By Lem Satterfield
Southpaw Devon Alexander just turned 24 years old on Feb. 10, his birthday coming less than two weeks after being dethroned as WBC junior welterweight champion by WBO counter part, Tim Bradley, in a Jan. 29, 10th-round, unanimous, technical decision that was the first loss of his career.
The fight ended as a result of Alexander (21-1, 13 knockouts), of St. Louis, Mo., having suffered badly-ripped open right eyelid that required four stitches, and a smaller cut in the lower corner of his left eye which required two more stitches.
In victory, the 27-year-old Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs), of Palm Springs, Calif., has been thrust into a July, 23 mega bout opposite 24-year-old WBA titlist Amir Khan (24-1, 17 KOs), of England, this, assuming that Khan gets beyond an April 16 defense of his belt against 31-year-old, southpaw countryman, Paul McCloskey (22-0, 12 KOs).
Khan is coming off of December's unanimous decision victory over hard-punching, former WBA interim champion Marcos Rene Maidana (29-2, 27 KOs) of Argentina, whom Khan dropped with a pair of first-round body shots before, himself, having to survive nearly being stopped in the 10th round.
Alexander, meanwhile, has found himself to be the object of criticism for succumbing during a brutal bout whose fourth, accidental clash of heads left Alexander screaming in pain in the final round.
On the advice of ringside doctor, Peter Samet, referee Frank Garza ruled that Alexander could not continue, leaving ringside judges, Tim Miller, Duane Ford, and, Omar Minturn, respectively, to rule in Bradley's favor, 96-95, 97-93, and, 98-93.
While Alexander's manager and trainer, Kevin Cunningham, acknowledged that Bradley's head-butts were a tremendous factor, he did not completely absolve his fighter of blame for his defeat.
Although bothered by the first cut, which surfaced over the left eye after a third-round head-butt, Alexander, said Cunningham, could have and should have been more active with his right hook and his straight left hand, among other things.
Alexander now finds himself potentially in the fight of his career on June 25 opposite hard-hitting, 28-year-old, Lucas Matthysse (28-1, 26 KOs) of Argentina, who, despite scoring a 10th-round knockdown, lost November's split-decision to 33-year-old southpaw Zab Judah (41-6, 28 KOs).
Judah followed that up with a March 5, seventh-round stoppage of Kaizer Mabuza (23-7-3, 14 KOs), ending his run of 8-0-1, that had included six knockouts.
In Matthysse, Alexander faces a man who had scored four straight knockouts, including a February, 2010, fourth-round knockout of ex-titlist Vivian Harris (29-5-1, 19 KOs).
After losing to Judah, Matthysse earned January's eighth-round knockout of ex-champion, DeMarcus Corley (37-16-1, 22 KOs), scoring eight knockdowns in the process against a man who had gone the distance in August's toe-to-toe, unanimous decision loss to Maidana after having been dropped in the eighth round.
Alexander's past two televised bouts were victories over Colombian-born southpaw and then-IBF champ Juan Urango and Ukrainian-born former WBA champ Andriy Kotelnik.
Urango was stopped for the first time in his career by Alexander, who has vanquished four world champions over the past three years, including England's Junior Witter in August 2009 by eighth-round stoppage for the WBC crown and Corley in January 2008.
Cunningham spoke to BoxingScene.com concerning Alexander's status within the junior welterweight division, as well as what it at stake for the fighter, among other things.
BoxingScene.com: How is Devon doing?
Kevin Cunningham: Devon is just focused on what we've got going in right now. He's prepping to get ready for June 25. Devon's mind set is, 'I don't have anything to talk about. I've got to get my sh*t together and I've got to show what I'm going to show on June. 25.' Devon just feels like that's what he needs to be doing right now.
BoxingScene.com: How is Devon Alexander handling the criticism he took for the way his fight ended against Tim Bradley?
Kevin Cunningham: Well, actually, it was extremely disappointing. From the fact of the matter that it was a situation where it wasn't like he was in the ring with a guy who was a more talented fighter or a better fighter. It was frustrating because, you know, Devon lost.
And basically, the reason that Devon lost was because Devon didn't fight up to his capabilities, and he didn't fight up to his ability. That's what is so frustrating about it. There wasn't anything that Tim Bradley was doing in there that prevented Devon from doing what he's capable of doing.
Devon just did not get off, wouldn't pull the trigger, and, Tim Bradley was just coming forward and he wasn't being made to pay for coming forward. So, I mean, that's pretty much the fight in a nut shell. You had one guy coming forward, and you had another guy who really wasn't getting off the way that he should have been getting off.
When Tim Bradley got into Devon's range, Devon is supposed to make him pay a price for getting into Devon's range. But for the most part, Devon did not make Tim Bradley pay that price for being in that range.
BoxingScene.com: What is your take on the way that the styles of Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander meshed in the fight, and the criticism thereof?
Kevin Cunningham: I mean, you have the top two, 140-pounders in the world going at it, and there are guys who want to see two guys who are going to just walk to each other and go toe-to-toe, you know what I mean? I mean, they want, 'You hit me once, I hit you twice,' and, 'then I hit you three times.'
If they're looking for that kind of a fight out of these two guys, that's not going to happen. I mean, these are two, highly-skilled, top-notch boxers. You know, that's wrong. You're not appreciating these guys for their skills and their abilities. I feel like a lot of that is going on in the sport today.
BoxingScene.com: How do you mean?
Kevin Cunningham: I think that the critics are trying to turn boxing into the UFC and the MMA instead of boxing. Boxing is not mixed martial arts and the UFC. Boxing is boxing. The definition of boxing is to hit and to not get hit, not, 'I hit you, and then, you hit me.' That's not boxing. And that's what they're trying to change our sport into.
They're trying to force our skillful fighters to fight like they don't have skills and just to stand in there and to just bang away on each other, and that's unfair. It's unfair to a skillful fighter to be criticized for having skills and ability.
BoxingScene.com: Do you feel that both Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander demonstrated those qualities leading into their fight?
Kevin Cunningham: Yeah, and I think that they're skills were under-appreciated in the fight. You had one comment from Miguel Diaz, who is a known cut man who trains sometimes. But he made a comment about the Bradley-Alexander fight where he said that it looked like they were trying to fight too fast? I mean, what kind of comment is that?
What kind of comment is that? What do you mean? I mean, you have two quick, skillful fighters, they're supposed to fight with speed.
BoxingScene.com: How much were the head-butts a factor in the fight and what can Devon Alexander learn from the adversity?
Kevin Cunningham: I think that he can learn a lot from the whole experience. The way that the fight was promoted and the level on which it was promoted. Devon can learn a lot from the fact that he fought a guy that wanted it badly enough that he was willing to do whatever he had to do to win and that's what Tim Bradley did.
Hey, I give Tim Bradley credit. Tim Bradley came into the ring with the mind set that 'I'm ready to do whatever it takes to win,' and I don't criticize him for that. Hey, you're in a fight, so, he did what he was supposed to do and Devon, you know, has to deal with situations like that. We prepared for the head-butts, and Devon didn't execute the way that we prepared to execute.
And Devon paid the price by not getting the decision. So we don't have no complaints about no head-butts and all of that. F**k the head-butts. My guy should have beaten this guy, and the reason that he did not beat him is because he did not execute the game plan.
BoxingScene.com: Does Devon Alexander deserve the criticism for succumbing to the cuts?
Kevin Cunningham: Well, you know, my thing is this. HBO said that they were going to promote this fight like one of the biggest non-pay per view fights that they've ever promoted, and they did that.
The guys were paid well, they were promoted like a super fight, and what I tell my fighter is that, 'Hey, when you're on the big stage, and you're being paid well, and you're being promoted like that, ain't no excuses.' You fight to the death, and that's how I feel about it. And that's what I've expressed to Devon. And he feels the same way.
We've just said that it's happened and we're moving forward. On June 25, we feel like we're fighting a guy in Lucas Matthysse who is more dangerous than Tim Bradley. Matthysse, I feel, is a more dangerous fighter than Tim Bradley because he's a knockout artist.
Tim Bradley is not. Matthysse has a better skill set than Marcos Rene Maidana. He has Maidana's punching ability but he has a better skill set.
BoxingScene.com: Would what Zab Judah did in setting up Kaizer Mabuza qualify as the sort of boxing skills that you're referring to?
Kevin Cunningham: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I thought that with Zab Judah, and Pernell Whitaker working his corner, you could see the Pernell Whitaker slickness and defense.
You could see where they had been working on Zab's slickness and his defense and using that.
You could see where his skills and his defense set up the offense, which ended in a spectacular knockout of Kaizer Mabuza.
BoxingScene.com: So are those the types of skills you're referring to that are downplayed and overlooked nowadays?
Kevin Cunningham: Exactly. People are not educated on the level of opposition and people want to change boxing. Live I've told you before, Sugar Ray Leonard fought suffered his first loss against Roberto Duran. But Leonard lost because he didn't perform up to his capabilities.
He fought the wrong fight and he didn't use his skills and his abilities. Same thing Devon did with Tim Bradley. Sugar Ray Leonard came back and he boxed Roberto Duran's head off. He moved and he boxed.
But the way that certain commentators and certain writers and certan fans and whatnot are judging and basing our sport now, if Sugar Ray Leoanrd and Roberto Duran fought that rematch today, Sugar Ray Leonard would be booed out of the arena.
The style that Sugar Ray Leonard fought in the second fight with Roberrto Duran, he would get booed out of the arena today based off of the way people today do not want to see you use your skills and abilities anymore.
BoxingScene.com: What is at stake for Devon Alexander against Lucas Matthysse?
Kevin Cunningham: This means everything. Everything. He was considered as the best 140-pounder in the world prior to the loss, and this is the type of fight that he's got to win, and this is the type of opponent he's got to beat. This will show that he still belongs to the best.
BoxingScene.com: Do you believe that Devon Alexander has received his proper credit given the level of opposition that he has faced?
Kevin Cunningham: No, I don't think that Devon has gotten the credit for the guys that he's fought. Devon's last three or four opponents have been world class or world champions or former world champions. So Devon doesn't get the credit for the opposition that he's faced. But that's okay, because we don't expect nobody to give us nothing.
You've got to take what you want in life. So, you know, that's what Devon's got to get prepared to do, and that's what I'm preparing him to do. But I think that Devon is an all-around better fighter than Lucas Matthysse.
I think that that Devon's definitely quicker, faster and busier and he's going to get back to showing his true strengths. Devon is going to show a lot more strength and power than people are going to expect in this fight.