By Jake Donovan
Dead atmosphere. Disappointing action. A major fight that ends on a butt and not a punch.
Not exactly the ideal return to the big time for a sport desperately in need of a shot in the arm.
However, the ten rounds of championship boxing we did get at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan on Saturday night were enough for Tim Bradley to reaffirm his claim as the best junior welterweight in the world in taking a ten-round technical unanimous decision over Devon Alexander.
Bradley weighed in at 139 ½ lb, while Alexander came in at the division limit of 140 lb. in a rare matchup of undefeated American titlists, which served as the main event in the 2011 premiere of HBO’s World Championship Boxing.
Action was predictably slow in the early going. Bradley opened the fight repeatedly throwing his jab, while Alexander played defense and waited for an opening. Things picked up towards the end of the round, when Bradley set a trap and unleashed a flurry of punches. Most of them missed the mark, but was enough to discourage Alexander, who struggled early to uncork his offense.
There was little to choose from in the second, as neither fighter offered much of anything offensively. Bradley scored with body shots towards the end of the round. Alexander was busier and more aggressive than in the opening round, scoring with his straight left.
The otherwise silent crowd of 6,247 finally came to life in the third when Bradley scored with a left hook that sent Alexander into the ropes. Two more left hooks later in the round caused Alexander to clinch. The sequence directly led to Bradley being pulled inside, leading with his head and catching Alexander with a headbutt that left the St. Louis native cut on his right eye.
Momentum remained with Bradley in the fourth, scoring with his straight right hand upstairs. The Californian was brimming with confidence, although his corner was demanding more body work. They wouldn’t immediately see their wish granted, as Alexander became the aggressor for the first time in the fight. Bradley remained calm and scored with enough power shots reopen his opponent’s cut eye.
A straight right hand by Bradley early in the sixth shook Alexander and once again woke up the crowd. The punch was aided by another headbutt, one which Alexander appeared to pause as if referee Frank Garza – who was busy throughout – would come to his rescue. Bradley caught him napping, but failed to capitalize, though enjoying perhaps his most decisive round of the fight to that point.
Alexander gathered himself and picked up the pace considerably in the seventh, throwing power shots in combination while Bradley played defense far too much for trainer Joel Diaz’ liking. Both fighters picked it up in the eighth, though their in-ring enthusiasm led to two headbutts in the round – both fighters being warned for leading in.
The right hand continued to work for Bradley, notably scoring twice in the eighth and again in the ninth. Alexander offered side-to-side movement in efforts to offset Bradley’s straightforward attack, but was sacrificing offense as a result.
Everyone’s worst nightmare came true in the tenth, when the most severe headbutt of the night resulted in the end of the bout. With his right eye still trickling blood, Alexander was caught by Bradley’s head that compromised vision from his left eye.
The sequence came when Alexander attempted to clinch while Bradley was coming forward and launching a left hook. That the two fighters were pulled together caused Bradley’s shots to drift off course, resulting in the clash of heads that left Alexander complaining of stinging in his eye.
Time was called so the ringside physician could take a look, but both Alexander’s body language and actual comments revealed that not another punch would be thrown.
Because the fight went beyond the fourth round and ended on an accidental foul, it went to the judges’ scorecards, including the incomplete 10th round being scored.
The variance in the three scorecards was actually befitting of the fight, as ringside opinion ranged from close rounds that were difficult to score to a landslide victory. The final scores covered the full gamut, with tallies of 97-94, 96-95 and 98-93 accurately in favor of Bradley, who was pleased with the victory, though not necessarily the way it ended.
“I didn’t think the fight would be stopped this way. It was going back and forth in there,” stated Bradley, who improves to 27-0 (11KO). “I was a little conscious of it in there and was concerned that it would happen sooner or later.”
The win is Bradley’s third straight over an undefeated opponent, having previously snatched the “0’s” from Luis Abregu and Lamont Peterson. While perhaps not the outright claimant to the lineal championship, Bradley solidifies his place atop the junior welterweight rankings.
For the moment, there is only one fight that would settle any remaining disputes. As has always been the case ever since he entered the title picture, Bradley is more than willing to make it happen.
“Amir Khan right now would be number one on my list,” Bradley insisted when asked of his immediate future. “I want the fight fans to pick who I fight next.”
It might not be that simple. Part of the deal to get the two undefeated titlists in the ring – in addition to the $1.25 million payday both fighters earned – was the promise of a return showcase on HBO, which may or may not include a rematch.
At least one fighter is convinced he is entitled to another shot.
“It don’t matter who I fight. I got a rematch clause with Timothy Bradley, so we’ll get it on,” believes Alexander, who loses for the first time in his six-year pro career as he falls to 21-1 (13KO).
The loss didn’t sit well at all with the 23-year old, who believes he was wronged in the biggest fight of his career.
“I never got headbutt like that. He got a big head. It came in full force. You can’t work on a headbutt. We worked on boxing skills, but couldn’t stop his head. He didn’t stop me from using his skills.”
What Bradley did stop was the end of Alexander’s run as an undefeated titlist, which will have to do on a night where expectations fell short and the worst case scenario was realized.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .