Devon Alexander has been one of boxing's most promising prospects for the last two years or so. He'll fight for his first world title Saturday when he meets ex-world champion Junior Witter for the World Boxing Council super lightweight belt on Showtime in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Win or lose, don't expect Alexander, 22, to be overcome by the moment. This is a man who had almost 300 amateur fights, is 18-0 with 11 knockouts as a professional and hails from one of the roughest areas of the country.
Alexander is from St. Louis, Mo., where he grew up as one of 13 children in a depressed area.
"I come from a rough St. Louis neighborhood where most people go to jail or end up dead," Alexander said. "I heard gun shots every night, where you have to hit the ground and check to make sure the bullets didn't hit you."
Alexander didn't get hit with any of the bullets and he doesn't get hit with much of anything else. It's no surprise, however, given that he has trained for years with Cory Spinks, one of boxing's best defenders.
Witter is a highly underrated veteran who is a tough out for anyone at 140. He'll push Alexander to the limits of his abilities.
The years of training with Spinks, though, have taught Alexander patience. He'll take his time studying Witter and searching for his weaknesses.
But Alexander isn't a one-dimensional fighter and said he's willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone, if need be. But with Spinks as a mentor, this isn't a fighter who expects to be getting clipped a lot.
"I've got speed and power but I don't force my power," Alexander said. "I can box on the outside like Sugar Ray Leonard or stand in the middle like 'Iron' Mike [Tyson]. Either way is fine with me. When the bell rings, the game plan turns on. I feel my opponent out and I try to dictate my style onto him and adjust to whatever he brings. …
"I trained my whole career alongside Cory Spinks. He is so slick and fast and I've always tried to become as crafty as he is. He taught me to relax and have fun in the ring and not be overanxious. The name of the game is to hit and not get hit and I had a front row seat to one of the best at that. I definitely try to carry those abilities into the ring with me." Before we delve into the mailbag and I respond to your questions and comments, I'd like to remind you to follow me on Twitter. You can send me questions for the mailbag there or just choose to talk some boxing.
If you remember when Shane Mosley met Vernon Forrest for the welterweight title, Vernon beat Shane silly. It was actually a fun to watch, but not very close. Vernon had been avoided like the plague for years simply because he could outfight just about any fighter within seven pounds of the welterweight division. He was not the most exciting fighter in the world, but for a while he was one of the best. He had a fantastic jab, perhaps better defense and a smile that could sell tickets on par with many. His unfortunate and untimely death is sad. While he was past his prime in the ring, he still had yet to reach his prime with the people he helped outside it. He will be missed not just because of his boxing ability but because of his ability to make those less fortunate feel so good about themselves. Sports, not just boxing, needs more people like Vernon Forrest.
Vernon was an 8 or a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 as a boxer, Joseph, but as a person, he was off the charts. They don't make them any better than Vernon Forrest.
Kevin, Nice article. I'll watch for the documentary on HBO on Saturday. I have to admit, though, that I was a bit troubled to hear that the director chose to tell the story from Luis Resto's point-of-view. Alas, this should not be too surprising in that the media tends to focus more on the Mumia Abu-Jamals of this world than the Daniel Faulkners. I'll give it fair shake, nonetheless. There is a very interesting back story to that event that I've long waited for someone to delve into. I was a 16-year-old at the time and a huge boxing fan. I had piles of KO, Ring, and Boxing Illustrated magazines all over my room. I have long believed that there was something dirty at play at Madison Square Garden that night, beyond the Resto-Billy Collins fight. If you ever get a chance to watch the Roberto Duran-Davey Moore fight from that same night, there was something sinister going on there as well. Duran gave Moore a brutal beating and this was hailed as the rebirth of Duran and the burial of "no mas." However, if you sit and watch it objectively, it is very troubling. Duran thumbed Moore early in the fight, which gave him a huge advantage, but aside from that Duran was continually dirty throughout the fight and got away with it. At one point, Duran had Moore cornered at the end of the round and as the bell rang, he opened both of his palms and ran his laces down Moore's face. If I recall correctly, the ref actually gave Moore a warning. I know Panama Lewis was in Duran's corner in earlier years. I don't recall if he was in Duran's corner that night. If you get a chance to see the fight, I would be interested to know if you come to the same conclusion.
Eric Drath, the producer-director, really did a great job with this. He went to great lengths to get cooperation from the Collins family but was unable to get it. Some of his efforts are part of the documentary. He told the story from Resto's point-of-view because Resto is who he had access to and he stumbled upon a very interesting story. I don't want to give it away, but the story takes a twist in an unexpected way. As for the Duran fight, I remember that fight well, though I don't have the same memory about it you have. I just remember Duran exposing Moore's inexperience.
Excellent article on HBO's "Assault in the Ring." I'd heard this event alluded to during the Antonio Margarito controversy with his hand wraps in January, but did not know the details, and the reading was fascinating. I will be sure to catch the documentary when it comes on. It's always tragic when a fighter dies in the ring, but even more so when it's done through malpractice by the participants. Here's a question: Why do things like this seem to happen on an almost regular basis in boxing, yet mixed martial arts manages to largely avoid them? Is the old core of boxing business really so rotten, where MMA has not yet had enough time to fester?
Thanks, David. First, let me clear up a misconception you may have. Collins was battered badly and suffered blurred vision as a result of tampering with Resto's gloves, but he did not die in the ring. He died in an auto accident nine months after the fight. I'll disagree that these incidents happen on an almost regular basis in boxing. They don't. But if one happens, it is too many, which is why I'm in favor of a stiff punishment for Margarito. The other thing is that boxing has been around for a much longer time than MMA.
I would like to know why someone like Antonio Margarito had his license revoked for attempting to fight Shane Mosley with hand wraps that were loaded, yet Mosley used steroids, and who knows what else, in his rematch with Oscar De La Hoya in 2003 and wasn't penalized. Can you help a confused fight fan?
La Mirada, Calif.
Yes. Margarito was cut with hand wraps that had been somehow hardened, enough that it made them a weapon. He was caught by an inspector for the California State Athletic Commission after Mosley's trainer, Naazim Richardson, was suspicious. Mosley actually passed the Nevada Athletic Commission's postfight drug test after his rematch with De La Hoya. The steroid he had gotten at BALCO was not known and thus, was not tested for. When it was discovered, there was nothing in Nevada law that allowed Mosley to be retroactively penalized.
Just a comment. Some risk Sam Peter is! Really, let's not laud Top Rank's Bob Arum for this b.s. You said it best, that as long as a guy has a chin, a punch and a pulse in this division, they have a chance. What is so sad is that this young man cannot see the value of showing up for a day's pay by being ready on fight night. We know that when Peter showed up during the second Toney fight, he was more than capable, yet what we are treated to is a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo and empty threats.
Peter's a low-risk because of his power and the fact he does have some ability, but he's never shown a consistent work ethic or an interest in improving his all-around game. But he is only 28 and still has a chance. I question whether he wants it badly enough, but I don't doubt he'll get another shot at a belt.