The timekeeper pounded the bell at ringside as Michal Buffer stood at mid ring. “And now ladies and gentleman, on the line the WBC No. 1 ranking, 12 rounds of boxing in the Middleweight division.”
On May 19, the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee hosted what was being billed as a WBC title eliminator at 160 pounds. Edison Miranda (28-1, 24 KOs) was set to face off against Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik (30-0, 27 KOs).
The winner stood next in line to fight the Middleweight champion, Jermain Taylor. Boxing fans were expecting a slugfest. They would not be disappointed.
The year was 2007.
At 26, Miranda was a hard-punching warrior from Colombia. His power put opponents away early, scoring 22 knockouts inside of three rounds.
Pavlik, 25, represented his tough, hardworking hometown of Youngtown, Ohio. He was the epitome of blue collar and packed tremendous power in both hands. Straight right hands and crushing left hooks had stopped 27 of his 30 opponents.
Buffer introduced referee Steve Smoger and then the fighters. Both men weighed in at the 160-pound limit. On this night, each entered the ring rehydrated and over 170 pounds.
The bout was aired live on HBO with Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Lennox Lewis ringside to call the blow-by-blow action.
Round 1 got underway with Pavlik showing off his three-inch height advantage. Wearing copper colored trunks, he was clearly the aggressor, plodding forward and pushing back Miranda.
Outfitted in black trunks, Miranda seemed a little confused. He normally attacked opponents and dictated the ebb and flow of the action. Early on, Pavlik was forcing him to move backward.
Both fighters soon stood in at close quarters and blasted away with heavy artillery as the first round wound down. Lampley called the action, “They are trading bombs at short range. What a round! That might have been the round of the year on HBO!”
Both men were buzzed as Lampley continued, “And Pavlik went to the wrong corner!”
The second round picked up where the first left off with both men standing in close and hammering away. Miranda was still being forced to move in reverse but was landing his share of haymakers.
Pavlik’s assault continued to be relentless leaving Merchant to conclude, “This is old fashioned Middleweight punching.”
While each fighter showed off their punching power, they were, as Lampley would point out, impressing fans with their ability to absorb punishment, “Both guys get credit for world class chins so far. I mean nobody’s been down and some major league bombs have landed.”
In Rounds three and four, Pavlik, bleeding from his nose, began working more behind his jab and mixing in left hooks while pounding straight right hands to the jaw of Miranda. While Miranda’s face and eyes were now beginning to swell, he began busting to Pavlik’s body.
After four rounds, Harold Lederman had the bout scored 40-36 in favor of Pavlik. Although Miranda continued to answer Pavlik’s bombs in Round 5, he remained uncomfortable moving backward. The crowd inside the FedEx Forum showed their appreciation with repeated standing ovations during the action.
With the bout now in Round 6, it was Pavlik who was firing to Miranda’s body and landing sweeping uppercuts. With just over a minute remaining in the round, Pavlik strafed Miranda was a vicious right hand sending his eyes rolling back as he crumbled towards the ropes.
The crowd again came to its feet as Lewis screamed over the roar, “Oh that hurt him! He’s out!”
Miranda miraculously rose to his feet as Smoger administered the standing eight-count. The action continued as Pavlik rushed forward and poured it on.
Seconds later, a barrage from Pavlik again sent Miranda reeling. Lampley wailed, “He just got hit with a massive left hook!” Miranda was on the canvas for the second time in the round.
Hurt, swelling and trying to clear his head, Miranda rose to again take a standing eight-count. Smoger signaled for the action to resume as the bell sounded to end the round.
The crowd moaned and groaned in between rounds as replays were shown inside the arena. Pavlik was preparing to finish his foe while a hurt Miranda hoped to survive the coming onslaught.
Fans were still on their feet as Round 7 began. Pavlik immediately tested Miranda, backing him into a corner as Smoger hovered close by. The leather rained down in the form of Pavlik lefts, rights, hooks and uppercuts.
With Miranda’s back against the ropes, Pavlik launched a barrage of straight right hands, each connecting and thundering throughout the arena. Miranda’s body folded as Smoger leaped in to save him from further damage.
The crowd roared as Pavlik raced across the ring, bleeding from his nose and hands held high above his head, as Lampley proclaimed, “Kelly Pavlik has a huge knockout victory!”
Pavlik ended matters with a devastating knockout win at 1:54 of Round 7. Smoger hugged Miranda tightly until his corner entered the ring.
The eye-grabbing performance had put Pavlik on the map. He was now the No. 1 contender and eyeing a showdown with Taylor.