Here’s something that makes people take notice in the boxing world: When a boxer knocks out a world-class opponent who has a reputation for being impervious to harm. Last year, Shane Mosley and Lucian Bute knocked out the seemingly indestructible Antonio Margarito and Librado Andrade, respectively. Junior welterweight Devon Alexander pulled the same trick Saturday against Juan Urango, knocking down the gritty Colombian with an uppercut that sent him flying in the 8th then putting him down again in the same round, forcing the referee to waive off the fight.
I’ve been a big believer in Alexander as a future star, even if I haven’t gone as far as the biggest Alexander backer of them all, ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who recently compared Alexander’s talent to that of Floyd Mayweather. But he far exceeded my expectations this evening, and I’m betting the Alexander bandwagon is going to get a little fuller after this performance. We’re talking about a serious talent here.
My fear that this would be an ugly clinchfest, the proven method for beating the dangerous Urango, turned out to be unfounded. From moment one, Alexander decided he was going to win this fight by staying busy — pumping his jab, putting together combinations, and most ominously for Urango, throwing uppercuts — and intelligent movement. Alexander was aggressive and fought in a crowd-pleasing style. Urango found him with a couple right hooks in the early rounds, but it was dominant work by Alexander.
Things started getting closer in the 4th, closer still in the 5th, then finally in the 6th Urango won a round. Alexander was still was getting a lot done in those rounds using the same formula, and he bloodied Urango’s nose and opened a cut over his left eye, but Urango was increasingly not allowing himself to be kept at bay. In the 6th he was teeing off on Alexander with a two-handed hook attack, but Alexander’s chin — a tad unproven at the elite level — was rock solid, and he never backed down or resorted to holding the way so many others have when Urango was putting on that kind of pressure. The 7th was arguably a Urango round, too.
The 8th made it academic. It’s when Alexander connected on the right uppercut on a leaping Urango, literally lifting him off his feet before Urango stumbled back and down, hurt badly. When Urango rose, shaky, Alexander pounced, delivering a straight left/right uppercut combo that put Urango down again. Urango looked terrible when he got up, although maybe he could have continued; either way, the ref had seen enough, and it was a justifiable stoppage.
What’s remarkable about Alexander doing this is that he was not thought of as a major puncher coming into this fight, and Randall Bailey, who is, couldn’t KO Urango. Nor does this seem like a case where Urango’s punishment over the years caught up with him. It was the punishment Alexander put on him in this fight, followed by one uppercut from hell, that caught up with Urango. That was the punch Alexander said his team was working on in training camp, and Kevin Cunningham — with that game plan and excellent coaching between rounds — ought to start getting mentions amongst the really big names in the corner. Where Urango goes from here, I cannot say. He’s always fell short against the really world-class guys, as tough an out as he’s been for them. He’s never fallen this far short.
As for Alexander, he has to be considered a strong #2 at junior welterweight, as deep a division as there is in boxing, behind Timothy Bradley. Bradley-Alexander is THE fight in this division, a meeting between two physical specimens with speed for days, intelligence, technique, versatility and toughness. With both capable of leading (Alexander’s willingness to start the action was one of several major revelations Saturday) or counterpunching, and both seemingly incapable of wilting when under pressure, it would be a fantastic fight.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a mandatory title challenger comes first, though, with Alexander holding two belts, or maybe Alexander can smash Zab Judah once and for all before getting together with Bradley. But Alexander’s talent, fan-friendly style, exuberant personality, fan base in St. Louis and a touching back story as one of the few people from his boxing gym not to land in jail or a coffin, he’s got all the potential in the world to be one of the top men in this sport, pound-for-pound. Alexander, nicknamed “The Great,” predicted his reign would last 10 years. It’s not at all implausible.