Devon Alexander has a sterling record and a prime position on HBO. On Saturday, he'll face power-punching Marcos Maidana in his welterweight debut at the Scottrade Center in his hometown of St. Louis, competing in yet another main event on HBO.
But as his bout nears, Alexander has had to fend off suggestions from Maidana's camp that he's a PED user, as well as suggestions from the media that, at 25 years old and with a 23-1 record, he's yesterday's news.
He told ESPN.com's Kieran Mulvaney that he was struggling to make the super lightweight limit of 140 pounds and it may have contributed to a subpar 2011, in which he lost to Timothy Bradley in a title unification fight and then looked less than impressive in a win over Lucas Matthysse.
He knows he needs to come up big on Saturday, or he may be relegated to second-tier status.
It's very important. People forget how good I am. People forget about how good I looked when I stopped [Juan] Urango and [Junior] Witter, and even before that. One or two bad performances -- and I was only at 65 percent, struggling to make 140 -- and people write you off. I'm at 147 now, my legs are back, I'm going to put on a great show.
But even if he looks good, there may be questions, since Maidana advisor Sebastian Contursi stirred up steroids allegations. Contursi said he heard "rumors" that Alexander was using performance-enhancing drugs and requested the Missouri Office of Athletics to implement stringent testing.
In response, Tim Lueckenhoff, the commission's executive director, ordered pre- and post-fight steroids tests.
Over the weekend, I got this e-mail where Sebastian is alleging that Alexander is using illegal drugs. So I e-mailed him ... (and) I said, 'OK, you've made this allegation,' and I said, 'If that's the way that you feel, then we're going to take my office out of the equation since Alexander's from St. Louis and I want to make sure that there is no cheating.
Alexander hasn't been known as a puncher. He's 23-1 with 13 knockouts, but he's primarily a boxer who has relied on speed and quickness. On a conference call, he seemed amused about the allegations, but vehemently denied taking any illegal substances.
He said on the call that he can't even take legal substances, because it throws him off.
"I'm a drug-free type of guy," Alexander said. "I can't really even take Tylenol PM because it makes me dizzy or woozy. I can't even take Tylenol, really, because it has a certain type of effect on me, the regular Tylenol. My body is clean. I don't infect it with beer, alcohol, smoking, drinking, weed and all that. So for them to even consider that is ridiculous."
What's not ridiculous is the pressure that Alexander faces to look good on Saturday. Not only did he have a mediocre, at best, 2011, but he got what many believe was a gift in his last bout of 2010 when he won a unanimous decision over Andriy Kotelnik.
Alexander has admitted to hearing the whispers, and he knows what he has to do.
"I was going to make a statement anyway regardless, because the rumor's out that I didn't look good my last few outings against Kotelnik, Matthysse and Bradley, so I was aiming to make a statement regardless," he said. "Like I said, it's my debut at 147, and I'm going to be ready to rock and roll. I've got my legs. I'm strong and fast. And I'm ready to rock and roll."
But as Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com correctly points out, Alexander actually has to do it. Saturday's bout is, as Kim writes, a chance "to reestablish himself as a legitimate blue-chip talent."
The stage is set for him, so now it's up to Alexander.