By Keith Idec
When reminded yet again that Devon Alexander against Timothy Bradley would be a tough sell in the economically depressed Detroit area, promoter Gary Shaw suggested that we focus on the two men who’ll enter the ring tonight, not how many people walk through the turnstiles at The Silverdome.
“I put on the greatest fight of the decade, Corrales versus Castillo, and we didn’t sell even 2,000 tickets,” Shaw said. “I never heard anyone say that it wasn’t a fight that was extraordinary.”
Shaw wasn’t insinuating that Alexander and Bradley are capable of replicating the stunning slugfest that Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo produced during their legendary lightweight brawl on May 7, 2005, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Corrales-Castillo I ranks among the greatest, most dramatic action fights in boxing history, so Shaw wasn’t about to insult anyone with such an unrealistic comparison.
Still, while winning is obviously the primary objective for both boxers, Bradley, 27, and Alexander, 23, seem to understand that their 12-round fight for the WBC and WBO 140-pound titles needs to be entertaining. The winner will likely head toward a summer showdown with England’s Amir Khan, assuming Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) defeats an undetermined opponent April 16 in Manchester, England.
But the loser could quickly benefit as well if he is defeated in a compelling manner.
“I think it’s going to be a great fight,” Bradley said. “I think the fighters in this fight, win or lose, are going to be superstars. It’s going to be that spectacular.”
St. Louis’ Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) and Bradley (26-0, 11 KOs, 1 NC), of Cathedral City, Calif., certainly have been provided with the platform for becoming stars in 2011.
HBO Sports has marketed the Alexander-Bradley fight much more aggressively than most main events televised live on the premium cable network. Alexander-Bradley also is the first significant fight of this year, despite that it is already 28 days old.
That has helped this showdown between unbeaten American world champions receive an inordinate amount of media attention in recent weeks, in addition to building a high level of anticipation among the hardcore boxing fans that are so eager to watch this 12-round fight for junior welterweight supremacy.
Bradley recognizes how imperative it is to pounce on such a perfect opportunity, especially since fight fans have spent so much time lamenting the lack of high-profile fights on the 2011 schedule thus far.
“I do think the state of boxing right now is at a low,” Bradley said. “[Having] great fights like this in the [junior welterweight] division, I think it’s going to bring it back. We are [in] the most talented division in boxing and we are going to bring it back just like the old days. If it’s an awesome fight, like I think it’s going to be, we are going to do it again for the boxing fans and for the world. This is the best fight in boxing because you are not going to see Manny and Floyd fight any time soon.”
No matter what they do tonight in Pontiac, Mich., Bradley and Alexander aren’t capable of satisfying the public’s craving for finally watching Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. go at it. Even Alexander acknowledged that.
“This is the biggest fight outside of a Pacquiao versus Mayweather,” Alexander said. “Everybody wants to see this fight. Two undefeated champions going at it toe-to-toe. It’s going to be an amazing fight.”
Of course, saying they’re going to provide “an amazing fight” and actually accomplishing that feat are two totally different tasks.
Though both boxers have produced some dramatic moments during their professional careers to date, bouts between southpaws and right-handed fighters aren’t always the most thrill-filled affairs. Most of the best action fights of the past decade — Corrales-Castillo I, Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward I & III, Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales I & III, Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez II & III, Ward-Emanuel Augustus and Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz I — pit right-handed fighters against one another.
Somsak Sithchatchawal-Mahyar Monshipour was an excellent exception, as Thailand’s Sithchatchawal was a southpaw. Nearly five years later, Bradley’s bulldoggish nature and Alexander’s offensive prowess could make this another memorable righty-lefty fight.
Alexander is an above-average puncher who became the first fighter to stop Colombia’s Juan Urango (22-3-1, 17 KOs) in their unification fight March 6 in Uncasville, Conn. Bradley is a less powerful puncher, but he isn’t afraid to take chances against opponents capable of knocking him out, something he proved repeatedly during his unanimous decision defeat of Kendall Holt in another unification fight in April 2009.
Bradley somehow survived the final minute of the first round against Holt (25-4, 13 KOs), whose picture-perfect left hook dumped Bradley flat on his back at Bell Centre in Montreal. Mental toughness and heart enabled Bradley to get up from a 12th-round knockdown en route to out-pointing Holt, too.
He also expects some tense moments against Alexander, whom Bradley admits impressed him with the way he overcame fatigue against Ukraine’s Andriy Kotelnik (31-4-1, 13 KOs) to score a unanimous decision win in his last fight, Aug. 7 in St. Louis.
“I think it’s going to be a very high-paced fight,” Bradley said. “I throw a lot of punches and I know Devon throws a lot of punches. He throws about 80-100 punches per round. We are both going to be battling for position and dominance in the ring. The first couple rounds may be feel-out rounds and then it will start to get interesting toward the middle of the fight.”
No matter how interesting it gets for Bradley, his trainer, Joel Diaz, is confident he has been well-prepared to withstand Alexander’s assault by opponents like Luis Carlos Abregu, Lamont Peterson, Junior Witter and Holt.
“I just think it’s going to be a great fight,” Diaz said. “We will have to execute the strategy and so will he and that’s what makes the fight exciting. You don’t know what’s going to happen. As long as the fans are happy, and they should be — I think Timothy is going to bring it up and I think Devon’s going to bring it up. It’s going to be a great event.”
Or so they hope.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, NJ., and BoxingScene.com.