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Pavlik calls time on career

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Kelly Pavlik lost just two of his 42 fights © Getty Images
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Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, saying that he is concerned about the long-term medical impact of continuing to fight and no longer motivated, told ESPN.com on Saturday that he is retiring from boxing.

"When you stay in the sport too long you have health problems. That's a big, big thing for me," Pavlik said. "I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about in the future. I'm talking about when I'm 55 or 60. What's gonna happen to me then? Why take any more chances, especially in that sport. It's a brutal sport and you never know what can happen.

"I won the world title, I defended my title, I was champ for three years and I made good money. Why take the chance of medical problems? That's a big part of it. I also don't think the drive is there anymore. I'm moving on to a new chapter in my life."

Pavlik had been scheduled to challenge super-middleweight champion Andre Ward on January 26 in Los Angeles in the main event of a major HBO card. However, the fight was postponed to March 2 and ultimately cancelled when Ward injured his right shoulder and had surgery that will keep him out of action likely until the fall.

Pavlik said that the fight being cancelled might be a blessing in disguise.

"I've been a pro for 13 years and doing this since I was 9," he said. "I go away for two or three months at a time (to train) and I'm tired of leaving my family. It comes to a point where you just don't want to do that anymore. I put my money away and then with the Ward fight being canceled, well, health and time with my family is more important at this stage, especially with no guaranteed big fight or date."

Cameron Dunkin, who managed Pavlik for his entire career along with Pavlik's father, Mike, said he was happy to see Pavlik retire with his health and money.

"I love Kelly. He did a lot of great things. He's a friend and a great guy to know," said Dunkin, who is in New York because his fighter, Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia challenges for a featherweight world title against Orlando Salido in Saturday night's HBO main event. "It was a great experience working with Kelly and I'm very happy for him making his decision.

"All the stuff he accomplished, when people said he couldn't, when they were down on him earlier in his career and said he would never do anything, I believed in him and knew what he could do. I am so proud of what he accomplished."

Pavlik (40-2, 34 KOs), who turns 31 in April, held the middleweight championship from 2007 - when he got off the deck from a hard knockdown to eventually stop Jermain Taylor in dramatic fashion in the seventh round - until 2010, when he lost a bloody decision to Sergio Martinez.

Known as "The Ghost," Pavlik, of Youngstown, Ohio, made three successful defences, scoring knockouts against Gary Lockett, Marco Antonio Rubio and Miguel Espino. He also outpointed Taylor in a nontitle rematch at 164 pounds. Pavlik also lost a lopsided decision during his title reign to Bernard Hopkins in a nontitle fight at 170 pounds.

But Pavlik had become a star, made millions and gave the blue collar people of his hometown somebody to cheer for. He was invited to give a pregame speech to the Ohio State football team, did the charity and banquet circuit and was even called on by then-New York Senator Hillary Clinton to speak at a 2008 campaign rally during her presidential primary race against then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

But Pavlik also had his share of problems, which led to two long layoffs, one of 11 months and the other 10 months, between 2010 and 2012. Pavlik battled alcoholism and wound up in rehab twice, was arrested on a DUI charge, went through a messy contract dispute with career-long promoter Top Rank (which was worked out) and had a very public breakup with trainer Jack Loew, who had trained him since he was a kid, before hiring Robert Garcia.

I was 40-2 and I only lost to two of the best guys, Martinez and Hopkins

Pavlik got back on track in 2012, fighting three times between March and July and winning in dominant fashion, although against lesser competition with knockouts of Aaron Jaco and Scott Sigmon followed by a decision win against Will Rosinsky in July.

"I had a pretty good career," Pavlik said. "I was 40-2 and I only lost to two of the best guys, Martinez and Hopkins. I'm content. It's not like I got knocked out. It's not like I got knocked out the way Manny Pacquiao got knocked out (in December by Juan Manuel Marquez).

"I'm fine physically. But I feel like why keep pushing the envelope? I made it this long and this far and I have had fights that were tough fights. I got dropped by Jermain Taylor, got dropped earlier in my career. But you constantly take punches and it all adds up. When you're done, you might have brain problems, you might be punchy, you might develop Parkinson's. Why push it? I don't need it and my heart's not in it anymore. So why take the chances? I've been very fortunate up to this point."

On his way to the title shot against Taylor, Pavlik earned it with a series of strong wins. He knocked out Fulgencio Zuniga and Bronco McKart and eventually got a chance to fight on HBO, scoring a sensational knockout of Jose Luis Zertuche. That led to a title eliminator against Edison Miranda. Pavlik was a significant underdog, but scored a seventh-round knockout in a blazing action fight to set up the Taylor fight.

Pavlik said he plans to open a gym - not just for boxing - in the Youngstown area. He also said he has been busy with a shopping plaza that he and a partner own.

"That's been going very well," he said. "We have 13 units and all of them are filled. When Andre Ward pulled out of our fight, maybe it was for the best. This is a new chapter for me. I know people will say this is because I have problems with (drinking), but that's not true. I'm fine. I have stopped caring about what they will say.

"I know this - if it had been me who pulled out of the Ward fight, I would have been reamed. At this stage, I am just tired of the negativity and comments and a whole bunch of things. But I know people will think I'm drinking and it will be the first thing people go after."

Pavlik said retirement has been on his mind for awhile. He said he thought about it as far back as before defending the middleweight title against Espino in 2009 and then more seriously last year.

"I was contemplating it even before the last fight (in July)," Pavlik said. "Then they came up with the Andre Ward fight and I guess I got the motivation back. But I had been thinking about retiring and when the Ward fight fell out, that was icing on the cake for me."

Pavlik, married with two children, daughter Sydney, 6, and son Kelly Jr., who turns 4 in February, said his wife, Samantha hoped he would retire.

"For two or three years, she was telling me she wants me to be done. She said when I got to the age of 30, she wanted me to retire, so she backed it," Pavlik said. "Her biggest fear was long-term (physical) affects of boxing. My parents are behind it. They always said if I am not going into the ring 100 percent mentally ready, they didn't want me doing it, so they've been supportive of it."

But would Pavlik come back like so many fighters have? Just last week, 41-year-old Shane Mosley ended a retirement that lasted less than a year.

"As of right now, being a fighter and doing this since I was 9 and being at the level I've been at, I'm done," Pavlik said. "Is out of the question would I come back? I can't say that but then you can't rule it out. But as of now, it's legit."

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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