Our hometown middleweight champion of the world Kelly Pavlik goes back to the ring this Saturday to defend the belt he won this past autumn. In an article in the LA Times about him, he refers to Youngstown as “cruddy,” but as the reporter contextualizes, with Pavlik that’s a sign of honesty and affection. Which is totally my sort of fellow. Here’s hoping he’ll have another win this Saturday, when I’ll be somewhere in the city with a bunch of other crazies from this “shot-and-a-beer” town cheering him on.

From the LA Times:

Pavlik has become a hard hitter from the hard streets of Youngstown. Residents of this shot-and-a-beer town now make a ritual of celebrating Pavlik’s shots with a beer. Or several. They had a parade when he beat Taylor in September. If he does it again, they may have a stampede. Between bars.

Youngstown appears to be as much of the story these days as Pavlik himself. Some towns get down on their luck. Youngstown hasn’t had any for about 30 years now.

Once, in the ’70s, you could look down the Mahoning River and see steel plants as far as your eye could travel. As lore has it, Youngstown once produced more steel than any place in the world, even more than nearby Pittsburgh.

Pavlik refers to his hometown as “cruddy.” With him, that is honesty and affection.

You can read the whole article here.

A Glorious Sunday

Not only did Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik win the middleweight championship in seven rounds tonight, giving it up to Youngstown in the interview afterward, the town that sent him off with a pep rally which people talked about on TV as if it were not as sophisticated as it should be, you know, pep rallies and all, but after the fight I came home to find this review in the San Francisco Chronicle of One for Sorrow:

Christopher Barzak finds a new slant on the “I-see-dead-people” formula in his off-beat coming-of-age tale, One for Sorrow (Bantam; 310 pages; $12; trade paperback). Already reeling from a recent family tragedy, 15-year-old Adam McCormick feels a special kinship with Jamie Marks, a classmate whose body is found buried in the woods. Neglected by his parents and peers, Adam begins to interact with Jamie’s all-too-visible ghost, comforting the dead boy even as his memories begin to burn away. Their bond, however, proves dangerously seductive, and Adam eventually begins to lose his own moorings in the physical world.

Barzak does a beautiful job of capturing the anxieties of adolescence and the righteous rage many teens feel at life’s inherent unfairness. He wisely discards the amateur detective cliches that coagulate around this kind of fantasy and concentrates on Adam’s brave, interior struggle to find the value in his family, his first girlfriend, his hometown and himself. Smart and affecting, “One for Sorrow” is a first novel likely to haunt those who fall under its spell.

Two ghost stories. One that I was cheering for from the oldest pub in Youngstown, where the floor felt like it was going to collapse when Kelly knocked out Taylor, like knocking out everyone who thought us a lost, nowhere place in the world, someone told me as we all cheered, and one from San Francisco, where the ghosts I’ve written about have been welcomed. It’s a good night.

Good night.