By Chris Robinson
February 25th, 2012 will go down as a special night for Kevin Cunningham.
On this evening the St. Louis-based trainer led his prized pupil, former junior welterweight champion Devon Alexander, into a crucial battle with rugged Argentinean Marcos Maidana in a fight that saw both fighters rise to 147 pounds. Alexander had been on a bit of a skid in his previous three outings, struggling to close victories over Andriy Kotelnik and Lucas Matthysse, with a technical-decision loss to Timothy Bradley nestled in between.
The Maidana fight represented a do-or-die situation for Alexander and he responded with conviction, putting forth one of his best displays as a prizefighter as he dominated the action by keeping Maidana at bay with sharp counters while controlling the pace with a precise, calculated attack.
Cunningham has always believed what his charge was capable of and knew deep down that Alexander had outgrown the junior welterweight class.
“Devon definitely made a statement,” Cunningham said of the Maidana dissection. “Basically, letting everybody know that he is definitely the guy that everybody thought he was when he unified the world titles. A lot of people thought we were making excuses about the weight and what not, and everything, it just all came out that night and it showed. It’s clearly showed that he struggled making 140 and it showed in his performance. He had the energy, the strength, the snap back, and all the naysayers, he proved them all wrong.”
The detractors had been poking at Alexander for his display against Bradley, a fight in which Alexander opted not to continue in the tenth round because of the severity of a a nasty cut above his right eye that was caused by an accidental head-butt, and Cunningham simply had to roll with the punches as the snide remarks came in.
“You know, nobody likes to be criticized, but when you’re not on top of your game and you’re not performing to the best of your ability, you’re going to get criticized,” Cunningham continued. “Kind of took it with a grain of salt and I knew that once we moved up to welterweight that things would be back on track and that’s where they are now.”
Cunningham says he will be sitting down with Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer in the coming weeks and is targeting a late July, early August return for Alexander.
And with rumors swirling that Andre Berto’s left bicep injury might not be healed in time for a scheduled June 30th bout with Victor Ortiz in a grudge rematch between the former champions, Cunningham is quick to throw Alexander’s name into the fray as a suitable backup plan.
“Speaking of potential opportunities, I’m reading where there’s a possibility where Berto may not be available for the rematch with Ortiz," said Cunningham. "Hey, if he’s not available, late July, we’d love to do a big fight with Victor if Berto’s injury hasn’t healed. Devon will be ready to fight whoever late July, early August. If that’s a fight that could be made, we’re all for it.”
Ortiz raised his stock to an all-time high with his thrilling upset over Berto last April but his turnaround fight saw him knocked out in the fourth round after copping a left-right combination from Floyd Mayweather Jr. unsuspectingly at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Still, Cunningham feels that Ortiz is still one of the most formidable names at 147 pounds and love the matchup.
“I think it would be a great fight. Victor has established himself as one of the best welterweights in the world and Devon has done the same. Victor is a big, strong welterweight. He punches good with both hands and Devon is fast and strong at welterweight. I think it would be a great, great fight. Victor is a good friend, but this is business. They could get together and make a big fight; we would welcome the opportunity," Cunningham stated.
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