By: Carl Hewitt
After last Summer’s controversial decision victory over Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse, there were serious reservations about being able to get future opponents to come to the St. Louis area again to face former IBF and WBC 140 lb. champion, Devon Alexander. It was widely-believed that the two questionable decisions Alexander received against Andreas Kotelnik and Matthysse would signal an end to “home cooking” for the St. Louis native. That questionable decision over Matthysse continued an apparent downward trajectory for Alexander’s career; a career which seemed destined for stardom on HBO not long ago.
Saturday night’s welterweight showdown with fellow former junior welterweight champion, Marcos Maidana, provides Alexander ‘The Great’ with a chance to restore some of his lost confidence and luster. Both combatants will be making their 147 lb. debut. Each guy has questions to answer. Will Maidana carry his vaunted punching power seven pounds north in weight? Will Alexander rediscover the scintillating blend of speed and accuracy that overwhelmed the then IBF 140 lb. champion, Juan Urango, in a career-defining performance in early 2010.
Whether, either fighter belongs in the welterweight division is another interesting sub-plot to keep an eye on. Alexander is making the move up in weight due to the apparent difficulty cutting weight to reach the 140 lb. limit, while Maidana is anxious to test the waters at the higher weight with his brawling, unvarnished, no-holds-barred style that’s endeared him to countless fans in his native Argentina.
Whoever prevails this weekend will have to demonstrate that they’re better-suited for the welterweight division. Speed merchants like Alexander typically handle increased poundage better than crude power punchers like Maidana, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can expect to see the former champion from St. Louis fighting off the back foot, as has been the case all too frequently in his last three fights.
Being a “rhythm” fighter, Alexander needs to establish his edge in boxing skills early against Maidana, and he’ll have to get back to being the fighter he was in stopping Urango and Junior Witter. He can’t afford to get into the type of fire fight Amir Khan found himself in when he tangled with Maidana in December 2010. Alexander will have to approach this ten-rounder differently because this opponent is unlike any he has faced thus far. Possessed of distinct killer instinct, Maidana seldom fails to register the KO once he has an opponent badly hurt.
Criticism of Alexander’s recent performances is attributable to the high-profile proclamations and constant verbosity of his trainer and manager, Kevin Cunningham. Alexander’s performance simply hasn’t matched the hype and acclaim heaped upon him by HBO. Cunningham openly blames the strain of trying to make the 140 lb. limit for Alexander’s recent struggles, but conveniently fails to properly credit opponents and accept his portion of the blame. “A win over Maidana gives us the inside track to a Mayweather fight”, Cunningham recently stated. What the loquacious trainer doesn’t mention is the fact that every prominent fighter within two divisions is hoping to be handed the lucky Mayweather lottery ticket. A better course of action would be to focus on the Maidana fight, win that, then look for an opponent like Kell Brook or possibly, the winner of the upcoming IBF title bout between Randall Bailey and Mike Jones.
Maidana has similar aspirations, despite a rocky outing last April against former WBC junior featherweight titlist, Erik Morales. Instead of pursuing a lucrative rematch of his majority decision victory over Morales, Maidana apparently believes that the truly big-money fights are to be had north of 140 lbs. Even though junior welterweight is a talent-laden division, the “golden geese” reside in the welterweight division.
A victory over Alexander will set Maidana up for a title shot at the WBC 147 lb. belt in the event that Mayweather vacates that title. Maidana would assume mandatory contender status with the WBC because curiously, Alexander has been installed as the sanctioning body’s #1 contender, despite having never fought at 147 lbs. and losing his WBC 140 lb. title to Bradley more than a year ago. Perhaps Alexander’s signing with Golden Boy Promotions, recently, had something to do with that; but that’s a story we’ll revisit another day.
Prediction: Because he struggled so badly against Matthysse, it’s safe to assume that Alexander will experience similar difficulties against Maidana this weekend, but I’m not so sure about that. Yes, Maidana brings more pressure than Matthysse, but he’s also has more rough edges. Maidana’s style is fairly similar to Juan Urango’s. Though he struggled to get untracked early against Urango, Alexander came on in the middle rounds to break his opponent down and get the stoppage.
While I don’t predict a stoppage here, I do foresee similar success for Alexander for several reasons.
Firstly, Maidana’s aggression, though overwhelming, often comes with very little in the way of an actual battle plan. The Khan loss illustrated the best and worst of Maidana, as he was susceptible to Khan’s vicious body assault early, rallied in the middle rounds, and then had no concise plan of attack once he had the champion in big trouble in the tenth round. Such lapses will likely lead to a similar result in his opponent’s backyard.
Secondly, of the two fighters, Alexander is likely to benefit more from the added weight. “At welterweight, Devon’s going to regain his strength and energy”, according to Cunningham.
If weight issues were indeed the culprit in Alexander’s loss to Bradley and shaky outings against Kotelnik and Matthysse, then expect the extra seven pounds to return the “pop” that’s been missing since victories over Junior Witter and Urango. Also, it’s doubtful that Maidana will retain the same punching power he displayed at 140 lbs. And since twenty-eight of his thirty-one victories have come via the knockout route, don’t expect to see Maidana looking to outfox Alexander — he’s in there to bang and bang he shall. We know which Maidana will show up — the same one that always shows up. So it comes down to which Alexander shows up.
My gut tells me that we can expect to see a stronger, sharper, more mentally-focused Alexander against Maidana. It will to be a tough night’s work, but if Alexander ‘The Great’ can turn opponent just enough to keep the fight away from the ropes, he should land enough counters over the course of ten rounds to seal a solid decision victory. And this time, he can leave the ring feeling as though the judges didn’t gift-wrap it for him. Alexander by UD.
Maidana-Alexander will be broadcast live this Saturday, February 25, 2012 on HBO’s Boxing After Dark at 10:00 p.m. EST. Also featured will be Adrien Broner vs. Eloy Perez in a 12 round fight for Broner’s WBO Junior Lightweight World Title.
Tickets are priced at $250, $125, $75, $50 and $25, on sale now and available for purchase at the Scottrade Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by phone at (800) 745-3000, or online at ticketmaster.com. There is a facility fee on all tickets purchased at all locations, including at the Scottrade Center Box Office. Additional Ticketmaster service charges and handling fees apply to all tickets purchased through Ticketmaster outlets, by phone or online. For disabled seating, call (314) 622-5420.
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