Pavlik stops Rubio after 9 rounds to keep title
By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP)No longer perfect, Kelly Pavlik is still the
best middleweight in the world.
Dominating overmatched Marco Antonio Rubio from the start, Pavlik
emphatically rebounded from his first career loss Saturday night by
stopping the Mexican challenger after the ninth round before a raucous
hometown crowd that arrived more than 5 hours early to see its hero.
The pride of Youngstown gave them something to remember.
Pavlik outclassed and outpunched Rubio almost the entire fight,
hurting him in the eighth round and battering him throughout the
ninth, after which Rubios corner decided he couldnt continue.
Theres no place like home. There was a lot of pressure on me for
this fight but its great to bounce back in my hometown, Pavlik said.
It was electric.
In the co-main event of a split-site doubleheader, Miguel Cotto came
back from his own first career loss to knock out Michael Jennings in
the fifth round and capture the vacant WBO welterweight title at New
Yorks Madison Square Garden.
It was just the second time Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) had fought in his
hometown since 2001, long before he stunned Jermain Taylor to win the
WBO and WBC middleweight titles. In his only other defense since then,
the scrawny middleweight champion stopped unheralded Gary Lockett in
the third round in Atlantic City, N.J.
Carrying tremendous momentum away from that fight, Pavlik accepted a
170-pound bout against Bernard Hopkins last October. Battling
bronchitis and a troublesome elbow leading up to it, the savvy ring
veteran dominated Pavlik in a surprisingly one-sided loss.
Rubio proved to be the perfect antidote for any hangover.
The 28-year-old Mexican (43-5-1) had won nine straight since moving up
from junior middleweight, but he was clearly overmatched in this one.
The straight-ahead puncher, who earned the title shot by beating
Enrique Ornelas on the Pavlik-Hopkins undercard, didnt have enough
movement and defense to stay with the taller, stronger champion.
We kept him going backwards, trainer Jack Loew said. We saw in the
tape that Rubio had trouble fighting backwards. That was our plan and
Kelly executed it perfectly.
Pavlik landed a devastating left midway through the opening round,
dictating the tempo right from the start. Looking light and fresh on
his feet, Pavlik often backed Rubio into his own corner, landing body
shots virtually at will.
Rubio rallied in the sixth round, landing two left hooks and standing
toe-to-toe with Pavlik as it came to an end. But Pavlik shook him
again with a big right hand near the end of the eighth round and boxed
him into a corner early in the ninth.
Rubios team decided it had seen enough, telling referee Frank Garza
to stop the carnage with their fighter sitting on his stool.
I feel great. I put that loss behind me, Pavlik said. I give a lot
of credit to (Rubio). Hes a lot tougher than I expected.
Pavlik, who earned a guaranteed $1 million for the fight, has spoke
passionately of clearing out the middleweight division. But IBF
champion Arthur Abraham is already defending his title next month, and
WBA champ Felix Sturm is set to fight in April.
Besides, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said the best fight isnt
necessarily the biggest fightmeaning the two Germans arent well
known enough to generate a big payday.
That could mean Pavliks next bout is against the likes of John Duddy,
which would sell well in Ohio or New York, where the popular Irishman
has a massive following. Duddy defeated Matt Vanda by unanimous
decision on the Cotto-Jennings undercard.
Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs) appeared crisp in his first fight since losing to
Antonio Margarito last Julya knockout that some now question after
Margarito was found with a plaster-like substance in his hand wraps
before a loss last month to Shane Mosley.
The sensational Puerto Rican welterweight Cotto fought a tactical
first couple rounds against the overmatched Jennings (34-2) before
staggering him with a left in the fourth, eventually knocking him to
the floor twice. The ***ied Brit came out for the fifth but didnt
last much longer.
Cotto battered Jennings with body shots, trapping him in the corner
and knocking him down again. Jennings rose at the count of 10 but the
referee mercifully waved it off.