Something about Kelly Pavlik's comeback wasn't quite right, and it had nothing to do with boxing.
By March of 2011, Pavlik wasn't talking. Not to The Vindicator. Not to the Tribune-Chronice. Not to WFMJ or WKBN. Not to anyone.
Well, almost anyone.
Pavlik granted two interviews around that time. One was to the Youngstown State University student-run newspaper The Jambar, and the other was to yours truly at The Salem News.
In late February I penned a column saying the only person Pavlik owed was himself. He didn't owe anyone in Youngstown. He didn't owe anything to trainer Jack Loew or anyone in his camp. The only people he owed, I wrote, were his wife and child.
The rumor mill in the Mahoning Valley never ceases to amaze me, but certain rumors rang true following a one-on-one interview I did with Pavlik at Southside Boxing.
The ones in particular that seemed to be a lot more accurate were those concerning how people around Pavlik seemed to manipulate the former world champion's situation. It didn't seem as if a lot of the people working for Pavlik were there other than to ride his coattails.
Tuesday night Pavlik himself said "I'm tired of being the puppet" when he called in to the Maxboxing.com East Coast Boxing Report.
"I had not known until about a week ago the amount of money I was getting paid for this fight in Youngstown, and the amount of money I was getting paid to fight (Lucian) Bute in Canada," he said.
This is all down to one writer's perception, but the more I talked to Pavlik in March and the more I became familiar with "The Ghost" and his surroundings, the more it seemed as if many people close to him was saying exactly what he wanted to hear while his reputation with the Youngstown media and many former fans and followers went down the toilet.
After I wrote the column backing Pavlik, many around him said it was everything Pavlik himself had wanted to say but couldn't get across with the media.
Say what now?
It took a writer at the Salem News to get across what he wanted to say. Not Pavlik's trainer, not his camp or anyone around him. It took a casual observer who saw Pavlik's career being completely mishandled to get his point across.
I'm not old friends with Pavlik. We didn't go to high school together, and other than seeing him in public and saying the occasional "hello" I had never spoken to him prior to writing that column.
There's the old saying "know your cliches." No one in the Pavlik camp knew how to convey this, and Pavlik quickly became a public relations disaster.
No one told Pavlik that with celebrity comes a lot of criticism. Even in your home town. No one told Pavlik that sometimes it's not what you say, it's what you don't say.
He speaks his mind. He says what he thinks, and that's an admirable trait to have. But it doesn't take much for writers or reporters to slant your comments. It doesn't take much for writers to focus in on the negative and spin things exactly how they want even in what's considered a news story. Language is powerful. How you word things and how you write them conveys an attitude whether it's intended or not.
I am of the opinion that no news story is ever completely the middle of the road because language itself is inherently biased.
Instead of taking the high road and simply saying he was looking forward to his next fight and addressing the positives, Pavlik focused in on giving an answer to each and every rumor that came his way. Drinking. Domestic abuse. You name it, Pavlik talked about it.
And Pavlik was right. It was all garbage. He said it was garbage. But he came across exactly how he felt - angry, frustrated and sometimes unprofessional. The longer things went like this, the more public perception of him changed. The more people starting buying into the alcohol rumors. The rumors he was lazy. The rumors he was ducking out of fights.
Those media outlets that helped Pavlik become a household name in the Mahoning Valley were the outlets that Pavlik became enraged with and stopped talking to. No one told him that burning those bridges would be a critical mistake in his attempted comeback. No one told him that it all comes with the territory.
And apparently, no one told him what he was getting paid.
Pavlik made more than $300,000 to fight Miguel Espino. He made $1.5 million to fight Marco Antonio Rubio. He made $3 million to fight Berhard Hopkins at light heavyweight.
Now you're going to pay him $50,000 in what Top Rank and what the Pavlik camp was calling a comeback?
Yes, $50,000 is a lot of money to most people, and the estimated $1.3 million he was going to get to fight Bute in Canada is a lot to most people too.
But read between the lines.
Saturday's fight, and the proposed Bute fight weren't Top Rank and the Pavlik camp truly backing "The Ghost." They were simply last gasp paydays for those who wanted to cash in on him one last time.
Pavlik would have had to knock Bute out to win in Canada. There is almost no chance he could score a decision there. The super middleweight champion is a tremendous draw in Canada, and it's practically like fighting in his own backyard.
Simply put, Top Rank and the Pavlik camp were setting Pavlik up to fail. They don't believe he can win again, and the paydays they've offered him are clear illustrations of that.
For now it seems Pavlik has struck out on his own. He may have burned another bridge, this time with Top Rank, and it's unclear where his future is headed.
One thing I clearly remember thinking after talking to Pavlik months ago, was how absolutely amazed I was that he was able to become a world champion with the people who surrounded him.
But one thing seems finally for certain.
Pavlik is starting to recognize that many people that say they're his friend are far from it.
If Pavlik's comeback is indeed going to happen, it looks like he's going to have to do it on his own.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org