Pavlik braced as Taylor hunts revenge

KELLY PAVLIK has coped uneasily with the fame which has been foisted upon him since the Youngstown, Ohio hero dethroned Jermain Taylor to claim the world middleweight title last February.

Pavlik’s stunning seventh round knockout of the champion, after being floored and almost finished himself in round two, captured the sport’s attention and created a badly-needed new superstar.

But as Pavlik headed into tonight’s rematch against Taylor in Las Vegas, made at a catchweight 166lb limit, he admitted it was hard to keep a hold on his normal life in the aftermath of that victory.

Pavlik said: “Some of it was awesome, but there were no Bentleys or Mercedes or mansions. It became a little hectic and a little demanding on my free time. It was kind of a crazy situation.”

Pavlik will have to get used to his profile being raised even further if he completes a rematch victory over Taylor, who blamed a poor training camp and overconfidence for the first loss of his career.

The 25-year-old Pavlik is aware that he is likely to face a stronger and more determined Taylor this time around.

He added: “You know once you’ve got the belt that everyone is going to be hungry like you were.

“But I just won the title, it took me seven years and I’m definitely not ready to give anything up yet. You watch all the great fights and the legends who are fighting, and that’s something else I want to reach.”

Taylor, who experienced sudden stardom himself after dethroning the great Bernard Hopkins, knows revenge victory over Pavlik could pave the way to more big-money fights, including a possible showdown with Joe Calzaghe.

Taylor said: “It’s all about revenge now. I’m just going in there to get back what this man took from me. Fights that have me as the underdog are the fights when I look my best.

“If I get him in that position again, I’m going to finish him. I feel like I wasted a lot of energy last time. I threw a lot of stupid punches. I could have done a lot of things I didn’t do.

“I underestimated him just a little bit and I paid the price for that. Kelly was in great shape for the fight and I should have been better conditioned. My mindset wasn’t right.”

One of the reasons Pavlik has become such a star is that his big-punching style comes with an aura of vulnerability. Taylor will undoubtedly be better second time around. But look for Pavlik to repeat the knockout blow.

Meanwhile Nikolai Valuev’s bid to walk tall in the heavyweight division once again will be pushed to the limit tonight when he faces former WBO champion Sergey Liakhovich in Nuremberg.

The 7ft 1in Russian is taking part in his second fight since he lost the WBA title to Ruslan Chagaev in April, with the winner of tomorrow’s contest next in line to face the Uzbek champion.

Valuev returned with a points win over Jean-Francois Bergeron in September and his manager

Wilfried Sauerland is confident the 34-year-old will soon reclaim a major world title belt.

Sauerland said: “Both Valuev and Liakhovich and very strong. But I know that Nikolai has looked great in practice. For me, he is the best heavyweight in the world. But this is a make-or-break fight for him.”

Liakhovich is returning to the ring for the first time since he lost his WBO title in dramatic fashion to Shannon Briggs in 2006 when, ahead on the scorecards, he was knocked out with one second remaining.

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