LAS VEGAS - Former middleweight champion and Youngstown native Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik, took a small step in his bid to climb back up the boxing ranks by beating Alfonso Lopez by majority decision Saturday at the MGM Grand Resort and Casino.
One judge scored the fight 95-95, while the other two scored it 98-92, 99-91 in Pavlik's favor.
With the win Pavlik improves to 37-2, with 32 of those wins coming by knockout.
It was the first professional loss for Lopez (21-1, 16KO).
Pavlik opened the fight looking to shake off the rust of lengthy absence from the ring. He and Lopez traded blows throughout the early parts of the bout with Lopez being the early aggressor.
Pavlik, though slow to get started, regrouped in the sixth round connecting on two right hands and a shot to the body that slowed the Texas native. The pair continued their back-and-forth fight through closing seconds of the bout.
In a late March interview with The Salem News, Pavlik said "It's very important for me to make a big statement in this fight. It's the first time in my career I feel like I have to go in there and really stop this kid. Even if I go 10 rounds and dominate every single one, I don't think that is going to be enough."
Pavlik had a publicized trip to rehab following his unanimous decision loss to Sergio Martinez which fueled speculation among media outlets and some of his followers especially in his hometown.
"It is what it is," Pavlik admitted in March. "It's hard, but it happens in any small town, and you have to take the bad with the good. You still have your loyal fans and the hard-working people that are supportive and understand more than anyone else. Those are the people you appreciate and fight for."
Whether or not his Saturday night win is enough in the public's eye remains to be seen, but regardless, Pavlik has notched another victory and will undoubtedly look to the future.