Commentary

Devon Alexander marches on

Originally Published: August 9, 2010
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the past week's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday in St. Louis
Junior welterweight
Devon Alexander W12 Andreas Kotelnik
Retains unified junior welterweight titles
Scores: 116-112 (three times)
Records: Alexander, 21-0, 13 KOs; Kotelnik, 31-4-1, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: It was not Alexander's best night, but the hard-fought (and deserved) victory over the tough-as-nails former titlist from Ukraine may have served an important purpose. Because Alexander looked a bit less impressive Saturday than in his title victory against Junior Witter last August and in his spectacular knockout performance against Juan Urango in their March unification fight, it might make putting together his next fight a bit easier. Most of us would like to see the proposed Jan. 29 HBO showdown against titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. come off in a match between the two best 140-pounders in the world. Bradley's promoter, Gary Shaw, was not all that impressed with Alexander, and perhaps that will grease the wheels so we can get the summit meeting signed, sealed and delivered before anyone changes his mind.

Despite Alexander's struggles, including a cut over his left eye (the first time he had ever been cut) in the fourth round and a cramped left leg in the 12th round, the 23-year-old's speed and work rate were probably the difference to the judges in the highly competitive fight. Alexander, who won on the 54th birthday of his mother, Sharon Alexander, landed 202 of a whopping 1,113 punches (18 percent), according to CompuBox statistics, while Kotelnik connected on 225 of 763 punches (29 percent). Alexander also used his jab way more.

Alexander was the star of the promotion. He was the hometown kid fighting in a main event and in a title fight at home for the first time, and almost 10,000 strong showed up to support him. He also couldn't go anywhere without being asked about the possible Bradley fight. But to Alexander's credit, and to the credit of his outstanding trainer/manager, Kevin Cunningham, they kept their focus on Kotelnik, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist and the only fighter to hand highly regarded Marcos Maidana a pro loss. After Kotelnik, 32, outpointed Maidana to retain his belt in February 2009, he lost it in his next fight in July when England's Amir Khan, another of the division's big names, scored a virtual shutout against him.

Kotelnik did not look rusty after the 13-month layoff. He fought very well and landed more punches on Alexander than he's ever been hit with in a fight. Afterward, he and his team railed against the decision. It is understandable that they were frustrated, but Alexander did enough to win the fight, especially after banking so many early rounds. This was no hometown decision, no matter how much some folks want to complain as though it was a highway robbery.

Kotelnik shouldn't be penalized for the loss. He remains one of the best in the division, and it would be a shame if he didn't get some other notable opportunity. But now we move on to Alexander-Bradley. Hopefully, Shaw, Don King (Alexander's promoter) and HBO's Ross Greenburg can get this done in short order.

Light heavyweight
Tavoris Cloud W12 Glen Johnson
Retains a light heavyweight title
Scores: 116-112 (three times)
Records: Cloud, 21-0, 18 KOs; Johnson, 50-14-2, 34 KOs

Rafael's remark: Cloud's reputation had been built on two nice wins but nothing to get too carried away about. The Tallahassee resident stopped faded former titlist Julio Gonzalez in 10 rounds in August 2008. After a year off, Cloud, 28, returned to outpoint Clinton Woods, another faded former titleholder, to win a vacant belt. Then came another year out of the ring, a change of promoters to Don King, and finally the mandatory defense against Johnson, the 41-year-old former champion who is still going pretty strong. Although Johnson had been soundly outboxed by division star Chad Dawson in November, he bounced back to demolish Yusaf Mack in six rounds in February to set up his shot at Cloud's belt.

The fight had all the makings of an action slugfest, and many viewed it as a potential fight of the year candidate because Cloud and Johnson are both aggressive and like to mix it up. Although we didn't see the fight of the year, we got an outstanding action fight, the sort of hard-hitting, grueling battle that could have been fought in a phone booth. Referee Steve Smoger had a great seat to watch them whale on each other because he had so little to do. There were almost no clinches, just a whole lot of punching. Cloud, however, was clearly the heavier puncher, and he stung Johnson a few times.

Johnson, a Jamaica native living in Miami, has an all-time chin. In his 66 fights, he was stopped only once, on his feet in the 11th round of a 1997 middleweight championship fight against Bernard Hopkins. They traded back and forth Saturday, with Cloud just shading his way past Johnson to put the best win of his career in the bank.

Afterward, Cloud said he wanted to fight Dawson, who has an important fight in Montreal on Saturday when he faces titlist Jean Pascal. Cloud against the winner would loom as one of the biggest fights in a division that lacks big fights.

Although Johnson felt he won the fight, the decision was just. But Johnson has nothing to be ashamed of; he's still a darn good fighter. At 41, and with so many tough fights behind him, it's amazing that he still can go as hard as he did. He went all out throughout the fight, including in the ninth round, when he unloaded 105 punches -- unheard of for a light heavyweight, especially one his age -- and he cut Cloud over his left eye in the 10th round. During the fight, Johnson got off 883 punches and landed 254, while Cloud, whose reputation is of a very busy puncher, threw just 682 and landed 246. As well as he fought, it would be hard to ask Johnson to retire. The problem is, where does he go now?

There was some controversy about the gloves in the fight. Cloud fought with a different set than he had selected at the glove meeting Saturday morning. Johnson's promoter, Leon Margules, noticed the gloves were different as the fighters entered the ring, and he complained to Missouri officials. The fight went on, but Cloud's gloves were held by the commission after the fight. Margules told ESPN.com that he retained attorney Pat English, and the gloves will be tested to ensure that there were no foreign substances in them or on them and that they were the proper weight.

Junior middleweight
Cornelius "K9" Bundrage TKO5 Cory Spinks
Wins a junior middleweight title
Records: Bundrage, 30-4, 18 KOs; Spinks, 37-6, 11 KOs

Rafael's remark: Perseverance paid off for Bundrage, who claimed a world title at age 37 with a lights-out performance against Spinks, a shell of the fighter he once was. Bundrage made his name on "The Contender" reality series but had usually lost when he stepped up in competition. However, against Spinks, the hometown fighter, Bundrage was impressive, although it was a combination of Bundrage's preparedness and Spinks' significant decline. From the opening bell, when the Detroiter swarmed Spinks to set the tone, until he knocked him through the ropes for the victory, this one was all "K9."

The mandatory fight had been postponed multiple times, and when it finally came off, Bundrage, who now is trained by Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, looked in sensational condition. Spinks, not so much, and he paid dearly for it, yielding the 154-pound title he had won for a second time in his first defense.

Bundrage could not miss with his right hand. He punished Spinks with it, staggering him and nearly knocking him through the ropes in the second round. In the fifth round, he knocked Spinks through the ropes after a series of overhand rights snapped his head back. Finally, one of the blows sent Spinks through the ropes and onto the ring apron. He was a mess when he got to his feet, and referee Mark Nelson stopped the beating at 1 minute, 28 seconds. Afterward, Spinks, who was fighting for the first time in 16 months, complained about the stoppage, which is ridiculous. He was gone. At least maybe you can understand that Spinks was not all there when he complained. The same can't be said for his trainer, Buddy McGirt, who also complained about Nelson's call. Shame on McGirt. Did he want Spinks to get seriously hurt? It was a fine stoppage.

Spinks, the former undisputed welterweight champion, was once a terrific talent who could outbox anyone. Now, at 32, he's finished. His legs are gone. His spirit seems gone, too. Drug use (he's admitted to using them), drinking (he pleaded no contest to a DUI charge) and major weight problems -- he had to lose about 50 pounds to make weight for this fight -- all took their toll.

Like every fight from 140 pounds to 154, Bundrage called out for a fight with Manny Pacquiao afterward. That was pretty laughable, but Bundrage probably will get another fight of note and make some money. Fighters will be licking their chops to get in the ring with a very vulnerable titleholder. An interesting side note: Steward now trains two of the 154-pound titleholders, Bundrage and Miguel Cotto.

Cruiserweight
Ryan Coyne TKO9 Warren Browning
Records: Coyne, 15-0, 5 KOs; Browning, 12-1-1, 8 KOs

Rafael's remark: If you have heard of Coyne, it is probably because he participated in the fourth season of "The Contender" reality series. Coyne, 28, a former Missouri Tigers linebacker and St. Louis native, took his licks against Browning, a former Toughman competitor. Eventually, he pounded him out with a highlight-reel knockout. They had put on an entertaining fight -- even if Coyne got hit way more than he should have by an opponent with a record as inflated as a tire -- until Coyne caught the London, Ky., native with a booming left hand to the head. Browning, who had built his record against opponents with a combined record of 6-34-4, went down face-first in a corner. When he made it to his feet, he stumbled backward into the ropes, and referee Mike England called off the bout at 2 minutes, 21 seconds. Nice win for Coyne, a crowd-pleasing fighter but one with a lot of work to do on his technique and defense.

Saturday at Hermosillo, Mexico
Flyweight
Manuel Vargas TKO6 Michael Arango
Records: Vargas, 28-3-1, 16 KOs; Arango, 30-9-3, 24 KOs

Rafael's remark: Mexico's Vargas, a former interim strawweight belt holder, lost a split decision in a strawweight title challenge against Donnie Nietes in late 2009 followed by a third-round knockout loss to Nonito Donaire in a junior bantamweight fight in February. Now, back at flyweight, the 29-year-old has won two fights in a row, including the stoppage of Colombia's Arango, 31, in the main event of "Top Rank Live." Vargas had little problem with Arango, who took punishment until his corner called off the fight with him still on the stool 10 seconds into the sixth round.

Featherweight
Roberto Marroquin TKO3 Jesus Quintero
Records: Marroquin, 15-0, 11 KOs; Quintero, 8-5-2, 4 KOs

Rafael's remark: Marroquin, 20, of Dallas, is one of Top Rank's most prized prospects, a crowd-pleasing fighter with skills, power and a solid amateur background. He overwhelmed Mexico's Quintero, 22, who had little to keep the aggressive Marroquin off him. Marroquin was faster and more powerful and broke him down throughout the fight. Marroquin was landing with authority in the third round, including a straight right hand that snapped Quintero's head straight back. Moments later, Marroquin landed two more right hands, and referee Juan Jose Ramirez stepped in to call it off at 1 minute, 40 seconds. Easy work for Marroquin on his way to bigger and better things.

Friday at Hinckley, Minn.
Bantamweight
Christopher Martin W10 Chris Avalos
Scores: 98-92, 97-93 Martin, 98-94 Avalos
Records: Martin, 19-0-2, 5 KOs; Avalos, 16-1, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: The 20-year-old Avalos, of Lancaster, Calif., has looked good in his past three "ShoBox" fights and was widely considered one of boxing's top prospects in the smaller weight classes. Facing Martin, a Chula Vista, Calif., native who was far more experienced, was another step up in competition for the youngster. Avalos was not up to the task, as Martin, 24, won a decisive decision in the "ShoBox" main event on Showtime. The 98-94 scorecard from judge John Mariano in favor of Avalos defies logic or explanation. The fight was a match of Martin's experience and skills against Avalos' aggression and power. The skills won. Martin outboxed Avalos, counterpunched him repeatedly and dominated, especially in the second half of the fight. Avalos tried to pressure Martin and do what he could to turn things around, but he kept swinging and missing.

Cruiserweight
Lateef Kayode TKO8 Alfredo Escalera Jr.
Records: Kayode, 13-0, 12 KOs; Escalera Jr., 18-3-1, 12 KOs

Rafael's remark: Two years into his pro career, Kayode, 27, who is trained by Freddie Roach, looks like one of the more interesting cruiserweight prospects. The Nigeria native, who lives in Los Angeles, scored his 12th consecutive knockout as he took apart Escalera in fairly dominant fashion.

Kayode, who had never been beyond the fourth round, showed a nice arsenal of punches in dictating the entire fight. In the eighth round, Kayode landed a terrific three-punch combination -- right to the body, right upstairs and a left to the head -- that sent Escalera staggering into the ropes. Referee Joe Cortez properly ruled that the ropes had held Escalera up and ruled it a knockdown.

The fight resumed with just a few seconds remaining in the eighth round, and Kayode took the opportunity to blast Escalera, the son of the former great junior lightweight champion from Puerto Rico, with a few more blows. After Escalera, 30, a participant on "The Contender" in 2008, staggered back to his corner in bad shape, Cortes stopped the fight. Kayode is a physically imposing presence. Perhaps with a bit more seasoning he could rise through the ranks.

Friday at Chicago
Junior welterweight
Breidis Prescott W10 Harrison Cuello
Scores: 99-90 (twice), 98-91
Records: Prescott, 23-2, 19 KOs; Cuello, 17-13-3, 13 KOs

Rafael's remark: Prescott made a big splash on the world boxing scene in August 2008 by obliterating Amir Khan in a lightweight fight. He knocked Khan out in 54 seconds to send shock waves through the sport. After that, however, Prescott had his share of struggles. He won his next bout, but then dropped two decisions in a row. Now he's got a two-fight winning streak under his belt after routing Cuello in the "Friday Night Fights" main event on ESPN2.

There was not much to write home about in this fight, which was made on a few days' notice after previous main events could not be finalized. Prescott, 27, a native of Colombia living in Miami, dominated the fight against Cuello, 32, who was born in the Dominican Republic but now lives in Albany, N.Y. The biggest moment came in the ninth round, when Prescott scored a flash knockdown when Cuello walked into a strong right hand, which Prescott had injured earlier in the bout. Cuello bounced right back up and finished the fight but was never in it.

If Prescott keeps winning, he'll probably get some kind of solid opportunity because he fights in a terrific weight class and has the notoriety of the knockout of Khan, whom he'd be happy to give a rematch. Cuello dropped to 1-5-1 in his past seven fights, but the victory is an upset of former titlist Steve Forbes in March.

Friday at El Paso, Texas
Featherweight
Antonio Escalante TKO3 Edel Ruiz
Records: Escalante, 23-2, 15 KOs; Ruiz, 31-23-5, 20 KOs

Rafael's remark: It's time for Escalante to get a shot at a belt. The 25-year-old crowd-pleaser from El Paso, who always draws solid support from his hometown, won his 10th fight in a row since an upset loss to Mauricio Pastrana in 2007 and has beaten some good opponents along the way such as Miguel Roman, Mike Oliver and Cornelius Lock. Ruiz, 32, of Mexico, was not one of those good opponents, however, and Escalante, 25, routed him with ease.

Escalante returned in this fight after calling off a spring fight because of problems with both his elbows. He was cruising along in the main event of "Solo Boxeo Tecate" when he slammed Ruiz with a wide left hook to the body in the third round. Ruiz crashed to all fours, and when he barely beat the count and did not look as though he wanted to continue, his corner threw in the towel, prompting referee Marc Cal-oy to stop the bout. It was Escalante's first bout since his decision win against Roman in February on ESPN2 in one of the leading fight of the year candidates. Despite Ruiz's poor record, the loss ended a modest four-fight winning streak.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.