Devon Alexander has a hard choice to make.

The former two-division titlist has lost three straight and five of his last seven starts, the latest setback coming in a ten-round unanimous decision defeat to Lucas Santamaria. Scores were 98-92, 98-92 and 97-93 in favor of Santamaria in their junior middleweight bout Saturday evening live on Fox from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Alexander was fighting for the first time in more than two years, having suffered a sixth-round stoppage loss to Ivan Redkach in their June 2019 slugfest. The heaviest version of St. Louis’ Alexander—154 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in after having to strip down at the scale—arrived for his bout with Santamaria, with Alexander having to renegotiate the contracted weight after realizing late in fight week that he wouldn’t make welterweight.

With that came a thickly muscled Alexander, who worked primarily behind his jab in the early rounds. Santamaria—who weighed barely above the welterweight limit on Friday—continued to circle his southpaw foe in search of landing right hands to the body. It made for a slow start to the fight, which favored the 34-year-old Alexander, who was able to keep Santamaria at the end of his jab.

Santamaria picked up the pace in round three, finding success with his right hand while measuring up Alexander with a pawing jab. The pace reverted to early fight form in round four, with Alexander enjoying his highest punch output by commanding the center of the ring and keeping the 23-year-old Santamaria on the move.

Alexander took a more aggressive approach in rounds five and six, closing the gap and forcing Santamaria to fight on the inside. It led to frequent clinches and little in the way of sustained action. It also prompted a speech from head trainer Mike Stafford, working with Alexander for the first time and urging the former titlist to move Santamaria around with his jab rather than chase after the younger foe.

The advice didn’t quite take, as Alexander remained on the hunt though not expending much energy in doing so. Santamaria managed to plant his feet long enough to land a crisp left hook, the best punch of the fight to that point.

Santamaria improved on that momentum in round eight, frequently connecting with his jab upstairs to set up right hands to the body. Alexander was forced to keep up, occasionally landing a counter left hand but otherwise outworked at a crucial point in the fight.

Round nine saw the younger Santamaria continue to outwork his veteran foe. Santamaria found success midway through the round, switching to southpaw and landing in combination before returning to a conventional stance by the time Alexander attempted to adjust and counter.

With the fight in the balance, Alexander looked to close strong but remained a step behind. Santamaria was able to land his jab and right hand body shots, showing nice defense on the inside in dodging right hook counters from Alexander. It played out well on the scorecards, allowing Santamaria (12-2-1, 7KOs) to return to the win column following a hard-fought loss to unbeaten Paul Kroll last October.

Alexander falls to 27-7-1, now just 1-5-1 in his last five starts.

Alexander-Santamaria served as the opening bout of a televised tripleheader headlined by a welterweight bout between Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 9KOs)—a 2016 Olympian for Lithuania—and former WBC welterweight titlist Luis Collazo (39-8, 20KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox