The fast track that has become the professional boxing career of St. Louisan Devon Alexander has brought him to one of the most anticipated fights in years.
At the tender age of 23, Alexander "The Great" will take on Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley on Saturday night in a battle of 140-pound undefeated world champions. The bout will take place at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. It will be televised on HBO, beginning at 9 p.m.
The young man who was a seven-year old child when he started working with trainer Kevin Cunningham now finds himself in the mix of boxing's most active and lucrative weight divisions, where potential huge fights and huge paydays are now possible.
In an age where bringing the best fighters to the table is becoming increasingly difficult, Saturday night's fight is a rarity because you have two fighters who are putting their undefeated records and world championship belts on the line. Alexander (21-0 with 13 knockouts) is the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation Light Welterweight champion. Bradley, who is 26-0 with 11 knockouts, is the World Boxing Organization Light Welterweight champion.
As potential superfights such as Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao and heavyweights Vladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye continue to be bogged down by endless posturing and frustrating negotiations, the Alexander-Bradley bout has moved to the front of the line as the most anticipated fight of the year. HBO has put all of its muscle behind this event with several weeks of pre-fight promotion on its network.
"The people want to see Pacquiao vs. Mayweather and they can't get it," said Alexander's trainer Kevin Cunningham. "They want to see Klitschko vs. Haye and they cannot get it. The next biggest fight out there is Alexander vs. Bradley. The winner of this fight will be the next American superstar in the sport."
The significance of Saturday night's fight has not been lost on the combatants.
"This is the biggest fight outside of Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Everybody wants to see this fight," Alexander said.
"You have two undefeated champions going at it toe-to-toe. It's going to be an amazing fight. This fight is like the good old days when they used to fight the best. It brings back the roots of boxing, and it means a lot to have two undefeated champions. It's a major thing."
Added Bradley, "You have two undefeated guys who are champions, young and in their prime going at it on January 29. He doesn't know how to lose, and I don't know how to lose. It doesn't get any better than this."
Most of boxing's experts have installed the more experienced Bradley as the pre-fight favorite over the younger Alexander. This will be Bradley's 11th championship fight. Although surprised by his fighter's underdog status, Cunningham is taking it all in stride.
"I was surprised, but it's beautiful thing. It's all working for us," said Cunningham. "We looked and read and see all these experts have made Devon the big underdog in this fight. The negativity from these so-called experts has really done something for us."
The spoils for Saturday night's victor could be much more than retaining an undefeated record and championship belts. The winner would put himself in a great position for a huge fight with Pacquiao or even Mayweather, who are considered the two best fighters in the world today.
Bob Arum, the CEO for Top Rank, has said that the Alexander-Bradley winner could be considered for a future fight with Pacquiao, who has won eight world titles in eight divisions. Promoter Don King has even raised the idea of Alexander taking on the undefeated Mayweather, should he defeat Bradley. Mayweather was sitting ringside for Alexander's last fight, a 12-round decision over Andris Kotelnik at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Another promoter who has been heard from is Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Productions. He would like to see the Alexander-Bradley winner take on his fighter, Amir Khan, who is the World Boxing Association champion at 140 pounds.
The possibilities seem endless for Alexander "The Great" should he conquer the greatest challenge of his career to date this weekend in Motown.