by Tim Harrison
The January 29 jr. welterweight showdown between Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley had a rather large effect on all involved, fans included. For the fans who watched the fight, it failed to meet expectations. Timothy Bradley collected the WBC title to go along with his WBO title, and his stock amongst the sport’s elite rose. For St. Louis’ Devon Alexander, who wilted under the constant pressure applied by Bradley, January 29 was a night that will define his career, for better or worse.
Just one year ago Alexander (21-1, 13 KOs) was the subject of the debate of who was the best 140-pounder in the world. His dominant TKO8 win over former WBC jr. welterweight champion Junior Witter captured the vacant WBC title, and proved that the young boxer could hang with world champion-caliber opponents. In his next fight Alexander stepped up and knocked out then-IBF jr. welterweight titlist Juan Urango, in 8 rounds.
Those 2 wins placed Alexander at or near the top of one of the deepest and most talented divisions in boxing. But only 5 months later, Alexander’s unsteady win over former WBA jr. welterweight titlist Andriy Kotelnik raised a few eyebrows. Fighting in front of his hometown fans of St. Louis, Alexander looked uncomfortable with Kotelnik’s subtle movement and accurate counter-punching.
Few could have predicted a further slide for the former WBC champion. Alexander’s 10-round technical decision loss to Bradley raised questions about his toughness, both mental and physical. Alexander was unable to keep Bradley out of range, and was unable to settle into a rhythm in the fight. He looked uncomfortable throughout, and when the referee stopped the fight due to a cut caused by an accidental head butt, Alexander made no effort to protest the decision.
The loss dropped Alexander from the ranks of the true elite fighters in the division, and he has been plagued by criticism ever since.
Alexander’s shot at redemption arrives on Saturday night in St. Charles, Missouri, as he takes on knockout artist Lucas Matthysse (28-1, 26 KOs). Matthysse, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a solid boxer with exceptional punching power in both hands. He is known for his power, but possesses underrated hand speed and a slowly improving technical grasp of the sport. His only loss as a pro came to Zab Judah last November, in a fight many felt could have gone either way.
Rather than take a confidence-boosting comeback fight against a soft touch, Alexander is taking on a bona fide slugger who can end an opponent’s night with one shot. Matthysse can match Bradley’s intensity and aggression in the ring, and Alexander will be given a chance to prove that January 29 was merely an off night.
Matthysse will press the action and work to shorten the distance and get in Alexander’s chest. Where Alexander was granted a reprieve in Bradley’s inherent lack of punching power, he can be certain that every shot from Matthysse will be heavier and meant to end the fight.
Devon Alexander returns home to the “Show Me” state on Saturday, June 25, with a chance to show what he is really made of. Many members of the media, and fans alike, have labeled Alexander a quitter. His choice of opponent shows he isn’t taking the easy path to proving his mettle.
Alexander is taking a huge risk with his career. If he folds under the pressure from the Argentinean slugger, he will be assured a longer road back to relevance in the jr. welterweight division. A win puts him right back in the picture of possible opponents for the title holders in the division, and erases the doubt that currently surrounds him.
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