YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Kelly Pavlik stopped Miguel Espino in the fifth round last night to defend his middleweight titles, ending a difficult year on a high note.
After a 10-month layoff because of a staph infection on his left hand, the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization champ dropped Espino to a knee in the fourth round with staggering rights. Pavlik knocked down Espino again in the fifth, and referee Steve Smoger stepped in at 1:44.
It was the third successful title defense for Pavlik, who was back in his hometown on the campus of Youngstown State. Pavlik (36-1, 32 KOs) hadn’t fought since beating Marco Antonio Rubio Feb. 21.
Espino (20-3, 1 KO) was rated the No. 3 contender by the WBC, though few gave the fighter from North Hollywood, Calif., much of a chance.