by Peter Nelson
At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, the official weigh-in between 140-lb champions Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander was held in a banquet room of the Silverdome. Through a large window pane opposite the dais, the view immediately overlooked 55,000 seats which will not be in service Saturday night of the venue’s 70,000 seat capacity, beyond which were large blue tarps partitioning a small corner for the ring, like a church scaled down to a single pew. For an event reportedly struggling to sell tickets, the room was packed with press, fans, and the families of the boxers.
Before the scales could be tipped, however, another matter needed resolution: Because Alexander holds the WBC title, Bradley the WBO, and both are undefeated, a coin toss determined who would walk into the ring first and who would be announced last. Alexander called it in the air, and no one within earshot, particularly Bradley, could have missed Alexander’s trainer Kevin Cunningham exuberantly shouting, “We win.” The St. Louis native decided to walk out second, giving Bradley the consolation to be announced in the ring last. The subsequent scowling reflected two fighters irritable from making weight and ready to fight.
The two fighters stripped down. Alexander came in at 140 lbs and Bradley at 139.5. Bradley, a strict vegetarian during his training regimen and the son of an amateur bodybuilder, lays claim to one of the most muscled physiques in boxing. Out of training, he often will walk around about 160 lbs, so to get down below 140 has some believing he had to cut muscle (not water weight or fat) to lose his final ounces.
Largely due to his experience against overall superior competition to Alexander’s, Bradley is the favorite tomorrow night, although Alexander is four years younger, an inch taller, a half-pound heavier, with a two-inch reach advantage, a higher knockout percentage, and a strategic head start in fighting from the southpaw stance (Bradley last faced a lefty two years ago when he defeated Junior Witter for his first world title).
Stylistically, it will be critical for Alexander to neutralize Bradley’s best two modes of attack: his right hand and his head-butt. Feints, a quick jab, and lateral movement should help him to this aim. Given his Herculean physique, Bradley for this very reason sometimes seems to have difficulty throwing straight punches and opens himself up the middle. Properly set up, Alexander’s straight left could be his top asset.
For Bradley, maintaining his ferocious work-rate through the late rounds will allow him an edge, in addition to cutting off the ring on Alexander, forcing him to fight toe-to-toe. Despite Alexander appearing to have the superior chin (having never been knocked down so much as knocked out in 21 professional fights and over 400 amateur), Bradley should by now have the boxing intellect to set up shots that allow him to steer clear of Alexander’s powerful uppercut.
The winner of this fight will likely be pressured to face Amir Khan to unify the entire 140-lb division. From there, a truly viable candidate to fight Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao will have emerged. While the loser of this fight is guaranteed another date on HBO, the road ahead of him to superstardom becomes that much longer. The winner of Bradley-Alexander earns not only unified titles, increased exposure, and the respect of fans, but most importantly a well-earned shortcut to vast earning potential and possibly cementing a legacy in a storied division.