By Mark Staniforth
Groomed by Don King as his sport's next big thing, Devon Alexander was growing used to life as a top-of-the-bill fighter, with those pay-per-view millions surely just a matter of time for the young St Louis star.
An outstanding amateur, Alexander - inevitably dubbed 'The Great' - blazed through his first 21 professional contests, winning his first world title when he took the vacant WBC light-welterweight crown against Junior Witter in 2009.
A slick and apparently hard-punching fighter, for a time it seemed Alexander could do no wrong.
He added the IBF belt against Juan Urango, and after defending his titles against tough Andrei Kotelnik, the time had come for his biggest test.
A bout against fellow unbeaten 140lbs champion Timothy Bradley was one Alexander had always craved, with its promise of a breakthrough into that permanent pay-per-view market for the winner.
It didn't turn out as Alexander had hoped. In a sparsely populated, cavernous Pontiac Silverdome, Alexander and Bradley fought a dull fight which was settled via technical decision in favour of Bradley when Alexander sustained a cut eye from an accidental headbutt.
Such controversial endings often call for automatic rematches, but although it was part of the Home Box Office contract, they showed no interest in the deal, which says how much underwhelmed they were by the whole affair.
With a win on his record, Bradley could go on to court the likes of Manny Pacquaio. But Alexander suddenly found himself out in the cold, no longer feted as the potential next superstar of the light-welterweight division.
A comeback six months later was far from perfect: Alexander was floored heavily in the fourth round by Lucas Matthysse in their fight in Saint Charles, Missouri, and seemed highly fortunate to escape with a split decision win.
A move up to welterweight followed, with Alexander squeezing past hard-hitting Marcos Maidana in February, and with it earning a crack at IBF 147lbs king Randall Bailey, which will take place on a four world title show in Brooklyn this Saturday night.
The pair had been due to meet on a bill-topper last month before Bailey, who knows a thing or two about career redemption having suffered seven career defeats, was forced to withdraw with an injured shoulder.
It meant the pair had to swallow their pride and fit on a show featuring bigger names like Erik Morales and Paulie Malignaggi, but that is something Alexander insists he is getting used to as he plots his new path back to the big time.
Alexander said: "I definitely want to be the main event all the time, but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do. The fight was scheduled for September and now it's October and it's got to get on this card.
"It does motivate me to go in there and put on a more spectacular performance. I'm used to being on top of the bill, the main event, but this is what happens. I've got to do what I have to do to get back to where I'm comfortable, which is the main event."
Despite his chin being tested by big hitters like Matthysse at a lower weight, Alexander insists the extra seven pounds will make a big difference as he prepares to face Bailey, who also moved up after losing to tough Juan Urango in Hollywood three years ago.
Bailey, who revived his career via two fights in Belgium before beating Mike Jones for the IBF crown in Las Vegas last time out, will provide a stern test for Alexander, and one he can ill afford to mess up if he is to get back to where he belongs.
"Now I'm at 147 I've got all my power, all my legs, all my energy back and it's going to be trouble for whoever I'm fighting at 147," insisted Alexander. "It's a different Devon Alexander, and that means it's going to be trouble for everybody."
Mark Staniforth covers boxing for PA Sport
Tags: Devon Alexander , Randall Bailey , Alexander-Bailey , Alexander vs Bailey