Regular font: Devon Alexander vs. Amir Khan is an evenly-matched fight Saturday night on Showtime between two contenders in one of boxing’s deepest divisions.
Sarcastic font: Ooooooh, thanks so veeeeerrry much, Showtime, for always providing fights JUST like this throughout 2014. It’s a weekly occurrence and if evenly-matched Showtime fights in 2014 were calories, we’d all be so, so, so, so, so morbidly obese. Also, it’s just TREMENDOUS that your fight is happening on the same day as a decent HBO fight, because LORD KNOWS we need to dilute the product this year, since it’s simply toooooooo much for us to handle to deal with two solid cards on two separate nights.
That’s where we are this weekend, being semi-grateful that one of boxing’s two most devoted networks isn’t shitting the bed for once… and then being annoyed that it’s happening when HBO has its own fine card going. Fans can differ on which welterweight main event is better; HBO’s Timothy Bradley vs. Diego Chaves might be the more appealing style clash, yet while most expect Khan to defeat Alexander, it’s more of a toss-up than Bradley-Chaves. Bradley is one of the world’s best fighters still, facing a theoretically dangerous opponent who has exactly zero wins over anyone very good (and losses to both Keith Thurman and Brandon Rios). Khan and Alexander, meanwhile, are flawed fighters, but fighters whose flaws level the playing field against one another.
Oh, and the winner of Alexander-Khan might get Floyd Mayweather next. It’s a so-so reason to watch a fight, especially when Mayweather probably should be fighting somebody better than the winner of this bout — cough Manny Pacquiao cough — but it does give it a touch more import than Bradley-Chaves, if you’re looking for a comparison.
Alexander and Khan are at similar phases of their careers. Both are very physically talented in the speed department, less so in the power department. Both hover near the back end of the Transnational Boxing Ranking Board’s welterweight top 10. Both have had some losses against quality opponents, and have shown vulnerability or worse against lesser opponents. Both used to be big deals where they come from — Alexander, St. Louis, Khan, England — and both have fan bases that have dissipated. Both annoy a great many fans; Alexander’s incessant barking-while-punching is on everyone’s list of top boxing pet peeves, while Khan’s tendency to stick his foot in his mouth AND shoot off the whole body part sandwich means he gets booed in every arena where he appears.
It’s hard to surmise much about how they fared against common opponent Marcos Maidana. Maidana was in full rage against Khan, who beat Maidana after barely surviving a late surge, and Maidana was bloated and disinterested against Alexander, who dominated the Argentinian with ease.
It’s easier to read something into their most recent losses. Alexander got outworked by Shawn Porter, and, sometimes, outquicked. Khan got knocked the fuck out by Danny Garcia.
Why is that more telling? Alexander’s other loss was against Bradley, who outworked and sometimes outquicked Alexander. Khan’s other losses are against Breidis Prescott, who knocked him straight out, and Lamont Peterson, who is reasonably powerful but not greatly so, and won a controversial decision largely by outworking him.
That is the essence of the fight, then. Khan can be knocked down by almost anyone, sure (most recently, Luis Collazo and Julio Diaz have dropped or wobbled him). But it took more powerful punchers than Alexander to stop Khan, and, in one case, a more active fighter than Alexander to edge him by decision. Meanwhile, speed and work rate give Alexander fits. Work rate isn’t enough, or Jesus Soto Karass would’ve beaten Alexander in his bounceback from the Porter loss. Soto Karass is as slow as they come.
Set aside some of the technical/dimensional questions. Both are reasonably good technical fighters, Alexander a bit better. He can defend himself better, for instance, compared to how Khan can be hit plenty with counters or during combinations. Khan has a definitive edge on reach. Alexander has been at welterweight longer. Alexander is a southpaw, although Khan has beaten the last few southpaws he faced.
What it boils down to is that for all Khan’s troubles with staying on his feet or avoiding getting tagged with knee-rattling shots, Alexander has had more trouble with high-work rate quicksters. That’s not to say Khan will have an easy time of it, as he rarely does. It might not be much to look at, although it should be close, and the end result is that Khan should win a reasonably close decision.