Kelly Pavlik stopped US compatriot Miguel Espino in the fifth round on Saturday to defend his WBC and WBO middleweight titles, ending a difficult year on a high note.
After a 10-month layoff because of an infection on his left hand, Pavlik dropped Espino to a knee in the fourth round with staggering right uppcercuts. Pavlik knocked Espino down again in the fifth and referee Steve Smoger stepped in at 1:44 into the round.
It was Pavlik’s third successful defense of the two belts, which he won against Jermain Taylor in 2007. Pavlik hadn’t fought since a defense against Marco Antonio Rubio in February.
Espino was rated the No. 3 contender by the WBC, though few gave the Californian much of a chance in his first tilt at a major title.
He was deducted a point for punching after the bell following the first round, then was warned in the second and third for repeated low blows.
Pavlik will now turn his attention to Paul Williams, whom he was supposed to fight on Oct. 3. The infection postponed the fight until Dec. 5, and it was canceled when Pavlik realized he still couldn’t make a fist with his injured left hand.
Williams decided to fight Sergio Martinez on that date instead.
Pavlik said Williams is now the priority, but if another deal can’t be reached, he would like to fight WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm.
“Sturm is right on top of the list,” Arum said.
Referee Jimmy Villers collapsed on his way to the locker room after the bout on the undercard of Pavlik’s defense.
Villers had just officiated Miguel Angel Garcia’s featherweight victory against Yogli Herrera at the Beeghly Center when he collapsed with what appeared to be a heart attack.
Medical personnel used a defibrillator and strapped oxygen to his face, and Villers was awake and alert when he was placed on a stretcher and taken to the hospital.
A cardiologist sitting near the ring helped take care of Villers, a former boxer.