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Kelly Pavlik: "I couldn't wait to answer the rumors."

March 13, 2010 |  1:13 pm

Rival promoter Lou DiBella heard all the whispers that world middleweight boxing champion Kelly Pavlik had further complicated his comeback from staph infection in his left hand by living a party-excessive lifestyle. "I'd heard he'd been stumbling around," DiBella said.

On Saturday, however, a healthy-looking Pavlik showed up in Texas to promote his HBO-televised April 17 title defense against Argentina's world junior-middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City, N.J., and declared he's thrilled to show "I'm not afraid of big fights. This is a huge fight to show I'm back out there, fighting the elite fighters. You know what I bring: all or nothing."

Pavlik, 27, won two fights last year, against little-known mandatory challengers Marco Rubio and Miguel Espino, but he still called it "a bad 2009" as he dealt with his only loss, in October 2008, to Bernard Hopkins, and then struggled through a near-fatal bout with a staph infection that caused him to pull out of an anticipated showdown against Paul Williams.

The health-mandated layoff -- "I was seeing a hand specialist, bedridden with IVs, couldn't even pick up anything," he said -- triggered public talk that Pavlik (36-1, 32 KOs) was spiraling into an abyss of self-defeating behavior.

"People live off of rumors, and there's a lot of idiots out there," Pavlik, from Youngstown, Ohio, said. "There was so much different [stuff]. I laughed at it, but my family was pretty upset. I couldn't wait to answer the rumors.

"From what I read, I guess I should be in a penitentiary now. Someone said I held a broken beer bottle to a guy's neck. Someone said I got a DUI. You can find that stuff out, it didn't happen."

Martinez (44-2-2, 24 KOs) is coming off an entertaining loss by decision to Williams in December, and a disputed draw versus Kermit Cintron.

Through an interpreter, Martinez said he "doesn't want to hear any excuse" from Pavlik, calling the big puncher "a great champion" whom he nonetheless predicts he'll knock out between the eighth and 10th rounds. "He'll be frustrated, not wanting to take anymore punishment, and go down," Martinez said. "It's not going to be an easy fight. It'll be tough and hard, but it will have that ending."

Pavlik, though, said he's pushing himself through a grueling training regimen, and wants the performance against Martinez to prove "I've got [stuff] together."

BOXING NOTES: Unbeaten Palm Springs fighter Timothy Bradley will fight Luis Carlos Abregu in a welterweight bout June 26 at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, Bradley's manager Cameron Dunkin confirmed Saturday.

Bradley this week announced he was shifting from Showtime to HBO, and Dunkin said the premium cable network has discussed plans to ultimately match junior-welterweight world champion Bradley against rising star Devon Alexander or Marcos Maidana later this year.

--Lance Pugmire