By Jake Donovan
One sanctioning body decided the bout didn’t warrant their belt being at stake. Depending on the outcome of this particular fight, it’s very likely that another alphabet belt will be up for grabs soon thereafter.
Those who crown lineal champions are coming out of the woodwork, taking a “not yet” stance in filling the void left behind when Manny Pacquiao decided his fight with Ricky Hatton would be the only time he’d ever fight at junior welterweight.
According to ticket sales reports, it seems that the fight itself isn’t enough to revive the once rich boxing scene in Motown.
It looks like the winner of the January 29 showdown between unbeaten titlists Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander will simply have to settle for being the best 140 lb fighter in the world.
If we can agree on that, then why can’t the rest follow suit?
Fortunately for Bradley and Alexander, it doesn’t require a lot of bells and whistles in order to get them in the ring for a grudge match that’s been more than a year in the making.
Bradley (26-0-0-1NC, 11KO) has proven that much ever since entering the title picture. He was prepared to face Jose Luis Castillo in Mexico in order to earn his first alphabet title shot. The fight never happened, as Castillo showed up a full division above their contracted 140 lb. weight limit, effectively killing the fight.
A title shot was still arranged for Bradley, who traveled to jolly old England to wrest the crown from Junior Witter in what was classified at the time as a considerable upset.
What it became instead was the beginning of Bradley’s climb towards de facto divisional leader.
Four successful defenses have since followed, including well-earned decision wins over Kendall Holt and Lamont Peterson and a dominant performance in his abbreviated win-turned-no-contest against former lightweight titlist Nate Campbell.
All three of those bouts came in a 2009 campaign that earned him high praise and serious consideration for Fighter of the Year, only for such honors to go to Pacquiao.
The Fighter of the Year race wasn’t the only scenario that had Pacquiao standing in Bradley’s way. The lineal 140 lb. championship was held captive by Pacquiao, who has since spent the rest of his time at welterweight and above, forcing Bradley to settle for the title of best active fighter in the division.
Unfortunately, such accolades alone weren’t enough to entice any of the other major players in the division to share ring space with him.
His team attempted to make a fight with feared Argentinean puncher Marcos Maidana. The bout was to serve as Bradley’s HBO debut, only for a postponement followed by a cancellation killing those plans as Maidana instead pursued a clean break from the same management team that negotiated the fight and a less-than-desired purse without his approval or permission.
The end result was Bradley making a brief stop at welterweight, turning away previously unbeaten Luis Carlos Abregu for his lone win of 2010, while awaiting bigger game at his natural weight class.
The temporary departure from 140 was supposed to open the door for Alexander (21-0, 13KO) to plead his case as the division’s best. The St. Louis native was well on his way to creating a stirring debate, as back-to-back eighth round stoppages of Witter and Juan Urango emphatically announced his arrival on the championship stage.
Things went a bit south in his homecoming last August, however. Some considered Alexander fortunate to have barely skated by former titlist Andriy Kotelnik in a 12-round bout whose unanimous decision verdict was widely disputed, going so far as to suggest home cooking was involved in the judges’ surprisingly decisive tallies.
The outcome of that particular bout played a part in shuffling the order near the top of the junior welterweight division.
Those who take the decision at face value and take into consideration Alexander’s overall body of work still regard the rising young star as the second best 140 lb. fighter in the world today, right behind Bradley.
Others believe that rising British phenom Amir Khan has since surged past him, citing his far more convincing win over Kotelnik a year prior as well as his surviving a major gut check against Maidana in their Fight of the Year candidate last December.
The latter scenario has thrown a monkey wrench into initial ideas of next Saturday’s showdown at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan determining junior welterweight supremacy.
Whether you’re a historian who never stopped recognizing lineal championships, or part of a magazine who claims its own championship policy, it’s nearly impossible to argue against the fact that next weekend’s winner is the best junior welterweight in the world.
What has now become subject to debate, however, is what’s left to do for said victor.
Should Alexander win, there exists a legitimate argument that he would have to beat Khan in order to remove all doubt in the divisional sweepstakes. Both have been at the title level for roughly the same amount of time, with Khan’s best moments rating higher than Alexander can claim at the moment.
But what happens if the odds hold true and Bradley emerges victorious?
Two years at the top of the division should be enough time in service for the sculpted Californian to gain universal recognition as junior welterweight king. As it stands, can you honestly make the case that Khan is better or deserves to be rated higher than Bradley?
Now ask yourself that same question after you factor in a potential Bradley win over Alexander.
In a perfect world, Khan would be ready and willing to face the winner, which of course would go a long way towards removing any and all lingering doubt.
In reality, Khan is presently in pursuit of the cheapest opponent that HBO will accept for his reserved April 16 fight date.
Bradley and Alexander have spent the past six months in pursuit of each other. The end result is the first A-level fight of 2011.
Barring a draw or no-contest, that very same fight will produce a fighter who deserves recognition as the best junior welterweight in the world, regardless of championship status or lack thereof.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com .