By Jake Donovan
Randall Bailey was the headlining act the last time a major televised boxing card took place in Memphis. The newly minted welterweight titlist will now assume the same role for when the TV cameras return to Bluff City.
News of his September 8 title defense against Devon Alexander landing at the FedEx Forum in Memphis was… well, news to Bailey.
“That’s news to me. It don’t matter, though. I have a good fan base in Memphis,” Bailey said of the news which first broke on RingTV.com.
The bout will air live on Showtime, paired with a 140 lb. co-feature between Lucas Matthysse and Ajose Olusegun.
Bailey’ makes the first defense of the welterweight belt he picked up after scoring a spectacular come-from-behind 11th round knockout in an otherwise unspectacular fight against Mike Jones in June. Bailey was way down on the scorecards before dropping Jones late in the10th round and finishing him off one round later.
Shortly thereafter came the insistence to face Alexander, who has won two straight since suffering the lone loss of his career against Tim Bradley last January. Neither of Alexander’s ring appearances came in the capacity of title eliminators, yet the fight suddenly became a topic after the two camps continued to exchange words through the media.
Where Bailey put his foot down was on the location of the fight.
“It never mattered to me where the fight takes place, but I just didn’t feel like I had to go to St. Louis,” Bailey insists. “I mean, I’m giving him the f***ing shot at the title. He’s not even in contention, so why should I go to his hometown? It could’ve taken place anywhere else and wouldn’t have been a big deal to me.”
Bailey now gets to return to a city of which he holds fond memories. Aptly nicknamed “The KO King,” a highlight reel knockout was produced in his icing Frankie ‘Gato’ Figueroa in four rounds in their April ’09 140 lb. title eliminator at the Pepsi Pavilion, an outdoor park adjacent to the FedEx Forum. The bout aired live on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, leading to a failed title bid against Juan Urango.
The fight was the first time he returned to the area in nearly a decade. Bailey’s first defense of his 140 lb. belt in Dec. ’99 against Hector Lopez took place in Tunica, a Mississippi casino town approximately 30 minutes from the heart of Beale Street.
A considerable amount of pre-fight press time was spent in Memphis. To Bailey’s surprise, traces of that event were still evident in his return nearly 10 years later.
“I went to a restaurant in Memphis before my fight (with Lopez) and they asked me to sign a picture,” Bailey recalls. “The picture was still hanging there when I went back a few years ago for the Frankie Figueroa fight. It’s crazy! I have very fond memories of Memphis.”
Going more than 12 years between title reigns, Bailey hopes to add to those memories in September.
“I think it will be a good fight for as long as it last,” Bailey believes, hinting at a prediction of an early ending. “If I catch where I hit him, I will knock him out, but I know he’s coming at his best. We’ll both be in great shape. Once in the ring, I’ll see his strengths and go from there. If he runs, I’ll have a plan for that. If he wants to stand and fight, you can best believe I’ll have a plan for that as well.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox