After a 10 month layoff due to hand surgeries and resulting staph infections, The Ring, WBC, and WBO Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik (35-1, 31 KOs) will make his return to the ring. Another title defense in Kelly’s home town of Youngstown, OH against Miguel Espino (20-2-1, 9 KOs). The fight will take place on the Campus of Youngstown State University.
Espino, an American fighter from North Hollywood, CA, is most know for appearing on the television show The Contender back in 2007. While not know as a knockout puncher, has won his last four bouts by KO. Although the names of those last four fighters would be unknown to even a seasoned boxing fan.
In a weird twist of reality Pavlik went to Las Vegas to train for this fight, because it provided a much calmer and private atmosphere to train as opposed to Youngstown. Weird, huh? But by all accounts the left hand, specifically the knuckle of the index finger is back to 100%. What also appears to be back to 100%, by Kelly’s own account, is his hunger and passion for boxing. Something many in his hometown were starting to question. I personally never looked at it like that. It appeared to be more of a year to put the boat in neutral and recharge the batteries. Kelly had a lot of irons in fire outside the ring this year, including opening a restaurant back in August. The crazy thing is the break and hand problems just may have come at the best time, in a business sense. Boxing has a lot of momentum heading into 2010 with the headlining super bout of Pac-Man vs. Money Mayweather. So their is money to be made across all weight divisions. As an American World Champ in a highlight division, it should be a big healthy and productive year in the spotlight for the man know as The Ghost.
As for this fight, I think Espino is a decent little fighter who will do his best to avoid Kelly’s big right hand. Kelly could/should stop Espino around the 4th or 5th, but I think he’ll let this thing go a little longer to get his legs back underneath him, and give the hometown fans their money’s worth. I’ll predict 7th round KO.