Commentary

Alexander vs. Bradley is best in class

Updated: January 27, 2011, 11:45 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

How rare is what we'll see Saturday night when Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley Jr. meet to unify their junior welterweight titles?

Rare.

In a fight that boxing fans have demanded for more than a year, Bradley and Alexander will become only the third pair of undefeated American fighters to face each other in a unification fight, and the first in 24 years.

The other two: Mike Tyson (then 30-0) against Tony Tucker (34-0) in a 1987 heavyweight championship unification bout, and Donald Curry (23-0) against Milton McCrory (27-0-1) in a 1985 welterweight unification clash.

"This is the biggest fight outside of [Manny] Pacquiao versus [Floyd] Mayweather," an excited Alexander said. "Everybody wants to see this fight. Two undefeated champions going at it toe-to-toe. It's going to be an amazing fight."

Said Bradley: "This fight has been building for about a year now, and I think fight fans are getting crazy about it, and boxing writers. Including myself. Regardless of what anybody said -- that I was running and that I was scared -- I knew exactly what I was doing, and now look at the magnitude of this fight. For me holding out, we are both going to get blessed after this fight. The winner is going to be a superstar."

The Alexander-Bradley winner will also stake his claim to being the best in a deep 140-pound weight class that also includes such notable fighters as titleholder Amir Khan, former titlist Zab Judah, Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz.

While Alexander-Bradley was difficult to put together, it is at least happening, much to the delight of boxing fans.

"The people want to see Pacquiao and Mayweather and they can't get it. They want to see [Wladimir] Klitschko-[David] Haye and they can't get it," said Kevin Cunningham, Alexander's trainer and manager. "The next biggest one out there is Alexander versus Bradley. The winner of this fight will be the next American superstar in this sport."

They will meet at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., in the first HBO fight of the year (10 p.m. ET).

It is the sort of high-stakes, big money fight -- each fighter will earn approximately $1.2 million -- that the 27-year-old Bradley (26-0, 11 KOs) and 23-year Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) have wanted.

"I do think the state of boxing right now is at a low," Bradley said. "Until you have great fights like this in the 140 division -- I think it's going to bring it back. We are the most talented division in boxing and we are going to bring it back just like the old days. If it's an awesome fight like I think it's going to be we are going to do it again for the boxing fans and for the world. This is the best fight in boxing, because you are not going to see Manny and Floyd fight any time soon."

Bradley worked his way up through the club shows in Southern California and got a title shot in 2008. He went to England and dethroned hometown fighter Junior Witter with a decision victory.

Bradley, a native of Palm Springs, Calif., has made four defenses against quality opponents such as Kendall Holt, Nate Campbell and Lamont Peterson. He even unified two belts when he survived two knockdowns against Holt, but was later stripped of one of them because of boxing's brutal politics.

But throughout his title reign, Bradley has been climbing the pound-for-pound rankings. He knows how significant Saturday's fight is.

"I am excited about this fight. It's been a long journey," said Bradley, who, like Alexander, has been fighting professionally since 2004. "This is the biggest fight of my career, and I'm ready to seal the deal. I am going to seize the moment. It may be the biggest opportunity I may ever get in my whole entire life and I definitely want to be victorious in this fight."

Alexander has a bit less experience at the highest level of boxing than Bradley does, but the St. Louis native has also been on a strong recent run.

He met Witter for a vacant belt in August 2009 and utterly dominated him, beating him far worse than Bradley had. Alexander made Witter quit after eight lopsided rounds.

In his first defense, Alexander unified belts by scoring a sensational one-punch knockout of usually iron-chinned Juan Urango in the eighth round. In August, Alexander claimed a decision win against former titlist Andriy Kotelnik in a very difficult and close fight in St. Louis.

Like Bradley, Alexander was also stripped of one of his alphabet belts, but that has not stopped him from still wanting to fight the other titleholders.

"It is my time now and I'm going to seize the moment," Alexander said. "Most 23-year-olds don't get the opportunity to unify titles. This will be my [second] time unifying titles. I am Alexander 'The Great,' so that's why they call me that. I am seeking greatness, and why not do it early? Not when I'm 27, 28 or 29. Why not do it now? I have been bred to do this.

"This is the moment I have been waiting for. I don't let myself get all hyped. I don't let my emotions get involved. I show my emotions in the ring so I don't need to do it outside the ring."

Bradley and Alexander both said they have been keeping an eye on each other for years, figuring they might one day meet. They never fought as amateurs because Bradley was always in a bigger weight division.

So when did Bradley realize that someday they would fight?

"Early in my career, when I was 15-0 and watching him on TV," Bradley said. "He was [also] watching me on TV. We were moving up the ranks and in the same weight class and I knew that some day we were going to have to get it on."

Alexander said it was the same for him.

"I saw Tim on TV all the time when we were climbing up the ladder, and at one time he was ahead of me, and I knew I needed to catch up."

Alexander is there now, and one of the best. So too is Bradley.