The past few years have been filled with ups and downs for former two-division titleholder Devon Alexander.
There have been times when the St. Louis southpaw has looked great, with his one-punch knockout of Juan Urango in a 2010 junior welterweight unification fight and a one-sided decision win against powerful Marcos Maidana in 2012 being prime examples.
But there have also been times where he looked anything like a potential pound-for-pound talent, such as his disappointing performance in a 10th-round technical decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a heavily-hyped 2011 junior welterweight unification fight and in his last outing, a clear decision loss to Shawn Porter in December that cost him his welterweight world title.
Alexander is out to put the Porter debacle behind him when he faces upset-minded Jesus Soto Karass on Saturday (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT) in the opening bout of a tripleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
"I'm ready to make a statement," Alexander said. "This is a statement fight for me coming off of a loss. You know I don't like to lose. My whole career I've been a winner, and when I lose I come back even better. So, I'm looking forward to fighting on [Saturday] and making a statement."
Porter took it to a seemingly ill-prepared and sluggish Alexander in their December bout and he admitted it was a poor showing, one he blames on himself.
"It definitely wasn't my best performance," Alexander said. "I took Porter lightly a little bit. I beat him when I was amateur and, you know, I had this hunch that this was going to be a cakewalk, and he surprised me a little bit, and I didn't follow the game plan. So you saw the result of that.
"You know every loss is a bad thing to me but that's over and done with. I'm moving on. This is the present, and it's about what I do in the present and what's going to count, and I'm looking forward to it."
In Saturday's main event, welterweight Robert Guerrero (31-2-1, 18 KOs), 31, of Gilroy, California, will fight for the first time since a lopsided decision loss to champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. 13 months ago when he faces Japan's Yoshihiro Kamegai (24-1-1, 21 KOs), 31, in a scheduled 12-round bout.
In the co-feature, decorated amateurs and former ESPN.com prospects of the year Gary Russell Jr. (24-0, 14 KOs), a 26-year-old 2008 U.S. Olympian from Capitol Heights, Maryland, and Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1 KO), 26, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Ukraine, will meet for a vacant featherweight world title.
Although the 27-year-old Alexander (25-2, 14 KOs) is the favorite, Soto Karass, who has also had his ups and downs, has pulled his share of upsets and pushed top fighters hard. He unexpectedly outpointed Selcuk Aydin and knocked out former welterweight titlist Andre Berto in back-to-back fights last year.
But Soto Karass also gave Marcos Maidana and Keith Thurman very tough fights before being stopped in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
An Alexander victory figures to put him back on a path to another world title bout.
"Devon Alexander, he's one of the best fighters in the welterweight division. This is a very dangerous test for him, but if he gets past a guy like Soto Karass then you know he's going to be in the title hunt," Golden Boy Promotions vice president and matchmaker Eric Gomez said.
Alexander, who also owns a hard-fought decision win against slugger Lucas Matthysse, would love another title opportunity. But he also knows that getting one means he will need to defeat Soto Karass, whose own aspirations for a title shot ride on the outcome.
"I had a nice break after my last fight and it allowed me to regroup, recharge my batteries, and get ready for another run at the title," Alexander said. "Soto Karass is a tough guy, there's no denying that. But tough won't be enough when we fight. I'm a man on a mission now, and he's in the way."
Although Soto Karass (28-9-3, 18 KOs), 31, of Mexico, is just 2-2 in his past four fights, he had the upsets of Aydin and Berto in between the competitive knockout losses to Maidana and Thurman.
So Soto Karass is again an underdog, a status that serves as motivation for him.
"Pretty much throughout my career I've been considered an underdog," he said through a translator. "Nobody ever gives me an opportunity or a chance. But it motivates me, and fighting a fighter like Devon Alexander, who's a complete fighter, a guy that can box, he can punch, he can move, it's my motivation because beating him I know that I have accomplished something."
Like Alexander, Soto Karass would love a title shot.
"Devon Alexander is fast and slick and you have to respect his skills, but if he doesn't respect mine, he's going to get knocked out," Soto Karass said. "And even if he does respect me, I'm going to beat him on [Saturday] and get back in line for a title fight."
When Soto Karass faced Thurman, who stopped him in the ninth round in December, Thurman's interim belt was on the line. A real world title fight is something Soto Karass is shooting for.
"Every fighter wants to win a world title. It's everybody's dream," Soto Karass said. "But I'm very thankful for what I've gotten out of boxing, what I've received out of boxing. It has changed my lifestyle, so I'm very gracious and thankful to boxing.
"Yes, it's always a dream to win a world title, but basically it's in God's hands. [If] he wants me to be a world champion then that's what's going to happen. I'm always ready and I'm always going to fight hard, but it's in his hands. But at the end of the day I'm very thankful for what I've gotten out of boxing."