They wanted to believe they could create a superstar. HBO, promoters Don King and Gary Shaw, everyone. They wanted to believe that with a little bit of hype—O.K., a lot of hype—a fight between undefeated junior welterweight titleholders Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander would produce boxing's next big thing. What they forgot, and what the 6,247 in the Pontiac Silverdome who watched Bradley defeat Alexander on a technical decision in the 10th round last Saturday night quickly learned, is that true greatness is measured by more than just spotless records. It's measured by an ability to deliver a resonating performance, and in their shining moment Bradley and Alexander could not.
Why? For a fight billed as all action, this one had precious little. Bradley (27--0, 11 KOs) fought in spurts, winning rounds with a few crowd-pleasing flurries and a handful of clean shots. His pillowed hands didn't inflict much damage—his head, which through several butts that were ruled accidental opened up cuts over both Alexander's eyes, did—but Bradley was ahead on all three judges' cards when ringside doctor Peter Samet ordered a battered Alexander (21--1, 13) to quit at 1:59 into the 10th.
Alexander didn't fight the decision, hardly surprising given that he didn't fight much in the ring, either. A one-inch height and two-inch reach advantage went to waste, as the southpaw Alexander allowed Bradley to work inside, electing to cover up and hold instead of counterpunching when Bradley started winging heavy shots. Alexander's cuts were bad—Samet said he was concerned about possible nerve damage in the left eye—but the fighter's passive acceptance of the stoppage offered a revealing glimpse into his character. "Let your eyeball fall out, and let them put it back in when you get to the hospital," said fellow junior welterweight Kendall Holt, who fought on the undercard. "This was a world championship fight. You do anything you have to do to win the fight." Said Bradley, "If that's the best in the world, that's weak."
Of course, second chances (and third and fourth) are a boxing tradition. Bradley is already penciled into a July showdown with Amir Khan, the co-140-pound king. The winner of that bout will be a candidate to face Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the fall. Alexander's road back is a little longer but the deep pool of opponents in the division (Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah, Lamont Peterson) offers plenty of opportunities. The objective is the same for both: Win big, win back fans.
And maybe a few peers too. Minutes after the fight ended, Twitter was ablaze. "I am so disappointed these fighters have to strap their jock and f*^%^n fight," tweeted Oscar De La Hoya. "U can't train that thing that beats in ya chest either have it or u dont," wrote welterweight contender Andre Berto. Seems fighters are like everyone else these days, hungry for stars, hoping to find someone who can deliver the goods.
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SHORT JABS Still Hoppin'
Don't expect Bernard Hopkins to hang up the gloves anytime soon. Industry sources say Hopkins, 46, is in serious talks with HBO about a rematch of his controversial majority draw against Jean Pascal in December. A win over Pascal could lead to a third fight or to a long-anticipated showdown with Chad Dawson.... A less-than-capacity crowd for last Saturday's Timothy Bradley--Devon Alexander card at the Silverdome hasn't diminished promoters' interest in holding more fights in Detroit. The city is a candidate to host a potential summer bout between Timothy Bradley and Amir Khan of Great Britain. The reason: the area's large Arabic and Muslim populations, which industry insiders believe will support a Khan fight.
REY DEL RIO/SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL/ZUMAPRESS.COM (BRADLEY AND ALEXANDER)
DETROIT TIGERS? Hardly. Though Bradley (right) and Alexander showed skill, neither left the Silverdome as the sport's new star.
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (HOPKINS)