By Cliff Rold
After the most anticipated fight of the weekend (George Groves-Chris Eubank Jr.) is over, but before the intended Danny Garcia rehab assignment kicks off, fight fans in the US will be treated a card between on Fox.
It’s a pair of names in prime time, well past their prime time.
That isn’t always a bad thing.
Whether this is the best use of a prominent network television spot or not is up for debate. It doesn’t mean we might not be entertained. Former Jr. welterweight and welterweight titlist Devon Alexander (27-4, 14 KO) faces former welterweight beltholder Victor Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KO) on Saturday night in El Paso (8 PM EST/5 PM PST). Ortiz has been stopped in five of his six losses. Alexander has never been a consistent knockout threat.
This might just be a sleeper.
They’re not exactly coming into this one riding hot streaks. Both can at least say they won their last fight, both victorious in their lone 2017 outings. Prior to that, there were some rough patches.
Alexander lost two straight, both decisively, to Amir Khan and Aaron Martinez, before a two-year layoff between 2015 and 2017. Beginning with his defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Ortiz lost four of six fights inside the distance, including three straight from Mayweather to Luis Collazo.
It might feel surprising that both men are still only 31 years old. They’ve already had extended careers. Alexander won his first major title in 2009. Ortiz’s still memorable to Marcos Maidana came in the same year. It felt like both had passed the point where they were staring at meaningful fights.
That might not be the case.
This is a PBC show. The PBC cast of welterweights have three of the four major belts in the class right now. It’s not far fetched to think the winner of this one may have at least one more shot a glory in the near future. Keith Thurman, the WBA and WBC champ, needs someone to test his surgically repaired elbow against. Errol Spence, IBF belt in tow, needs bodies to drop while he builds public pressure for a Thurman showdown.
The winner of this fight might, or might not, fit perfectly into either man’s plans. No one expects Alexander or Ortiz to grab a title in this welterweight mix right now. No matter what the fight looks like Saturday, there might not be many fans clamoring to see them try. But looking at this through the lens of boxing logic, it makes sense. If they can get a shot, they’d make their own fortunes.
It’s better than losing.
Because a loss here for Alexander or Ortiz has to be devastating, doesn’t it? Surely this has to be the last hurrah for one of the two, right?
Feel free to wonder how the last hurrahs haven’t already come and gone. Alexander, for a short period of time, looked to some like a possible pound-for-pound player. Ortiz, with a big smile and bigger physical talent, had a superstar charisma that was hard to miss.
Both fell short of those expectations.
Alexander didn’t quite have the dimensions to evolve to a super elite level. He took on foes that could have helped him get there. Losses to Timothy Bradley or Shawn Porter, even a controversial win over Lucas Matthysse, are no shame. Alexander defeated some quality foes like Junior Witter and Maidana along the way. There is nothing wrong with just being a real good fighter.
In Ortiz, he has a chance to really get his comeback kicked up a notch. His return last year went under the radar. This won’t. He has the added benefit of not carrying the same baggage with him Ortiz does.
Ortiz was missing something in terms of chin, or emotional control, or resolve, or boxing IQ, or…insert armchair psychology here. Every possible analysis has been done.
The short hand would be that Ortiz has had a head case career. For one night, he bit down and blew through the missing pieces to defeat Andre Berto in a great fight. He won the WBC title and had a chance at the biggest name in boxing. In his first defense, he unraveled against Mayweather, got knocked silly in return for a flagrant head butt to the face, and never put it together again.
Is Alexander the sort of foe that could trick people into being at least curious about Ortiz again?
Ortiz’s ability to take a shot can be unpredictable. So can his resolve. Does he fall apart when Alexander tags him hard? He looked good early in the rematch with Berto in 2016, even scoring an early knockdown. Then Berto caught him and it all came apart quickly. Or does Alexander’s more modest knockout power give him some confidence if he gets tagged and doesn’t?
Color this corner curious about this one.
If the Martinez and Berto losses weren’t the last hurrahs for Alexander or Ortiz, there’s no guarantee this weekend is any more than another walk to the ring. But this one feels like it should be the end of the road for one of them, at least in terms of getting network main event dates. There are too many other fighters, younger and undiscovered, waiting for their chance at the bright lights.
Losing eventually has to remove someone from the line.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]