by Lee Groves/CompuBox
Last month Amir Khan weathered Marcos Maidana’s last-ditch surge to gain sole possession of the WBA junior welterweight title. On January 29, IBF/WBO champ Devon Alexander and WBC king Timothy Bradley seek to consolidate their belts, settle their scores and become Khan’s definitive rival. Bradley is nearly a 2-1 favorite.
Which man will emerge from this career-defining challenge? Their CompuBox histories offer these clues:
The Witter Factor: Both have faced “The Hitter” and on paper Alexander holds the edge because he scored an eighth round TKO while Bradley won a split decision. Circumstances and statistics tell a different story.
As for the former, Bradley snatched Witter’s WBC belt in England in May 2008 while Alexander captured Bradley’s vacated WBC belt on U.S. soil in August 2009 and a Witter hand injury forced the stoppage. As for the latter, while both had problems with Witter’s tricks, Bradley produced better numbers.
Averaging 42.8 punches per round (low for him), Bradley out-connected Witter in all categories as he led 137-98 (total connects), 53-24 (landed jabs) and 84-76 (power connects). Bradley threw more total punches (513-511) and attempted more power punches (267-255) but Witter did try more jabs (256-246). Still, “Desert Storm” only won two scorecards, with geography being a likely cause.
Alexander, however, struggled to solve Witter’s ambidextrous attack. While he was more active (he led 439-353 in total punches, 265-191 in thrown jabs and 174-162 in power attempts), Alexander trailed 96-93 in total connects and 59-47 in power connects. Moreover, Witter connected on 36.4 percent of his power shots while Alexander landed just 27 percent of his. Despite the stats, Alexander held comfortable leads on all scorecards (80-72, 79-73 twice).
“The Great” vs. “The OK”: Alexander suffers from bouts of inconsistency. In six CompuBox-tracked fights three (DeMarcus Corley, Miguel Callist, Juan Urango) qualify as superior performances while the other three (Jesus Rodriguez, Andriy Kotelnik and Witter) saw him struggle statistically but ultimately emerge victorious.
Several trends emerged once the numbers were extrapolated. In his “Great” performances, Alexander landed nearly twice as many punches per round as his opponents (22.3 to 11.2) and produced far more power connects per round (14.1 to 7.2). The percentage gaps in connect rates were similarly dramatic – plus-9.3 overall (31.2 to 21.9) and plus-12.3 in power shots (40.6 to 28.3).
But when Alexander was off his game, his per-round numbers suffered. His opponents landed more overall (14.6 to 14.5) and they led in power connects (10.3 to 8.5). The percentage gaps were precipitous – minus-9.8 in total connects (28.8 to 19.0) and minus-2.3 in power connects (32.4 to 30.1).
The key to Alexander’s success will be how he utilizes the jab. When he steps in and snaps it, the jab becomes a weapon that dictates distance. In his “Great” fights he out-connected his opponents 8.2 to 4.0 each round and landed at a 22.3 percent rate, 6.8 percentage points more than his opponents’ 15.5. A successful jab will enhance his other numbers, as the figures stated two paragraphs above prove.
But Alexander also tends to throw jabs that fall far short of the target. That occurred in all of his “OK” performances and the fallout is startling: Despite averaging 17.7 more jabs per round (42.0 to 24.3), Alexander landed only 10 percent of them while his rivals connected on 24.9 percent of theirs – a minus-13.9 gap. Moreover, Alexander landed 1.9 fewer jabs per round (4.2 to 6.1) in those fights.
In other words a bold, aggressive spear may help Alexander achieve his objective while aimlessly lobbing it in will mean defeat.
Bradley’s Steadiness: While Alexander tends to run hot and cold, this General Bradley is stone-cold consistent when it comes to offensive output and success on the battlefield. Bradley out-landed all six of his CompuBox-tracked opponents (Witter, Edner Cherry, Kendall Holt, Nate Campbell, Lamont Peterson and Luis Abregu) in all three categories. Of those, only Witter (256-246 in attempted jabs) and Abregu (583-531 in total attempts and 325-221 in power punch attempts) managed to out-shine him numerically in any category.
Bradley, at least most of the time, throws far more than his foes (plus-23 against Cherry, plus-27.4 against Holt, plus-35 against Campbell and plus-24.8 against Peterson). But Bradley’s power punch accuracy will be key as he exceeded 43 percent in all of those bouts (49.5, 47.7, 42.7 and 47.3 percent respectively).
Prediction: Expect both to fight more cautiously due to the situation and the quality of the opposition. However, Bradley’s all-around skills and consistency will net a unanimous decision win.