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Pavlik stops Taylor in 7th

Special to The Times

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- After the second round, Kelly Pavlik staggered back to his corner on unsteady legs.

The 25-year-old challenger from Youngstown, Ohio, plumped down on his stool, having been hammered to the canvas by some 15 to 18 unanswered blows from champion Jermain Taylor, and was asked by his trainer, a father figure who has known him since age 9, “Are you OK?” and “can you continue?”

Pavlik bravely answered to the affirmative.

“I told him I was shaky. I was hurt real bad,” Pavlik said. “But I told him that I wanted to continue.”

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Five rounds later, Pavlik validated trainer Jack Loew’s decision.

Behind on all cards, and having taken several hard left hooks and right hands, Pavlik scored his 29th knockout in his 32nd career victory without a loss, lifting from Taylor (27-1, 17 knockouts), the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization middleweight titles.

Referee Steve Smoger came to the rescue at 2:14 of the round, saying Taylor was “out cold” on the ropes in Pavlik’s corner, oblivious to the 10,127 fans in the Boardwalk Hall.

“It was a great fight, but now I’m the champ,” said Pavlik, who trailed, 59-54, on one card and 58-55 on the other two.

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He told his fans, “Thank you,” and, “I love you,” on a microphone while still in the ring

At ringside were ex-champions and Youngstown natives Ray Mancini and Harry Arroyo.

Mancini and Arroyo had lost their first bouts in Atlantic City years earlier; the former by a knockout against Alexis Arguello in 1981, and the latter, by decision to Jimmy Paull in 1985.

“I told Kelly this was about the mental aspect,” Mancini said as he entered the Boardwalk Hall arena, where he was introduced to the crowd. “It’s about keeping his composure, I said, not losing your head, no matter what.”

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In vanquishing Taylor by knockout, Pavlik did what none had done before. Taylor had gone 24 rounds with Bernard Hopkins; and 12 each with former world champions Winky Wright, Kasim Ouma and Cory Spinks.

“I feel honored to be among all of the great champions from Youngstown,” said Pavlik, who was told to “go back to the double-jab” against Taylor.

Taylor acknowledged he was fading at the time of the stoppage.

“I thought I had him in the second round, but I think I threw too many punches,” said Taylor, 29.

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“After I had him down, Kelly fought a great fight. But later in the fight, I thought I was losing so I wasted a lot of energy trying to finish him off.”

Taylor, who earned $4.5 million to Pavlik’s $1.25 million, said he would like a rematch with Pavlik.

The rematch clause in their contract calls for one, “and I want it, right away,” Taylor said.

“Kelly’s a big puncher, but I can’t believe that I lost,” Taylor said.

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“But it’s all about going back to the drawing board. I’d like to fight him in my very first fight back.”


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