By Cliff Rold
It didn’t exceed expectations.
Depending on whether one went into Saturday’s Jr. Welterweight unification as pessimist or optimist, it may have failed to meet them.
Timothy Bradley (27-0, 11 KO) added a WBC belt he never lost in the ring with a win over Devon Alexander (21-1, 13 KO). It was not a bad fight. It was not a great, or particularly memorable, fight either. Given two young, talented, undefeated titlists, falling short of even memorable was a disappointment.
Had it reached a more satisfactory conclusion, many of the viewers who have expressed disgruntlement towards the event since its close might feel different.
They do not because the ending sucked.
After multiple awkward head clashes, Alexander finally had enough in round ten. Claiming trouble seeing, the bout went to the cards. Alexander’s luck fared no better there.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bradley A; Alexander A/Post: B+; A
Pre-Fight: Power – Bradley B; Alexander B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bradley B+; Alexander B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bradley A; Alexander B/Post: Same
Full coverage of the fight can be found at: http://www.boxingscene.com/tim-bradley-confirms-placement-atop-140-pounds-t--35353
Bradley was the aggressor throughout, as expected, and he made it work from early on. Alexander was trying to box, using sparing movement and clinches, to disrupt any Bradley flow, but could never quite get the timing of Bradley down. When Alexander let his lead right hook go, he couldn’t miss and there were some quality exchanges between the two in the opening round, round three, and for a long stretch of round seven.
It was no surprise to see them playing chess. The problem was no one ever dared to break out the Queen. Bradley showed, again, what makes him so effective. It is hard to point to one thing he does great, and there was a notable drop in bursting speed during some of the middle rounds which could be troublesome against more experienced foes down the road, but he fights within himself as well as anyone in the game.
Bradley knows how to do lots of little things well and does, legal and questionable.
Alexander’s sliced eye can speak to the latter. While all of the clashes of heads were not his fault, the tenacious Bradley has as educated a dome as anyone this side of a prime Evander Holyfield.
Alexander, having struggled now twice in a row with foes who could box between his bursts of exceptional speed, may need to go back to the drawing board. He is only 23 and, coming off a rough night versus veteran former titlist Andriy Kotelnik in the fight prior, has plenty of room to grow. One can worry that he did not respond with more fire Saturday, never went for broke or got nasty inside to pay back Bradley for any foul slights, but time could make him better at such things.
Alexander still has all sorts of physical talent and sometimes losing is the only way to get it all to come together. Time will tell. There will be those who wonder if Alexander took the easy way out Saturday, if he used the eye as an excuse to quit. The harshness of the head collisions was real enough to give him some benefit of the doubt, as he never stopped trying to win at any point during the action.
For Bradley, the claim to the top of 140 lbs. is clear but with just enough murk to leave one stone needing turning. WBA titlist Amir Khan (24-1, 17 KO) has every bit the claim to the #2 spot Alexander did before this weekend and, with dominant wins over Kotelnik and Paulie Malignaggi, along with an epic survival against Marcos Maidana, the former Olympic Silver Medalist from the U.K. has earned the right to be the roadblock.
If Bradley wants to be seen as the only real champion at 140, he must beat Khan.
And vice versa.
To what should be the delight of fans, Bradley-Khan could happen by the summer. Given the business of boxing, hope for at least the fall. Maybe it will meet the hype in ways Saturday did not. Maybe it won’t.
Sometimes, the big fights don’t.
That never makes the next one less worth looking forward to.
Report Card Picks 2011: 1-0
140: Bradley remains in the top slot and has the best body of work in the division. A fight with Khan will settle the question of who the legitimate World Champion of the class is. Alexander slides to third and wants a rematch…just the wrong one. Alexander should think about a second fight with the man below him, Kotelnik, to flesh out who truly was the better man there.
122: In what was reported to be a four knockdown affair Monday, WBA titlist Ryol Lee suffered three of them and coughs up the belt to Akifumi Shimoda. Shimoda enters the ratings at number three and everyone below him drops a spot, pushing Guillermo Rigondeaux out of the top ten. That is unlikely to stay that way as the talented Rigondeaux grows in 2011.
118: Having taken two straight fights at Jr. Featherweight, and having lost the last of them to Victor Terrazas in a 122 lb. belt shot eliminator, Nehomar Cermeno exits the Bantamweight ratings. Terrazas is not quite into the ratings at 122 yet. Japan’s Koki Kameda slides into the ten spot at Bantamweight.
These moves and other items of interest can be found in the updated ratings so…
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Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org