It was a tough evening of boxing for St. Louisan Devon Alexander, who suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of Tim Bradley last Saturday night in Detroit. In the process, Alexander lost his undefeated record and his WBC light welterweight championship belt to Bradley.
The fight was stopped in the 10th round after the last of many "accidental" head butts from Bradley sent Alexander reeling into his corner. Bradley was ahead on all three of the judges' scorecards and was awarded the decision.
Although Bradley tried to force the issue by putting the pressure on Devon from the opening bell, the bout never achieved the sizzle of the pre-fight hype of two undefeated American champions. I think everyone was left wanting a little more.
For those who say Devon quit the fight (and I know there are many of you): Stop it. Right now. Getting hit in the head repeatedly by Bradley's head, who is a notorious head-butt artist, could not have been much fun.
To me, the novice boxing fan, the key with Devon in these big championship fights against more experienced fighters lies in the first round. When he lands a big punch in the first round, I know he's going to win. In his last victory against Juan Urango last February, Devon landed a big uppercut in the first round. It set the early tone and got the attention of the rugged Urango, who loves to come forward. He had to think twice about rushing in on Devon, who ended up stopping Urango in the ninth round.
In Devon's last two title fights against Andres Kotelnik (here in St. Louis) and Bradley, Devon has not been able to land that big tone-setting punch that gets the attention of his opponent early on.
In turn, the veterans have been allowed to dictate the style of the fight, which is usually rugged. Kotelnik hit Devon with a lot of elbows and forearms (Mike Tyson-style). Bradley kept coming forward while leading with that big melon head of his. In my opinion, a big shot in the first round would have curtailed that. It doesn't have to knock him out, but it would make him re-think his strategy. Do I really want to keep doing this?
Without that big early shot to back them off and gain their respect, those guys can continue to come forward and frustrate young Devon. That is what veterans do to young stars.
At 23, Devon still has a bright future with a lot of championship fights ahead of him. I think he has learned a lot in these last two fights. I think gaining early respect will be a big factor in his future title bouts.
Annual Spurs alert
As we approach the All-Star break, let me give you my annual National Basketball Association advisory on that one elite team that everyone forgets to talk about: the San Antonio Spurs.
For the past decade or so, I have to write this particular column just to remind everyone out there that the Spurs are still a championship-level team that just seems to keep operating like a machine. They are not sexy. They do not have the big names or the commercials or the tremendous hype. All they do is win, even when folks are not paying attention.
Even with the presence of the world champion Los Angeles Lakers, the aging, but still great Boston Celtics and the newly-revamped Miami Heat, the team with the best record in the league entering this week at 40-7 is, you guessed it, your San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs have won four NBA world championships behind their great defense and the greatness of Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan. As the Spurs get a little older and Duncan approaches the twilight of his career, the team now has turned into an offensive juggernaut that can shoot the 3-pointer as well as any team in the league. The Spurs are currently averaging 104 points a game and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.
The offense now belongs to veteran guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Ginobili averages 19 points a game while Parker averages 17.5 points. My man Tim Duncan plays a more supportive in the offense, but he still averages 13.6 points, 9.4 rebounds while still leading the team in blocked shots. Richard Jefferson has been much better in his second year in San Antonio as he averages 12.3 points.
A pair of young guards from little-known schools have stepped up to make big contributions in George Hill (IUPUI) and Gary Neal (Towson), who combined for nearly 20 points a game. Former Pittsburgh man-child DeJuan Blair brings youth and great strength off the bench while veteran Antonio McDyess and shooter Matt Bonner add more depth to the front line.
At this stage of the game, who would have thought that the Spurs would have this kind of record. Not even their four championship teams had 40 victories at this point of the season.
Does this mean the Spurs will win another NBA title? I'm not saying that. But, what I am saying is that you all have been given your annual reminder about the San Antonio Spurs.
It never gets old.