By Ryan Maquiñana
With his hometown crowd in full support, Devon Alexander’s handspeed, footwork, and precision punching carried him to a unanimous decision victory over Marcos Maidana at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., Saturday night.
“Speed kills,” Alexander said. “I'm working hard for St. Louis and to be the best in the world."
Both former 140-pound titlists moved up to welterweight for this fight, and the age-old matchup between a southpaw boxer in Alexander (23-1, 13 KOs) and a pure orthodox pressure fighter in Maidana (31-3, 28 KOs) would play out as expected—just not in such a lopsided manner.
"We train hard,” Alexander told HBO ringside commentator Max Kellerman. “Like I told you in the fighters' meeting, I was able to analyze myself and what I was doing wrong and we got the victory.”
After an ugly technical decision defeat to Tim Bradley and so-so performance in a razor-sharp split nod over Lucas Matthysse, Alexander and longtime trainer Kevin Cunningham were determined to put a subpar 2011 behind them and start the year by making a statement.
“Me and my coach talk,” Alexander said. “We connect real well. We went back to the drawing board to see what I was doing wrong. The weight—it was real hard making 140, which I've been doing since I was 14 years old. At 147, I feel like I got a lot more pop."
Saturday’s victor also fought through a cut incurred in the third round over his right eye, which was reminiscent of his loss to Bradley. In contrast to how that clash concluded, Alexander refused to let it stand in his way.
"The cut bothered me…but I kept working through it,” Alexander added.
Maidana offered no excuses in defeat.
"He's very fast. He's a lefty,” said Maidana, who hails from Santa Fe, Argentina. “We’re going up to 147, which wasn’t my division, but I did what I could.
Scores were 100-90 twice and 99-91 in favor of Alexander, who has effectively entered his name in the discussion for matchups with the top 147-pounders.
"It doesn't matter (who is next),” Alexander said. “I will continue to keep learning."
After a first round that saw more in-fighting and clinching than expected, the second began with referee Steve Smoger chiding Maidana for hitting Alexander on the break.
The combatants then went to work, with Alexander circling to his right, flicking his right jab and putting a quick, accurate straight left behind it. For his part, Maidana’s signature style was in full effect, as he came forward throwing hard shots from various angles in an effort to wear his foe down by attrition.
Like he has done so many times before, Maidana turned the third round into a bar-room brawl. With two minutes left in the round, he threw a two-punch combination to Alexander’s body when the hometown fighter slipped and both his gloves rested on the canvas. Maidana also dug a couple left hands into Alexander’s hip out of Smoger’s view. In retaliation, Alexander put him in a headlock, much to Smoger’s chagrin.
However, as Alexander moved to his right with his hands down, Maidana caught him with a two-punch combo that momentarily buzzed him. The St. Louis man would eventually recover, landing a one-two and applying some pressure of his own to get the Argentine on the ropes. By now, a cut had opened over Alexander’s right eyelid.
After a furious fourth frame, the fifth was much more one-sided, and Alexander asserted himself with a one-two that scored to the delight of the crowd. Maidana darted inside, hoping to land a massive uppercut that was stunted by Alexander’s gloves. At this point, a relaxed Alexander took control of the stanza, following Cunningham’s instructions to stay poised in the pocket, scoring with the cleaner shots.
Seemingly behind on the cards heading into the halfway point of the fight, Maidana continued to march into his opponent, willing to take one shot to throw two. But Alexander would not give him too many openings, clinching and covering up when necessary, and catching Maidana coming in with a short left hand. By the last minute of his round, Alexander was bouncing on the balls of his feet, ducking and dipping his way out of trouble and scoring beautifully with two and three-punch combinations before the bell.
Maidana found some early success in the sixth, hitting Alexander with a short left hook on the inside and a subsequent right uppercut moments later. He would follow it up with a lead straight right, causing Alexander to take a backward step. Maidana’s momentum was blunted when Alexander relentlessly attacked him to the body.
A tiring Maidana did not immediately respond to the initial salvo, and Alexander smelled a sign of weakness. A vicious left hand from Alexander found the target upstairs, and he would push Maidana down in the process, but Smoger ruled it a slip instead of a knockdown. Clearly though, the Argentine had been hurt, and he struggled to make it to the bell.
One wondered what advice new head trainer Cristian Rodriguez would have for Maidana in the corner, and if his inexperience calling the shots after moving up from the assistant spot would significantly affect the fight. While Maidana would weather the storm, Alexander was beginning to treat Maidana like a punching bag, going to the ribcage with the right hook and following it with left hands over the top.
Maidana has earned a reputation as one of the more resilient fighters in the sport, and Saturday night would be no different, hurling volleys from all angles at Alexander. But the hometown fighter was relentless, countering his opponent to death and mixing up his attack like a master ace changing speeds on the mound to befuddle helpless hitters.
The ninth was a sloppy stanza, marked by countless clinches and Alexander potshotting his way around the ring in the last minute of the round.
With the fight seemingly in hand, Alexander used his feet to constantly turn his opponent and evade Maidana’s desperate advances in the tenth and final round. A weary Maidana would make the finish line, but had no last-second answers as Alexander had defeated him decisively.
BRONER TOO "PROBLEMATIC" FOR PEREZ, STOPS HIM IN FOUR
Adrien “The Problem” Broner entered the ring Saturday night with his mouth open, barking with bravado. He left it in the same manner after stopping previously unbeaten Eloy “The Prince” Perez in four rounds.
In a much-anticipated battle between two rising 130-pounders, Broner made the second defense of his WBO junior lightweight title a successful one, utilizing his advantage in the speed and power departments to take over the fight early.
"It's great. We've been going at it back and forth (in the media). I was prepared for anything," said Broner (23-0, 19 KOs), a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.
With the pre-fight buildup marked by trash talk from both sides including a choke attempt by Broner on “The Prince” at the weigh-in, the fans expected a competitive grudge match. However, Perez (23-1-2, 7 KOs) could not gain much traction throughout the fight, as Broner would beat the Salinas, Calif., resident to the punch with lead right hands and left hooks.
"I'm the best there is at 130. I can go up to 135 and take on anyone there too,” said Broner, later adding, "They can just call me the 'Can-Man' because anyone can come get it—Africans, Americans, Dominicans, Mexicans."
The opening round was a tactical affair, with both men coming out with their left hands down. The taller Broner would land the first meaningful shot of the fight, a left hook that backed Perez into the ropes. Perez threw a three-punch combination, but it found Broner’s gloves in what would be a clear first round for the champion.
Round two began with Perez trying to establish himself with a double jab, and would land a left hook off the jab. But Broner would soon back him into the ropes once more and score with a short chopping right hand over the top. Befitting Broner’s nickname, Perez would soon find his foe’s reach and height advantages to be a substantial “problem,” as the round concluded with four or five clean shots from Broner going unanswered.
Trailing by two points in the third round, Perez would need to find a way inside to have a chance to get back in the fight. As a result, the California fighter worked behind the left jab once more, but would eat an uppercut on the inside, as Broner’s shoulder roll defense continued to be impenetrable. Broner now turned to the lead right hand and found success with it as well as the third came to a close.
The fourth would begin with some theatrics, as the two shared a brief dance step after being separated in a clinch. After a right cross scored through Perez’ guard, Broner would then close the show, strafing his opponent with a lead right hand followed by a second shot that caught a crouching Perez, sending him to the canvas. When Perez tried to get up, his legs would betray him and he would fall to the floor once more, prompting referee Genaro Rodriguez to halt the bout.
Official time was 2:24.
"I wasn't trying to knock him out. I was just trying to beat him. I caught him with that lead right hand," Broner said.
Both bouts were broadcast on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly column for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com). He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at norcalboxing.net or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.