Updated: August 6, 2010, 7:07 AM ET

Alexander's hard work, dedication paying off

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
Archive
Devon AlexanderEmily Harney/Fightwireimages.comDevon Alexander serves as an example to the people of his city and his fellow fighters.

ST. LOUIS -- Devon Alexander toiled in Las Vegas training for the past eight weeks. He ran up rugged Mt. Charleston in the blazing heat every morning, miles at a time. He sparred in the afternoon. And, while staying at one of promoter Don King's homes just off the famed Strip, slept in the bed Mike Tyson used when he too trained there.

For Alexander, the 23-year-old unified junior welterweight titleholder, all the hard work was a lead-up to a homecoming for his first world title fight in his beloved St. Louis, where he defends his belts against former titlist Andreas Kotelnik (31-3-1, 13 KOs) of Ukraine at the Scottrade Center on Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET/PT).

In the televised opener, Tavoris Cloud (20-0, 18 KOs) makes the first defense of his light heavyweight belt against former champion Glen Johnson (50-13-2, 34 KOs). In another world title bout (although one that isn't part of the HBO telecast), St. Louis' Cory Spinks (37-5, 11 KOs) makes a mandatory defense of his junior middleweight title against Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (29-4, 17 KOs).

Alexander was lights out last August, when he made former titlist Junior Witter quit on his stool after eight rounds to win a vacant title. Then Alexander was even more impressive when he starched Juan Urango with an brilliant uppercut in the eighth round in March to unify two of the 140-pound belts.

Now, Alexander faces the rugged, 32-year-old Kotelnik -- a 2000 Olympic silver medalist and the only man to hang a loss on fearsome puncher Marcos Maidana, but who also has losses to Witter and titleholder Amir Khan -- hoping to thrill the hometown faithful and move on to massive business in one of boxing's most loaded divisions.

As far as fighting at home, especially as a defending champion, Alexander was almost at a loss for words.

"Oh, man, it's a great, great, great feeling," Alexander said. "I mean, from coming in on the undercard, fighting first on the undercards of guys that I saw and admired for years, to become a main event at home at Scottrade Center, the biggest arena in St. Louis, I mean, it's a blessing because most people, they don't get an opportunity like I do, coming from where I come from."

Where he came from is one of the roughest neighborhoods in the nation, in North St. Louis. While numerous childhood friends and gymmates fell to gangs and drugs -- many are dead or incarcerated, including Alexander's brother, Vaughn, who is doing 18 years for armed robbery -- Alexander (20-0, 13 KOs) made it out and made it big.

"My whole career, I have counseled young boxers that they have an opportunity to do great things, win titles and earn the type of money normally reserved for people of a different background," King said. "Then here comes Devon, a kid from Vashon High, who not only is tearing up one of the toughest divisions in boxing, but he wants to be a role model for kids in St. Louis and around the country. This young man is special. He is a gift from God."

It's the stuff of TV movies.

Fox Sports Midwest liked Alexander's story so much that it produced an inspiring, 30-minute documentary -- "Gateway to Greatness: The Devon Alexander Story" -- that premiered Thursday night.

St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was so impressed by Alexander after a recent promotional visit to Rams training camp that he arranged a team bus trip to see the fight.

"I have a great deal of respect for what boxers go through to prepare for a fight," Spagnuolo said. "Devon is a local talent, and it was important for us that he knows the entire Rams organization is behind him and wish him the best Saturday night."

To hear trainer and manager Kevin Cunningham, Alexander's father figure since he picked up gloves as a kid, his star pupil not only avoided the temptations of the street, but he never had so much as a neighborhood fight.

"Devon is the perfect example of what you can do with hard work and dedication," Cunningham said. "He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He wasn't even the best fighter in my gym, but look at him now. Look at what hard work and remembering to rise above your circumstances can do."

Now Alexander is on the precipice of stardom. Of course, the huge fights won't happen without a victory against Kotelnik.

"There has been a lot of talk about Devon being in these mega-fights with Kahn, [Manny] Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather, but we don't get caught up in that," Cunningham said. "Kotelnik is talking about coming here and taking these belts. We are focused on the Ukrainian. We don't get distracted."

But Cunningham wasn't afraid to make a prediction.

"Devon's going to knock out Kotelnik in two rounds. We're kicking his ass," he said.

Even more than the three fighters Cunningham mentioned as potential future Alexander opponents, there is the much-discussed showdown with Timothy Bradley Jr., who also holds a belt. He and Alexander rank as the top two in the division. Bradley fought last month and rolled to a decision against Luis Carlos Abregu at welterweight. He's likely headed back to 140, where a unification showdown with Alexander is one of boxing's most anticipated bouts.

"I love the idea of hyping up a fight with the two best 140-pounders in the world, Devon and Tim," Cunningham said. "Bradley took care of business [July 17]; now Devon has to take care of business."

It's a fight Alexander wants.

"I definitely want that [fight] because I think he's a roadblock," Alexander said. "He's the reason that people are not seeing me as the best 140-pounder in the world. He's a roadblock in me becoming a megastar."

HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg has been vocal about his desire to match them Jan. 29, the Saturday the week before the Super Bowl, a slot the network reserves for only its biggest fights.

Alexander knows it and is using the Kotelnik fight as motivation to keep the Bradley bonanza on track.

"Hard work pays off. I know I got to keep working," Alexander said. "I know I got a tough task, and I'm focused 100 percent on that. But I know after this -- if I take care of this -- I know it's bigger and bigger opportunities down the road. So, I kind of stay focused on the task ahead and just use the future tense as motivation."

No Pacquiao-Marquez III

Chris Cozzone/Fightwireimages.com Juan Manuel Marquez, left, won't be getting another crack at Manny Pacquiao.

Despite lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez's pleas for a third fight with Manny Pacquiao following his dominant win against Juan Diaz in their rematch last week -- a fight promoter Golden Boy also wants to make -- Top Rank's Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, put the kibosh on it.

Arum intends to match Pacquiao with Antonio Margarito for a vacant junior middleweight belt on Nov. 13. Marquez is not in the picture, he said.

"Marquez is a terrific kid and a terrific fighter, but he's a smaller-weight fighter," Arum said. "He demonstrated that at the higher weight he can't handle it [when he lost every round to Floyd Mayweather at welterweight last fall]. Now, if that perception is incorrect, let Marquez go fight a bigger guy and prove that he belongs with Manny at a higher weight.

"Let him go fight Andre Berto or [Joshua] Clottey, Tim Bradley or [Devon] Alexander. If he beats one of those four guys, he can say, 'I belong with Manny at the higher weight.' Pacquiao demonstrated that he can go up, but Marquez hasn't. Maybe he can, but he needs to show it." Arum said Pacquiao, who now holds a welterweight title, would not drop down to junior welterweight to meet Marquez, either.

"Once a guy goes up, you don't bring him down, especially if he's the A-side," Arum said.

Pacquiao and Marquez fought to a controversial draw in their first fight, one that many believed Marquez won, for the featherweight championship. Pacquiao claimed a controversial split decision in their rematch for the junior lightweight title, another fight many believed Marquez won.

Calderon-Segura heats up

Chris Cozzone/Fightwireimages.comIvan Calderon, left, will need to put his slick skills to good use against Giovani Segura.

As big fights go in the little weight classes, the junior flyweight unification match between Puerto Rico's Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon, one of the most technically gifted boxers of this generation, and Mexico's Giovani Segura, a pure slugger, is a big deal. They'll meet Aug. 28 (Integrated Sports PPV, $39.95) in Calderon's hometown of Guaynabo.

Both appear to be taking the 108-pound showdown quite seriously as both came in well under the maximum weight they could have been for their prefight weight check. Calderon was 116½ and Segura was 113. They could have been as heavy as 124 pounds.

"We are working hard for this bout, looking for a victory and another good performance," said Calderon, who will be making his seventh defense. "As always, the weight is not a problem. I'm in good shape and focused for this fight."

For Segura (24-1-1, 20 KOs), 28, who will be making his fourth defense, facing a long-time champion such as Calderon (34-0-1, 6 KOs) is what he has wanted.

"It's my dream fight," Segura said. "To fight an icon like Calderon is a great honor for me, but by the same token, I am not intimidated to go into his home for this fight. It will be a battle of wills, and my power will be the difference."

Ricky Mota, Segura's manager, has had his eye on Segura facing Calderon for awhile.

"It's all we have been talking about since he became a world champion and I know how hard he is working to be ready and to win this battle," Mota said.

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?