HBO’s promise of an epic battle between young champions Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander proved to be unfounded, as their highly anticipated matchup ended with an unsatisfying, headbutt-prompted technical decision.
The fights pattern was established early; Bradley slowly stalking and Alexander backpedaling while throwing quick 1-2′s. However, this wasn’t an Ali-Frazier scenario. Both fighters were wary of being caught clean, and the fight was a slow, calculated chess match rather than Timothy Bradley’s promise of a Hagler-Hearns, or Emanuel Stewards pre-fight prediction of a Hearns-Leonard.
Still, these early rounds favored Bradley, who threw constant hard hooks to the body. Alexander looked content to throw flashy arm punches, and held any time Bradley got close. Bradley also made himself a very small and elusive target by crouching whenever he waded forward.
The third round featured the first accidental clash of heads, which opened a sizable cut above Devon Alexander’s right eye.
Alexander’s best round came in the fifth. After losing the early exchanges, he bounced back to outwork Bradley in the final two minutes. Alexander didn’t land any hard blows, but he kept Bradley guessing with his movement, jab and straight left.
Bradley got back on track in the sixth and remained in control for the remainder of the fight. Bradley kept his hands moving with flurries befor the inevitable clinches. In rounds 7-9, all the hard shots came from Bradley, who never stopped pressing. The eighth round was notable for several stops due to accidental headbutts, and would turn out to be harbinger of what was to come.
In the tenth round, the fighters heads collided together awkwardly. Alexander cried out in pain and immediately turned away. The clash hit above Alexander’s left eye, but he claimed it was his right eye that burned. The ringside doctor, Dr. Peter Samet , asked him several times to open his eyes.
“That shit hurts, ah!” Alexander responded. Alexander said he couldn’t open his eyes consistently, causing a stoppage and boos from the crowd.Bradley, who suffered a cut to the side of his right eye, looked disappointed and unconvinced of Alexander’s injury.
Going to the scorecards gave Bradley a unanimous decision victory by scores of 97-93, 96-95, and 98-93 to unify the WBC and WBO titles.
Bradley made known afterward that his two main fights plans included Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana, which he hoped would eventually lead to a showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
“Khan right now would probably be #1 on my list,” Bradley confirmed. “But I want the fight fans to pick who I fight next and I’ll fight him…That’s the gate key right there to Manny Pacquiao.”
Timothy Bradley improves to 27-0, with 11 KOs. Devon Alexander suffers his first defeat and falls to 21-1, with 13 KOs.
A lot of fans were disappointed last night. Not just due to the ending, but the slow pace throughout. From all the interviews and hype, some had expected a ferocious battle between these two young fighters.
I knew better. This was a hardcore fan’s fight, and I predicted there would be nerves early. However, I was wrong in thinking the fight would heat up down the stretch with big exchanges. A decent bout, but not one to bring in the casual fans as anticipated.
The big question from last night is whether Devon Alexander “quit.” First, let’s hear from the man himself about the injury.
“I couldn’t see after the headbutt. He’s got a big head, he came at me full force,” he explained. “My eye were burning, I couldn’t see. You can’t work on a headbutt [in the gym], only skills. He didn’t stop me from using my skills. No excuses. There’s a rematch clause in the contract, and I want a rematch with Timothy Bradley.”
Some aren’t buying it. The most vocal in the immediate aftermath were promoters Lou DiBella and Oscar De La Hoya, and welterweight titlist Andre Berto.
“He could have continued,” DiBella fumed. “Dreadful and the runner quit. Dreadful.”
“I’m so disappointed. These fighters have to strap their jock and fucking fight!” De La Hoya added via Twitter.
In retort to Alexander’s claim of not being able to train for a headbutt, Berto questioned Devon’s heart.
“You can’t train that thing that beats in ya chest; either you have it or you dont,” Berto said. “So damn true. [That's] what made Arturo Gatti a star.”
Ringside physician Dr. Peter Samet gave his account of Alexander’s possible injury.
“I told Devon that he had to open his right eye or the fight would be over. I asked him to open his eye three times, but he couldn’t do it,” he detailed. “I feared temporary nerve damage or temporary paralysis was preventing him from opening his eye, so I recommended to the referee that the contest be stopped.”
I always give fighters the benefit of the doubt with injuries. The bottom line is I’m not the one taking the punches in there, and everyone has a limit to their pain thresholds. I don’t expect everyone to be Arturo Gatti. That’s what made fighters like Gatti special.
But it does appear Devon Alexander panicked and looked for a way out. This is where trainer Kevin Cunningham should have tried to come in. When Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, was blinded by a foreign substance against Sonny Liston in 1964, his immediate reaction was to have his gloves cut off and quit. But Angelo Dundee calmed him, and said the championship was at stake. He literally pushed his man out to ring center and told him to stay away until his eyes cleared. Check out the below video starting at the 7:52 mark. Note that Clay attempted to call the fight at 8:27 before being grabbed by Dundee.
What hurts Devon Alexander’s reputation is that he didn’t ask for a few minutes to recover. He just wanted out of there immediately despite the high stakes, and claims before the fight that he’d have to be killed in order to lose.
Do I think Alexander should be crucified and dismissed forever as a quitter? Not at all. He’s still a 23 year old young man learning his craft. He had a bad, indecisive moment (which many of us had at that age), that hopefully he learns from as his career progress.
Time will tell if he’s up for the task.