz said. "We are presenting a terrific fight on Saturday night at the Asylum between two promising American heavyweights who are willing to test themselves sooner rather than later."
On the televised undercard, Philadelphia junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado (18-5, 10 KOs) will face Mexico's Jesus Soto Karass (24-6-2, 16 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder. A six-round bout between light heavyweights Damar Singleton (7-0, 3 KOs) and Sullivan Barrera (8-0, 6 KOs) is also scheduled to be televised.
Welterweight Joel "Love Child" Julio (37-4, 31 KOs), who was scheduled to face Chris Fernandez (19-14-1, 12 KOs) in an untelevised bout, is off the show. He withdrew because of an undisclosed injury, according to Duva.
• Showtime announced that it will produce a two-episode edition of its reality series "Fight Camp 360" in support of the rematch between former welterweight titleholders Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto. They will meet Feb. 11 (on Showtime) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a sequel to their action-packed fight last April, which Ortiz won via unanimous decision to claim a 147-pound title. The fight featured four knockdowns, with both men hitting the deck twice each, including one apiece in the sixth round. This will be Showtime's third edition of "Fight Camp." It also produced a series following the buildup to Manny Pacquiao's fight with Shane Mosley and produced episodes throughout the Super Six World Boxing Classic super middleweight tournament. The first 30-minute episode of the new series will debut on Feb. 1 (10 p.m. ET/PT). The second 15-minute segment, which will serve as a wrap-up of the fight, will debut Feb. 18 (9:45 p.m. ET/PT) prior to the network's "Showtime Championship Boxing" card headlined by Paul Williams against Nobuhiro Ishida. There will be multiple replays, including on Showtime Extreme and CBS Sports Network, plus Showtime On Demand availability.
• Junior welterweight contender Lucas Matthysse (29-2, 27 KOs), hoping for another significant fight in the United States, will stay busy in his home country of Argentina against Silverio Ortiz (23-13, 11 KOs) on Feb. 10, Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions, Matthysse's promoter, told ESPN.com. It will be Matthysse's second fight in a row in Argentina following his controversial split-decision loss to Devon Alexander in Alexander's hometown of St. Louis in June. Matthysse's only other loss also came in the United States in his opponent's home area when he dropped a split decision to Zab Judah in Newark, N.J., in November 2010. Matthysse lost close calls in both fights despite scoring knockdowns of both Alexander and Judah.
• Former undisputed welterweight champ and three-time junior welterweight titlist Zab Judah has fought many times in New York during his 15-year career, but never in his home borough of Brooklyn, with which he is so closely identified. That will change when he faces Vernon Paris in a junior welterweight title eliminator that will make the winner a mandatory challenger for one of the belts held by Lamont Peterson. Judah (41-7, 28 KOs) will face Detroit's Paris (26-0, 15 KOs) at the Aviator in Brooklyn when they meet March 24 in a "Fight Night" main event (NBC Sports Network), Main Events promoter Kathy Duva told ESPN.com. "We made the decision to go to a smaller arena, fill it up and have a lively crowd," she said. Duva also learned her lesson from having to change main events for Saturday's "Fight Night" debut. "I'll put a very good, competent junior welterweight on the card in case there is an injury," Duva said. "That has to be the game plan because of the schedule on NBC [Sports Net]; we can't just postpone the show if there is an injury."
• When British super middleweight prospect George Groves (14-0, 11 KOs) faced Scotland's Kenny Anderson (15-1, 11 KOs) in a Commonwealth title fight in November 2010, Groves won by sixth-round TKO -- even though Anderson scored a hard knockdown in the third round. That result was spicy enough for them to set up a rematch, this time for Groves' British title. They will meet March 16 at Wembley Arena in London in as part of promoter Frank Warren's lineup of fights on new boxing subscription network BoxNation in Great Britain. Warren won the purse bid for the rematch. "Anderson did well to get to the mandatory position and I'm more than happy to take him on again," Groves said. "I'm really going to relish it this time around and I'll do a much better job on him. Since I beat him I've faced a much higher caliber of opponent than he has and picked up much more experience against the likes of James DeGale and Paul Smith. With the tougher fights, my confidence has come on loads -- especially after the way I won my last fight against Smith -- and I believe that I'm a much better fighter now. It will be far more one-sided this time. He's a strong man, but I won't let him get in the fight at all. It will be all one-way traffic. That doesn't mean I'm underestimating him. He'll be out to beat me and I'll be training harder than ever against him."
• Cruiserweight titlist Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs) is looking forward to his rematch with two-time titleholder Steve Cunningham (24-3, 12 KOs). They will meet Feb. 4 in Frankfurt, Germany, in a rematch of Hernandez's controversial sixth-round technical split-decision win to claim the belt in October, also staged in Germany. "It was a great feeling to become world champion," Hernandez said. "However, the ending was a bit unfortunate. I am the better fighter and I am happy to prove it again to erase any doubts. I have a lot of respect for Cunningham. He is a great fighter, very skilled and very fast, but he will not get his title back." Their first fight was stopped and sent to the scorecards after Hernandez was cut by an accidental head-butt. Although many believed Cunningham had clearly won, despite being knocked down in the first round, the rematch was ordered by the IBF because it said the stoppage was incorrect based on the fact that Hernandez's cuts weren't interfering with his ability to compete and that neither cut was bleeding much when the fight was halted. "I think it's a 50-50 fight, with Hernandez being the favorite because he is the world champion," said Chris Meyer of Sauerland Event, which promotes both men.
• Manager Cameron Dunkin said he has signed interim junior middleweight titlist Anthony Mundine of Australia to an advisory/agent deal and that Mundine plans to come to the United States in search of a major fight. Mundine (43-4, 25 KOs), 36, is one of the biggest and most controversial names in Australian boxing. A former super middleweight titlist, he dropped down to junior middleweight in 2010 and claimed a vacant interim 154-pound belt in October when he outpointed Rigoberto Alvarez, the older brother of titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. "I want to get him active or into a big fight or both," Dunkin told ESPN.com. "If we can't land him a big fight right away, then I just want to get him on a show and get him active." Dunkin said he would speak to Top Rank's Bob Arum, with whom he does a lot of business, about finding a spot for Mundine on a Top Rank card. Dunkin said Golden Boy told him it wasn't interested. "Maybe just get him on a Top Rank show and then maybe we can get a big fight and do a two- or three-fight deal with Top Rank. But he definitely wants to fight in America. He hired me to get him some sort of big fight, like a Miguel Cotto or 'Canelo' Alvarez. I just want to direct him in the right direction." Mundine might find U.S. fight fans hostile because of the infamous anti-American comments he made following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
• Former junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon (41-4, 34 KOs) will try to rebound from back-to-back losses (to Yuriorkis Gamboa and Adrien Broner, both on HBO) when he faces Mexican countryman Omar Estrella (15-3-2, 10 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round featherweight bout in Ensenada, Mexico, on Saturday night. The fight is available in the United States via AT&T's U-verse platforms (9:30 ET), including at www.att.net/boxeo. Ponce De Leon lost both of his 2011 bouts against top opposition and knows he needs a victory. "I trained really hard physically and mentally for this fight," he said. "Losing is not an option. I see myself winning, but I also know that my opponent has trained really hard and it's going to be a very competitive fight." Estrella is equally motivated. "We all know the quality of fighter that Daniel Ponce De Leon is, and so I trained harder than ever," he said. "I have a family and I have to win this fight for them so I can bring food home. Because of that, I know I'm going to win."
• Heavyweight Audley Harrison, last seen in the ring embarrassing himself by throwing almost no punches in a third-round knockout loss to then-titlist and British countryman David Haye in November 2010, is returning. The 40-year-old Harrison (27-5, 20 KOs), who won the 2000 Olympic super heavyweight gold medal, never came close to living up to his pro potential, but he will be back in the ring April 14 in Brentwood, England, to face Ali Adams (13-3-1, 5 KOs), an Iraq native living in England. Harrison, who recently appeared on the British version of "Dancing with the Stars," hopes to redeem himself for his admittedly woeful performance against Haye, a fight that was so bad and poorly received by the British public that it prompted Britain's Sky Sports to stop doing pay-per-view boxing. "I've never been more disappointed in myself as I felt that night," Harrison said of the Haye fight. "Anyone can lose, but I didn't lose with dignity, so I was never going to retire off that performance. I've been sitting on the shelf for 15 months, so I'm grateful for this opportunity. With my right arm now healed, I'll have too much for Ali Adams. I intend to show I still have a future in the game." Said Ali: "Audley is a joke. His fight with Haye was an embarrassment, and he still wants to make a comeback. I will give him such a beating that Audley will see he does not belong in a boxing ring again."
• Russian junior welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov (20-1, 13 KOs), who headlines ESPN2/ESPN3's "Friday Night Fights" on Jan. 27 against David Torres (21-1-1, 13 KOs) at the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, Wash., has been training with Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif. "I've been working with Ruslan in the gym," Roach said. "I can't be in his corner that night, but he's a great kid and a great prospect, and I plan to work with him in the future." Said Vadim Kornilov, Provodnikov's co-manager: "Ruslan has a lot of respect for Freddie and he thinks Freddie will bring a lot of success to the team. Freddie can't get away to come to the fight -- he's in camp with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. -- but he'll probably send one of his assistants to work Ruslan's corner that night. Ruslan's very happy with the way his preparation has been going, and he's looking forward to working with Freddie again."
• Promoter Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" series returns for a ninth year on Saturday night at Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. The series has become a staple of the New York boxing scene and the cards are televised on tape delay on regional cable outlet SportsNet New York, but fans around the country can see the shows because SNY is on satellite services. In the season kickoff, Brooklyn junior welterweight Gabriel "Tito" Bracero (18-0, 3 KOs), who has received national exposure on Showtime's "ShoBox," will face former titlist DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley (37-10-1, 22 KOs) in the main event. The card will also feature former cruiserweight title challenger Ran Nakash (25-1, 18 KOs) of Israel and standout featherweight prospect Luis "Orlandito" Del Valle (14-0, 11 KOs) of Puerto Rico.
• Interim super middleweight titlist Brian Magee of Northern Ireland will make his first defense in Copenhagen, Denmark, the hometown of challenger Rudy Markussen (37-2, 24 KOs), on Feb. 18. Markussen hasn't fought in his hometown since 2006, when he suffered a seventh-round knockout loss to Sergey Tatevosyan and then retired for 3½ years. Since returning in mid-2010, Markussen has won four in a row. Magee (35-4-1, 24 KOs) has lost only twice since 2006, both against top 168-pounders. Carl Froch, who would go on to win a world title, stopped him in the 11th round in 2006 in a British and Commonwealth title fight, and world titleholder Lucian Bute stopped Magee in the 10th round in March 2011. In his next fight, Magee claimed an interim belt -- Andre Ward is the real champion -- by outpointing Jaime Barboza in his native Costa Rica in July. "Magee is a tough champion who has proven his class in a lot of battles," Markussen said. "But I am the hardest-hitting fighter at super middleweight, and when Magee finds out about my power, it will be too late for him."
• Quebec super middleweight Adonis Stevenson (16-1, 13 KOs) will meet Jesus Gonzalez (27-1, 14 KOs) of Phoenix on Feb. 18 at the Bell Centre in Montreal in an elimination bout for the IBF's No. 2 rating, moving the winner one step closer to a mandatory shot against titleholder Lucian Bute, promoter Yvon Michel announced. Stevenson is coming off a ninth-round knockout of Aaron Pryor Jr. on Dec. 10. Gonzalez will be coming off a much longer layoff. He hasn't fought since a bloody 12-round decision win in July against Francisco Sierra on "Friday Night Fights."
"These last few fights at 140 pounds were hard for me to make weight. I'm going to be stronger and faster at 147. Maidana is coming to tear my head off, but I'm going to be ready, 110 percent." -- Former junior welterweight titlist Devon Alexander, on his move up to welterweight to face powerful Marcos Maidana (who is also moving up in weight) in Alexander's hometown of St. Louis on HBO on Feb. 25, at their kickoff media conference
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.